French couturier Michel Goma dies
French couturier Michel Goma died on April 18 2022, aged 90. He was buried on April 22 in his native village of Moncrabeau, in south-west France.
Goma moved to Paris at the age of 20, and was soon spotted by Christian Dior and then Jeanne Lafaurie, with whom he would collaborate for seven years. His first collection made the headlines in Paris, and in London and Milan too, and his break-through came in 1958, when he launched the Michel Goma label. The label’s collections became popular the world over, and Goma’s creations were featured on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and L’Officiel.
In 1961, Goma was hired by Parisian label Jean Patou, where he was in charge of the couture collections and in 10 years became the label’s star designer. It was at that time that he picked a certain Jean Paul Gaultier as his first assistant.
Goma’s Patou years were his most successful. His creations were worn by celebrities like Rose Kennedy, Princess Ashraf Pahlavi and the empress of Iran, Farah Diba.
After launching a new label called MG, Goma became popular in Japan, where he designed bridal wear, eyewear and luggage collections for the Isetan department store. Japanese car manufacturer Nissan commissioned him the design of its new models, and a Michel Goma exhibition was staged in Tokyo in 2018.
After a stint in charge of the ready-to-wear collections at Carven, for which he introduced the first licensed products in Japan, Goma took the helm of Balenciaga's womenswear. As the label’s creative director between 1987 and 1992, Goma enjoyed renewed success with the ‘Le Dix’ collection, inspired by the perfume in the same name launched by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1947.
It was during Goma’s Balenciaga period that 1980s French fashion chronicler Guy Monréal paid tribute to him in L’Officiel, praising Goma for “having invented a new kind of young woman, at once dynamic and spiritual. With his spinning-top skirts and cancan-style petticoats, his low-cut necklines and corkscrew frills, he honoured the great Cristobal.”
Alexandre Chapellier, a close friend of Goma for a decade and the designer of the Cinabre label, who was advised by and worked closely with Goma, expressed his sincere appreciation for the late couturier: “Michel Goma may not have been as famous as Karl Lagerfeld or Yves Saint Laurent, but his talent was recognized by all. Loyal, a bit of a diva but amusingly so, considerate, and passionate about classical music, he was a charming character, and he continued to sketch to the end of his life. He was my mentor, and it was an incredible opportunity and honour to cross paths with him.”
Goma was born in Moncrabeau on March 12 1932, and a museum has been dedicated to him in his native village, exhibiting over 2,000 drawings and 60 dresses designed by Goma. He was also celebrated in a retrospective book published by the Moncrabeau association, in which Goma himself talks about his life and his passion for fashion: “Not being a good student, I used to think only about drawing,” he is quoted as saying in the book. “Between the ages of six and eight, I sketched my first dresses. I hid what I was doing from my father, but my mother supported me.”
Many in the fashion world have paid tribute to Goma, from Rosanna Armani, Giorgio's sister, to the Jean Patou label and Pascal Morand, president of French Haute Couture and Fashion Federation. Goma’s legacy and work live on at the Palais Galliera Museum in Paris, for which some of Goma’s creations were acquired a few years ago by former director Olivier Saillard. A memorial service with Goma’s close friends will take place in Paris in a few days.
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