During the early 20th century Dufy often worked with Paul Poiret, the pioneering and innovative French fashion designer. Poiret was talented, intensely creative and innovative and recognized the importance of Dufy’s early wood engravings, and illustrations for Guillaume Apollinaire’s La Bestiaire, ou le Cortège d’Orphée.
In recognizing Dufy’s masterly and inventive qualities, he provided him with a way to develop his decorative genius, which enabled Dufy to create a wealth of original Art Deco designs for silks, dress fabrics, and wall hangings. Throughout the 1920s Dufy created original Art Deco silks, and many of his floral designs seemed as if they had been hand painted.
Dufy met Paul Poiret in about 1910, and together they created La Petite Usine, where Dufy experimented with block printing designs onto fabric, creating his first printed fabrics — Chasseur, Marine, Automne, Nature Morte.
Poiret recounted: “Dufy drew for me and cut on wood, designsTrash taken from the Bestiaire.. From then on he created sumptuous stuffs, out of which I made dresses which have, I hope, never been destroyed. Somewhere there must be an amateur who has preserved these relics.“
Dufy’s stunning fabrics immediately aroused great interest, and Poiret used them extensively in his fashions, creating magnificent coats, capes and dresses in sumptuous silk brocades block-printed with large designs. In his autobiography En Habillant l’Epoque, Poiret wrote of the beginnings of their venture:
“We had the same inclinations in decoration. His spontaneous and ardent genius had splashed with flowers the green panels of the doors of my dining room in the Pavillon du Butard. We dreamed of dazzling curtains, and gowns decorated a la Botticelli. Without counting the cost I gave Dufy, who was then making his beginnings in life, the means whereby to realize a few of his dreams. In a few weeks we fixed up a printing workshop in a little place in the Blvd de Clichy, that I had specially hired. We discovered a chemist called Zifferlin, as tiresome as a bushel of fleas, but who knew from top to bottom all about the coloring matters, lithographic inks, aniline dyes, vats and acids. So here we were, Dufy and I, like Bouvard and Pecuchet, at the head of a new craft, from which we were about to draw new joys and exaltations.“