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  • Photo du rédacteurPatrick Cabasset

Maurice Renoma: The energy of the ‘modographer’

He has always been envied for his eternal creative youth, be it in fashion, photography, design, scenography, exhibitions or travel, and at the age of 83, the man behind the wild costumes worn by the Drugstore Gang in the 60s continues to ride the creative wave of his time to this very day.

Cristobal the goldfish became Maurice Renoma’s muse, and these days he even incorporates him on his models, as demonstrated in this exhibition dedicated to the designer, being staged in Trouville until the end of the summer.

Rarely has a figure been so in tune with the times over such a long period. Creating the Renoma brand with his father, tailor Simon Cressy and his brother Michel, he opened the White House Renoma boutique in 1963. This institution of a shop, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in October, would go on to dress the whole of Paris in what were brand-new materials for men’s suits, including loden, military wool cloth, velvet and even upholstery fabrics, and in colours that would rekindle the appeal of the dull men’s fashion of the time. With his provocative blazers, Renoma managed to win over not only the ‘gangs’ that were developing around the capital’s hottest new spots, including the Golf Drouot (a famous rock concert venue), the Drugstore (a legendary place that became the Emporio Armani boutique in Saint Germain), the Café Français on the Champs Elysées, etc., but also all of Paris’s golden youth, starting with those from the nearby Janson-de-Sailly secondary school. The list of those who have worn the Renoma label with the flamboyant casualness it demands is long, and includes the likes of Jacques Dutronc, John Lennon, Serge Gainsbourg, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Bob Dylan, Yves Saint Laurent and even Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. All of them will have met Maurice, with his sparkling eyes and his iconoclastic ideas.

Avant-garde fashion photographer Maurice Renoma.

As of the late-1960s and his first trip to India, Renoma’s showroom at 113 Avenue Victor Hugo also saw its fair share of hippy fashion, and in 1970 he organised his first fashion show, in which he showcased his androgynous and provocative linen ladies’ line, for which Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin would become flag-bearers. The Gainsbourg/Birkin duo would come to embody Renoma’s style from the mid-1970s onwards, under the lenses of David Bailey, Guy Bourdin, Dominique Issermann and Helmut Newton.

“I believe the most important thing in life is to always express yourself” — Maurice Renoma.

During the 1980s, his multi-pocket jacket, of which he sold some 150,000 units at his boutique on Rue de la Pompe alone, would appeal to new fans of movement and constant travel. This sort of commercial success soon allowed him to establish himself worldwide, with the brand granting 25 licences in South Korea alone. The 1990s was a prosperous decade, with Maurice’s creations selling in Europe, Vietnam and China, among others.

It was also at this time that Maurice developed his all-important taste for photography; when he failed to find a photographer who could properly express his creativity, he took matters into his own hands and started photographing his own advertising campaigns. He has since produced over 200 videos, in addition to the still images that characterise his brand universe, showcasing a style characterised by freedom and nonchalance.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg: Renoma muses of the 1970s.

His atypical and sometimes lustful photography reflected the provocative nature of his collections, and he defined himself as a ‘modographer’, thanks to his passions for both fashion [translator’s note: ‘mode’ being French for ‘fashion’] and photography. “I believe the most important thing in life is to always express yourself”, he maintains, and he has never failed to do so. His poetic eye is equally at home in the urban jungles of Tokyo or Miami as in the Normandy countryside. Creating a fantasy bestiary, forging inter-sex hybrids and relentlessly photographing his own particular style, he would go on to exhibit in over 100 galleries worldwide and even opened the Renoma Café Gallery, a lifestyle hub, restaurant and art gallery on Avenue Georges V, in 2001. This was followed more recently by L’Appart Renoma, a 2,368 sq ft ‘inhabited’ space above his long-established boutique that enables him to indulge in his latest passion: hosting contemporary art exhibitions. He is taking this opportunity to freshen up this hub of artistic emulation by transforming it, in turn, into a concert venue and a gallery for immersive installations, among other things. This is also where the exhibition of the pieces created by the ESMOD class of 2023 will be held in the first two weeks of July. Maurice is, in fact, no stranger to the school himself; born in 1975, his daughter Stéphanie Renoma, who has been a stylist since 1999 and is now a trendy photographer herself, studied fashion here.

L’Appart Renoma, 129 Bis rue de la Pompe, Paris 16é.

Andy Warhol in Maurice Renoma’s multi-pocket jacket

Cristobal the goldfish in an exhibition at L’Appart Renoma. The artist uses him to champion his naturalist philosophy of life and challenge our lifestyles.

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