This story first appeared in the September 29, issue of WWD. Subscribe Today. Although she sold her shares in the company to Dunhill Ltd. Aghion had mobility problems in recent years, and received her Legion of Honor medal last December seated in a wheelchair.
A pioneer in luxury ready-to-wear, Aghion created her first collection in The Egyptian-born designer had a simple vision: using fine fabrics to create feminine, alluring clothes that required minimal alteration. She saw them as an antidote to the stiff formality of haute couture, and a new option for women as they increasingly entered the work force.
I designed a small collection and decided to present it myself. I went to source the buttons, the fabrics. I was sticking my neck out. We were several designers and she coordinated it all.
Every designer was freelancing — a new job then — for other companies , often in other countries, me included. The German designer — today the couturier at Chanel, rtw and fur designer at Fendi, and head of his signature fashion house — credited Aghion for giving French rtw an identity and vitality. And I think she challenged that all the time and made us think about modern femininity. She was a woman of style, but also a lot of sass.
We learned a lot from her. You really had a sense she was tuning into everything that was around her. I had a strong sense of wanting her approval at the end of every show. She would come backstage every season to congratulate me, support me, give me power. He recalled a lunch with her about seven years ago when Aghion produced a photo of herself as a young woman. She had a passion for the brand. Even at 85, she was the best critic. Her points were always valid. She was the one I listened to.
I really loved her. I have friendships. I always said what I thought. Born in Alexandria, Aghion appeared destined for extraordinary things from an early age. The daughter of a cigarette-factory manager, she met her husband, Raymond, when both were seven years old in elementary school. He was born into a wealthy family of cotton exporters, but displayed early stirrings of the social consciousness that would later land him in political exile.
At the age of 18, Aghion temporarily relocated to Paris to study. Aghion and Raymond married at the age of Raymond opened an art gallery in , specializing in modern art. Although Aghion surrounded herself with intellectuals, she referenced them and their ideas in a lighthearted way, in tune with a brand with a playful, carefree spirit. Aghion often chose clever names for her dresses, anointing one Aubrey instead of the more obvious Beardsley, a playful nod to the English illustrator and author.
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