Couturier's secret death

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While friends, colleagues and admirers were toasting the work of the revered couturier Madame Gres last September at the opening of a retrospective of her work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, nobody suspected that she had died almos t 10 months previously.

Her death was announced only yesterday, after a gap of over a year during which it had been kept a secret by her daughter, Anne Gres. Yesterday, Le Monde newspaper reported that the daughter had kept the death a secret ``out of love'', but friends and colleagues of Mme Gres were left feeling hurt that they had not been allowed to pay tribute to the couturier after her death in a retirement home in La Vallette, in the Var region of France on 24 November last year. Richard Martin, the curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was surprised at the news and described Anne Gres's strange behaviour as ``shocking and bizarre''. Mme Gres, he said, was a public figure.

In the five years he spent researching the exhibition, Richard Martin wrote to the Gres family but received no replies. Nor did Mr Martin come across any close friends of the couturier who's clients included American socialite Mrs Randolph Hearst.

``It was our assumption she was alive and too frail to travel,'' said Mr Martin.

Perhaps the strangest twist in the story is a letter received in October by the trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily after the opening of the exhibition. The letter was from Mme Gres but now it is believed to have been written by the daughter. Anne Gres's

motives for concealing the death remain unknown.

Obituary, page 26