Business Growth

Vionnet's couture house grew during the 1920s, and she opened a branch in Biarritz to provide everything from spectator sportswear and travel garments—a growing market as women led increasingly active lives—to her supple evening wear for dinners and dances. By 1932 her Paris establishment had grown, despite the impact of the Great Depression, to twenty-one ateliers. Her attitude toward her employees was as enlightened as her design approach. She remembered her own path through the studios' hierarchy and ensured that workers, while paid the same as in other couture houses, were provided with dental and medical care, had paid breaks and holidays, and were given help with maternity leave and proper teaching in her favored design techniques, such as bias cutting.

Vionnet set up her company, Vionnet et cie, in 1922, and with the support of her backers, she pursued a series of business schemes. These included several attempts during the mid-twenties to capitalize on America's reliance upon Parisian fashion for new trends and Vionnet's popularity there, through a number of deals with companies to produce ready-to-wear. Although innovative, these ventures were brief and did nothing to stem the tide of copyists, both in the United States and in France, who cost the couture industry large sums of money each season by plagiarizing original models and mass producing them at lower prices. This practice damaged Vionnet's profits and also reduced the cachet of particular outfits, since couture clients were paying, at least in part, for exclusivity. Despite Vionnet's involvement with a series of couture organizations pledged to track down copyists, and a landmark case in 1930, when Vionnet and Chanel successfully sued a French copyist, this plagiarism was a recurrent problem that haunted the couture industry.

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