Deco Icons: René Gruau


Every month, the Deco Haus staff likes to put the spotlight on a famous fashion icon that has inspired our designs, from famous models to world-renowned fashion illustrators. This month, we have chosen the famous Italian illustrator René Gruau, a man whose illustrations for designers such as Dior and Vogue gained him immense fame in the mid-1900's.




Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli delle Caminate, also known as René Gruau, was the son of French aristocrat Maria Gruau and Italian count Alessandro. He was born in Rimini, Italy, on February 4th, 1909. He was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps and become an Italian diplomat and royal military commander. However, when his parents separated when he was 3 years old, he followed his artistically inclined mother to Paris, and his love for fashion and art grew. As a child, his mother introduced him to painters and fashion magazine editors who encouraged him to pursue his craft. Then, at 15, thanks to his mother, her friends and his own talent, Rene Gruau already had a promising career as a fashion illustrator awaiting him.




Gruau became particularly popular after WWII, working with designers such as Balmain, Givenchy, Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath and Edward Molyneux, and also for suppliers of top-quality textiles, cars and brandy. However, it was his collaboration with Christian Dior that gained him the majority of his fame and solidified his reputation. Starting with the the iconic Miss Dior fashion campaign in 1947, he worked as the artistic director of advertising for the House of Dior up until the late 1990's. As well as working with Dior, he worked with other designers such as Givenchy and Lanvin, and high class music-halls such as the Moulin Rouge and the Lido. He even moved to the U.S in 1948 to work with Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Aside from being an illustrator and a poster artist, he also sold paintings, designed costumes and stage sets, created a poster design of Federico Fellini’s cinema classic La Dolce Vita (1959), and even created his own collection of clothing in 1948-49.




His vibrant colors and his ability to depict a story through his drawings made him one of the greatest illustrators in the elegant world of haute couture. He was able to use simple colors and a minimal amount of brushstrokes to convey controversial ideas and emotions, thus becoming one of the most loved and talked-about artists of his time. He continued his craft up until March 31, 2004, when he passed away at the ripe age of 95 in Rome, Italy.