André Courrèges, the innovative French fashion designer whose creations spoke of the future, symbolized stylistic freedom and provoked hot dispute over whether he was first with the miniskirt, died Jan. 7 at his home outside Paris, in Neuilly-sur-Seine. He was 92.
According to the Courrèges firm, he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 30 years.
One of the most influential couturiers of his time, Mr. Courrèges won fame for fitting out his models in attire that seemed to suggest not past eras or conventions but a new up-to-date aesthetic representative of the space age.
In his most productive and creative years, the 1960s, he garbed women in clothing that suggested slipping the surly bonds of Earth and boldly going where few costume creators had gone before. He was also interested in providing high-quality ready-to-wear clothing, and at one time, his name adorned more than 120 shops across the globe.
In the rarefied world of high-end fashion, partisans took sides as to whether Mr. Courrèges or British designer Mary Quant deserved more credit for creating the miniskirt in the mid-1960s.
It was not a matter of arcane academic argument, for the knee-baring garment seemed to stand for all the sauciness of the ’60s and what the decade represented in banishing the stodgy in favor of the swinging.
In sorting out the finer points of the miniskirt’s origin, the website Fashion-Era noted that in 1965, Quant “took the idea from the 1964 designs by Courrèges and liking the shorter styles she made them even shorter for her boutique Bazaar. She is rightly credited with making popular a style that had not taken off when it made its earlier debut.”
According to the British newspaper the Independent, “Courrèges was the inventor of the miniskirt: at least in his eyes and those of the French fashion fraternity. . . . The argument came down to high fashion vs street fashion and to France versus Britain — there’s no conclusive evidence either way.”
In either case, brevity was all.
While famous for baring the knee, Mr. Courrèges also encased it, along with the rest of the leg, in trousers. He was among the first designers to popularize pants for women and make them a high-fashion item, appropriate for formal and business attire.
Another of his best-known designs was the go-go boot, which bespoke the joyous, kicky enthusiasm of the 1960s. The first ones — which were white, flat-heeled and rose to the mid-calf — were followed by a number of variants in height and materials.
Throughout his career, Mr. Courrèges was known for his forward-looking designs, with clean, unadorned lines representing activity and motion. He was a kind of anthropologist of the atelier, a philosopher of fashion who with deft manipulation of needle, thread and scissors could go far toward giving tangible form to the spirit of his age.
In their freedom from frill or frippery, Mr. Courrèges’s fashions suggested the aviator he had once been or the engineer he was for a time. A much-imitated innovator, he was known for such imaginative leaps as employing vinyl and brightly colored, form-fitting synthetic fabrics, such as Lycra.
Stark, angular and often triangular in design, his simple garments, such as the A-line dress and what he called “the little white dress,” seemed to evoke flight and the world of the new. He also designed boots, helmets and goggles, dubbed the “Moon Girl” look.
Mr. Courrèges had firm ideas of what constituted fashion liberation.
“A woman’s body must be hard and free,” he told a French magazine editor when she arrived for a fitting in 1965. “Not soft and harnessed. The harness — the girdle and bra — is the chain of the slave.”
Mr. Courrèges’s clients reportedly included former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and actresses Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn, although not all of them chose the same styles. A 1969 photograph showed Nancy Reagan in a Courrèges coat.
Andre Courrèges was born March 9, 1923, in Pau, France, in a Basque region of Pyrenees. He evinced an early interest in art, but his father directed him into engineering. He was described as a pilot in the French military during World War II and a civil engineer early in his career.
He found his way into the fashion world in the late 1940s, working on the staff of well-known designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.
Mr. Courrèges launched his own fashion house in 1961. His wife, Jacqueline Barriere, took over when illness forced Mr. Courrèges to withdraw in 1994. The Courrèges fashion house was sold in 2011.
Survivors include his wife of 49 years and a daughter.
In his later years, some fashion observers suggested that Mr. Courrèges had been left behind by new trends and new visions. He did not see it quite that way.
“The world’s creativity stopped in 1970,” he was once quoted. “If they want to create something new, they have to go back to 1970s Courrèges.”