Dominique, fairy and embroideress at Lesage, teaching me how to embroider a piece of the collection which is about to catwalk in a few hours…
Okay so as some of you already know, I’m in Dubai to attend the Chanel Cruise catwalk which theme is Paris/Dubai. Yes you read it well, I’m in Dubai with Chanel, I mean seriously ? I want to shout in excitement. Hahaha actually when their sweet press agent contacted me for the Grand Palais catwalk (souvenez vous
) I almost wanted to cry, and when I received the invitation I went rolling around in my living room. I remember thinking that I could die in peace (almost). What could happen to me regarding Chanel that’d be more awesome, beside drinking a diet coke with Karl in a parallel universe? Nothing. And this sweet press agent called me again about a month ago, I totally remember that moment, my friend Nardjisse unmistakably pregnant in front of me, Charlotte not too far away… And myself, somehow trying to remain normal, yes it’s all right, I’m being offered to learn how to embroider a piece of the Cruise collection at the Lesage ateliers and to learn how to make a camellia at Lemarié, and if by any chance I’m available, to go to Dubai for 3 days to attend the catwalk on a island in the desert. ah ah ah try to imagine that moment, the girls intuitively understanding what’s happening and totally baffled. I laugh nervously, a huge smile on my face, THANK YOU my lucky star. Of course we listened to Larusso after I hung up, to celebrate. Folie.
Karl’s drawings, and the embroidery tests approved by Chanel
Days fly and D day is here in no time. I already knew the house of Lesage, I’d watch several ‘behind the scene’ documentaries about the workshop and all the people working there, by the way I advise you to watch the beautiful documentary from Loïc Prigent for Arte called « Signé Chanel ». But getting there I’m surprised by the wave of emotion coming over me, it seems to me that all this savoir-faire and this handicraft are just as important as a piece of art, it’s a kind of world heritage we have to protect, and I have the right to be there, to touch, caress, photograph and film it. We’re welcomed into the archives where about 60 000 embroider samples from 1805 to nowadays stand alongside. I feel weak, this is a treasure. To tell you the whole story, in 1924 the House of Lesage bought the Albert Michonet embroidery workshop with all its archives. And then from time immemorial, even during war time, the Lesage workshop never stopped creating wonders, in 1997 Chanel bought every luxury handicraft workshops working on its collections, including Lesage and Lemarié which we’re going to talk about today. And last year Lesage bought the Lanel workshop and the archives collection got even bigger. 60 000 pieces of history carefully stored in black boxes, filed, dated and exposed in this room. I feel dizzy writing it.
This particular morning with Tania was a time where I felt specially tired, and I didn’t know what was going to happen, how were we going to be welcomed, if we’d be disturbing them… And then we got in, we were quite shaken by the archives and now was the time to learn, to discover and to wrap ourselves into beauty, those three things did me good, they fed me. We were looking at each other like two children who just got offered presents. « It’s beautiful » was all we could say. People in this workshop are incredibly kind and available, and mostly they’re occupied by an unusual desire to give and share. I’m still in shock.
Better than Disney, I asked Dominique if she could adopt me.
Even in chaos and stress - because we can’t say that they had much of a head start at that time - everything was silent and calm, the place was filled with light, it was almost divine. I meet Dominique, the embroideress who is going to teach me how to embroider, and she tells me that we are not faster when stressed and troubled. Amen. This woman is a fairy.
I discovered that the embroideresses of the workshop are the one to offer embroidery samples for the Chanel collection. Indeed, the theme of the collection and the color range are set and then every person offers her/his own variation on the given theme. I imagine how proud you must be when your pattern is selected for the show!
You can find the Lemarié workshop under the same roof, which handle all the feathers and flowers realization, but also the sewing. Well not the sewing in term of assembling the clothe but really all the work at the surface, for instance sewing with the machine all these little neoprene white flowers. Or like on the picture below, sewing all these multicolors flowers together to create an openwork bedflower. It is the ennoblement of the surface.
I feel like making you a little « swimming cap » bathing suit DIY inspired by Chanel with hundreds of white neoprene little flowers !
And the visit of the workshops ended with a little camellia class with Elsa, the head of the Flowers workshop (awesome title don’t you think ? Head of Flowers).
I have to admit I was much less at ease than with the embroidery, it was really technical and the use of the little burning ball to preform every petal was quite impressive. I didn’t know the gestures and I was too focused on how not to burn myself to listen to Elsa’s directions. But still it really made me want to try again… A camellia like this one takes about 20 minutes to make but the most complex of them can take up to 4 hours…
And TA-DA! A 10000 thank-yous to Angélique and Agnès for this magical opportunity! To Elsa and Dominique for their passion and patience. And I see you tomorrow with the pictures of the show ! I’m heading to the desert !