Emmanuelle Khanh was born in Paris in 1937. She worked as a model for BALENCIAGA in the mid 50's and later for GIVENCHY.
In 1959 she realized that haute couture was appealing only to a small portion of a larger potential audience. She believed the time was right for rebellion against the strictures of haute couture, and she was not alone in this thinking—during this time, Daniel Hechter created a style between comfort and sportswear, Cacharel redesigned its shirts, Michele Rosier began to create a cosmic line of windbreakers and anoraks, Chantal Thomass created her minidresses, Elie and Jacqueline Jacobson created Dorothée Bis, and Sonia Rykiel launched her knitwear line.
Khanh began to make attractive clothing for the masses. Her individuality quickly caught on in France, where she modeled and sold the clothes herself. In 1960 the magazine IT carried an article about Khanh and her work and her modern fashions soon reached the U.S. and were in demand in major department stores. The clothes Khanh had been making for herself, with the help of her husband, Quasar Khanh, were then noticed by Elle magazine. This exposure led to Khanh's collaboration with another ex-Balenciaga model, Christiane Bailly, to design their own groundbreaking Emmachristie collection in 1962.
Then she joined Dorothee Bis for a brief period and also worked for CACHAREL from 1962 to 1967.
In 1970, Khanh established her own business. She continued to work freelance while pursuing her own lines, designing for Missoni, Krizia and Max Mara. In 1972 she created her ready-to-wear label.
Her house continues and is at present owned by the France Luxury Group, which owns Jean-Louis Scherrer and Jacques Fath.
In 1982 Khanh released a line of clothing under her own name and, in 1987, created Emmanuelle Khanh International. Some 150 boutiques around the world attest to her lasting popularity.
She became famous for her long droopy collars on jackets, dresses and blouses, highly cut armholes, low-slung skirts; tiny round collars on blouses; short frilly skirts; linen outfits with lace trimming and embroidered blouses. Her name is associated with the Yeye fashions of the 60's. While Mary Quant was revolutionizing fashion in England at the beginning of the 1960s, Emmanuelle Khanh was at the vanguard of the young French ready-to-wear movement. From the French pronunciation of the Beatles' "Yeah, yeah, yeah," the emerging clothes were known as yé yé fashion. Khanh criticized haute couture for hiding the beauty of the body. For her own designs, she emphasized femininity by cutting clothes along the body's curves, to follow the movement of the body, unlike Balenciaga's gowns, which could practically stand alone regardless of the woman's body within them. Khanh created an architecturally classic mode with a twist: careful seaming, narrow armholes, a slim, close to the body "droop" silhouette. Her suits had the surprise element of skirts that were actually culottes. Innovations included dog-eared collars, long fitted jackets with droopy collars, and blouses and dresses with collars consisting of overlapping petal-like shapes along a U-shaped opening. Khanh also had a democratic approach to fabric. She used denim and tie-dyeing, chenille, and plastic. A characteristic evening top in 1965 was made of crépe appliquéd with fluorescent plastic circles. Khanh often used Shetland wools and Harris tweeds long favored by middle-class French women. Keeping pace with the ethnic trend of the 1970s, Khanh created short, loose, peasant-style dresses out of colorful Italian gauze fabrics. Feminine blouses were be trimmed with scalloped embroidered edges, short skirts were frilled, and lace was used to trim soft linen in her designs of the period. Later in the 1970s Khanh turned to designing knitwear and skiwear. A casual summer look consisted of a wide, striped cotton skirt, buttoned down the front, worn with a matching halter top and wedge-heeled shoes of matching fabric. The matching shoes were a couture touch for ready-to-wear. During the next decade, Khanh continued to freelance, making soft, individualistic fashions, bouncing creative ideas off her engineer, inventor, and interior-designer husband. Her signature line of boldly-rimmed glasses (á la Drew Carey) is one such example. Khanh is well known for her original eyewear designs and especially in her innovative use of genuine lizard, snake, ostrich, crocodile, and shark skin on the frames of her handmade "EK"-initialed glasses. Khanh's clear plastic umbrellas have also been successfully marketed around the world. In the 1980s, her clothes had a retro feeling about them, with extended shoulders and cinched waistlines that flattered the figure. One outfit featured a very long, very loose camel hair coat falling freely from the shoulders, caught about the waist by a narrow leather belt, worn over a soft, dark brown, wool jersey jumpsuit. Khanh continued to be active in the 1990s. For Jet Lag Showroom in 1990, she designed a suit consisting of a waist-length, tightly fitting jacket, worn with a long, full flannel skirt. She continued throughout the decade to create comfortable simple jackets and coats for special orders from the firm. Indisputably, this successful woman was one of the pioneers of ready-to-wear fashion of the 1960s and hopefully will continue to amaze the fashion world in the future.