LA FORESTIERE–THE CORBUSIER JACKET
Fashion is dead, long live the uniform. As we head towards the new ’20s, mainstream apparel has rarely looked less interesting. At the same time, the concept of “workwear” represents an appealing rejection of the nonsense of overt branding and “athleisure” clothing. Why can’t something be well-styled, simple, practical, attractive and built for purpose?
In 1933, tailor Léon Grimbert opened his company Arnys in Paris. It rapidly became one of the go-to tailors in the city, and one of its customers was Le Corbusier, who had a studio close to its workrooms. Grimbert forged a friendship with the Swiss-French Modernist architect, and when Corbusier, aka Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, wanted a jacket to wear day-in day-out at work, they collaborated on what would become Corbusier’s uniform. It would be Mandarin-collared, with a patch pocket. It had a “pivot” sleeve, which allowed the architect more freedom of movement to draw at his draughtsman’s table than an ordinary tailored jacket. Compared to the rarefied work that Arnys was known for, it looked closer in style to the modern workwear of Le Laboureur – a brand that was founded purely on the concept of functionality, but which has gone on to become an “insider” fashion label, embracing collaborations with Junya Watanabe among others. Corbusier’s jacket – named La Forestière after the gamekeeper’s jackets in Renoir’s 1939 La Règle du Jeu – would become an accidental fashion icon.
In his dystopian novel High-Rise, J.G. Ballard’s narrative rotates around the work of architect Anthony Royal, a character based quite clearly on Le Corbusier, who was a cheerleader for the European residential tower block and cities in the sky. High-Rise tells the story of social order in a Modernist living experiment: the higher the floor, the greater the social standing. In the recent movie adaptation by Ben Wheatley, Jeremy Irons plays the glacial Royal, clad in a jacket inspired directly by the Forestière – it is clinical, institutional and Modernist to its seams. For all of Wheatley’s styling, creating a hellish vision of the future refracted through Ballard’s ’70s sensibilities, it is the jacket that steals the movie – the jacket, and perhaps the Portishead cover version of Abba’s “SOS” that plays over a montage of the world that Royal has built falling apart.
The Forestière represents a key moment in fashion history – when a visionary customer commissioned something inherently “luxury” that was also, essentially, a tool. Later the jacket was sold by Arnys along with trousers, as a suit. It was more refined, with engraved brass buttons. Today, Arnys is a division of the LVMH-owned Berluti brand, and the Forestière is still available by special order.
The Forestière jacket was the perfect source material for the character Anthony Royal’s wardrobe in the movie High-Rise. Clinical, institutional and Modernist to its seams.
Corbusier’s jacket – named La Forestière after the gamekeeper’s jackets in Renoir’s 1939 La Règle du Jeu – has become an accidental fashion icon.
In 1933, tailor Léon Grimbert opened Arnys in Paris. It rapidly became one of the go-to tailors in the city,