Anne Klein at the Battle of Versailles - Anne Klein

Our namesake, Anne Klein, has participated in a number of iconic events throughout the history of fashion. From developing the first modern and sophisticated fashion line for women to her COTY award, there’s no shortage of incredible milestones to choose from.

However, one of her more interesting events was the Battle of Versailles fashion show.

With 2023 being the 50th anniversary of this iconic event, we recently took part in a panel celebrating the Battle of Versailles with our valued partner, Jasmine Tookes. The panel, titled “Battle of Versailles 50: The Making of Fashion History”, featured a distinguished group of guests, including:

  • Designer Stephen Burrows, the last surviving designer from the original ten, one of the five American designers and the sole African-American trailblazer in the group

  • Trailblazing models Alva Chinn and Pat Cleveland, whose legendary modeling styles revolutionized the catwalk

  • Nicole Fischelis, a native Parisian, ranked amongst the top 50 most influential figures in fashion

We couldn’t think of a better time to talk about the Battle of Versailles and the impact it had on the fashion world.

Ready to learn more about the show and Anne Klein’s role throughout? Let’s dive in. 

What Was the Battle of Versailles?

The Battle of Versailles was a historic fashion event that took place on the evening of November 28, 1973, at the Palace of Versailles in France. 

Organized as a fundraiser to restore the palace, The Battle of Versailles was a groundbreaking fashion showdown that pitted five American designers against five renowned French designers. 

In fact, from May until September 2022, The MET had an entire set piece devoted to the Battle of Versailles in their “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” exhibition.

It was a night that not only defined an era but also reshaped the landscape of global fashion!

The Premise

The idea behind the Battle of Versailles was to showcase American fashion and raise funds for the restoration of the opulent Palace of Versailles. The event was the brainchild of Eleanor Lambert, a legendary American publicist and fashion expert, who saw it as an opportunity to bring American designers into the spotlight and prove that they could rival their French counterparts.

The American team included five prominent designers: Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein. On the other side of the runway, the French team was equally illustrious, featuring Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. 

At this point, the stage was set for a memorable clash of creativity, style, and cultural influence.

Each designer was tasked with presenting a selection of their best designs, and the event promised a glamorous and thrilling spectacle. However, what no one expected was the seismic shift it would create in the fashion world. 

The Aftermath

The Battle of Versailles would prove to be a turning point, where American fashion not only held its own but emerged victorious, forever altering the balance of power in the fashion industry.

American designers were met with resounding applause and praise from the audience, which included some of the most influential figures in fashion, entertainment, and high society. The American designers' innovative use of materials, modern aesthetics, and diverse models signaled a new era in fashion. 

The show also sparked a shift in fashion's center of gravity, moving it from Paris to New York City, and helped solidify American designers' global influence.

What it Means For Anne Klein

Of the many qualities that Anne Klein possessed, there’s one that stands out: she was a trailblazer. 

The show itself helped pave the way for more American designers and solidified their place in the fashion hierarchy — Anne Klein herself played a major part in that.

Along with the other American designers, Anne Klein brought a fresh perspective to the runway. Her collection featured sportswear-inspired ready-to-wear clothing that resonated with the contemporary woman. 

Her clothing also prioritized practicality and wearability — the collection embodied the spirit of American fashion, embracing comfort without compromising on style. This approach was a stark contrast to the more traditional and elaborate French designs. Klein's models exuded confidence as they walked the runway, setting a new standard for fashion presentations.

Quotes From the Panelists

Here’s what some of the panelists had to say about Anne Klein:

“My fondest memory of Anne Klein is her coming into the room with her woman presence. In a world with only male designers, she held her ground… and she put women in slacks. She made sure that ladies had the opportunity to express their strength through fashion.” - Pat Cleveland

“I didn’t know her very well, but she was a very nice lady. The industry certainly missed her after she was gone.” - Stephen Burrows

“My fondest memory of Anne Klein was that she was so kind to allow us to stay in Paris after the weekend of Versailles. I got to be where I wanted to be — my bucket list was checked off right away!” - Alva Chinn

“What I loved about Anne Klein was that she was a pioneer of fashion development in America. What she did was brilliant, and she had a great team. You can still see some influence today.” - Nicole Fischlis

A Milestone for American Fashion Designers

The Battle of Versailles was a historic and transformative fashion spectacle that brought together creativity, culture, and commerce. It was here that Anne Klein, along with her American counterparts, demonstrated the innovative and practical approach that would define American fashion for years to come. 

This event forever changed the way the world perceived American fashion and set the stage for a new era of creativity and influence on the global fashion stage!