Yesterday I introduced the Erte book of illustrations that I am donating to SO-EN magazine’s charity flea market. So who is Erte? In short, when it comes to art deco in fashion, he is the godfather. The big bang. The freaking MAN. I would never say that you “should” know a historical artist or “have to” know a historical artist. I am merely saying that this is one awesome %&$#”! person that you all might enjoy seeing and reading about.
And something really amazing to set your heart aflutter: the largest collection of Erte’s ouvre can be found in Tokyo…in AOYAMA! I know, you just peed a little in your knickerbockers, right? Well, more on that below….








Before art deco in the 1910s, there was “art nouveau” which was inspired by Japan and Janponisme. In contrast, “art deco” was inspired by Egyptian and Middle Eastern aesthetics. This is because the tomb of King “Tut”, the Egyptian Pharoah, was discovered around this time.  Also, the rich class loved traveling to Middle Eastern and African resorts like Casablanca, which were like the Hawaii of the early 20th Century.
So back to Erte. Erte himself was Russian, but quickly became famous after moving to Paris. He started drawing covers for Harpers Bazaar magazine, before fashion photography became the norm. In this right, he was the Steven Meisel, Knick Knight, La Chapelle all rolled into one. On top of this, he was a costume designer and illsutrator. He was INCREDIBLY influential in art, fashion, *and* entertainment.




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Erte’s illustrations were (and still are) popular because they threw the observer into a fantasy world of glamour, dreams, love, lust, beauty, confusion, and color. The women curve and stretch like Gumby, with mischievous airs and quite “crazypants” tendencies. The fashion he created was so different from the usual corsets and hourglass shapes of the previous era that he was considered oh-so deliciously scandalous and avant-garde.



During the art deco movement of the 1920s, the most popular from of entertainment was the “revue” on stage, and Erte’s costumes were the most spectacular of them all. I have to say, it was SO HARD to find photos of his real costumes! I finally found some, you can see below. Of course, I am a big fan of keeping his costumes in illustration where they are more dreamy and out of this world.




Erte himself loved to dress up, and he has been likened to John Galliano, who (used to be) everyone’s favorite pirate/matador/spaceman.

The largest collection of Erte’s prints and bronze statues can be found at Museum 1999 in Minami-Aoyama. It is a high-end restaurant and members-only club, housed in a real art-deco mansion that was built in the 1920s. I have been here before and received a tour of the house and stopped to look at EVERY Erte piece. They are wonderful! Go see them in person!
erte muesum 1999
Tokyo Fashion Diaries by Japan Fashion blogger misha janette | ファッションブロガーのミーシャジャネットの東京ファッションダイアリー