NEW YORK — Fashion designer Pauline Trigere is putting her stylish stamp on some traditionally unstylish--and, in some cases, downright ugly--accessories that are commonly used by older people.
She is working with Gold Violin, a Web site and catalog company, to make items like eyeglass cases, pillboxes and hearing-aid pouches in printed fabrics and ostrich-embossed leather.
"Practicality has always been very important in my life and my designs. You have to make things functional, but that doesn't mean they can't be attractive," says Trigere.
"If you buy a pair of glasses, they give you a case. But if you have a choice of something more attractive, then you may be seduced. That's what I would pick."
Trigere, 92, is most famous for her dresses and coats. She has created clothing for royalty and celebrities since the 1940s, and her vintage gowns are popping up on Hollywood red carpets in the 21st century on stars like Winona Ryder.
She moved from Paris to New York in 1937 and won her first Coty Award from the jury of the American Fashion Critics in 1949. In 1993, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
While it is unlikely that she'll add apparel to her collection for Gold Violin, she is planning some sort of wrap that a woman can throw over her shoulders when she is reading in bed, and a coverlet for people in wheelchairs to use on their laps.
She already has designed for wheelchairs and walkers a fashionable pouch that has a Velcro closure to stash money, lipstick and a comb.
Thinking aloud during a recent interview at her Manhattan apartment, Trigere says in her French accent, "Maybe I'll have to redesign the entire walker. It's so ugly. At least we can paint it. Maybe in red. It would look better."
She turns even more passionate as she visualizes an attractive miniature flashlight that could be worn on a chain around her neck.
"When you go out to a restaurant, it's all very romantic with candles, but I need a light to see the menu," Trigere says. "People say those restaurants are just for young people. But I go downtown, and I like some of those places."
"We're trying to understand the lifestyles and interests of seniors, while understanding some of their limitations," explains Connie Hallquist, the CEO and co-founder of Gold Violin. Those limitations may include poor vision, memory loss and arthritis, she says.
"Pauline really embodies our customer. She's stylish, chic, active, and, by the way, she's 92."
Now that she is creating these items, Trigere says she suddenly has become very aware of people using canes everywhere. And, she adds, as the population ages, there are simply a lot more older people on the street, going to dinner and the theater.
"For a long time, if you were past 40, forget it. You were old. Now 65 is too young to retire. Today, 65 is very young," she says with a laugh.
Asked if having stylish things instead of ugly reminders of their age would make older people feel better, Trigere says, "I think they'll feel better by someone's attention--a note, a kiss, a present. These are things that could be a grandparent gift."
There is more respect for older people now, and things like a cane or hearing aid are more accepted, she says. But while stylish accessories for seniors are new, finding fashionable clothing hasn't been a problem for Trigere.
A well-made garment is a well-made garment for any age, according to Trigere. The trick as you get older, she says, is keeping your figure.
On this day, the designer looks as stylish as ever in a maroon wool jumpsuit with a gold belt. Trigere attributes her good health--and her fit shape--to eating and drinking whatever she wants and daily exercise.
Trigere, who has a country home in New York's Westchester County, also is an avid gardener. She is trying to beat the clock and plant 1,000 tulip bulbs before the ground freezes.
(Again thinking aloud, she says she wants to make user-friendly gardening kneepads that don't require ties.)
"I think next I want to become a landscape architect."
On the Net: http://www.goldviolin.com.