«Embroidery is to Haute Couture what fireworks are to Bastille Day.» – François Lesage
I love CHANEL‘s Métiers d’Art collections, that are always a visual treat for the senses, showcasing the craftsmanship for which the luxury house is revered. Those runway shows take place each year outside the traditional fashion schedule.
The name itself reveals it: Métiers d’Art means «art professions». They are considered demi-couture, right between ready-to-wear and haute couture; although the designs are not bespoke, their ornamentation and craftsmanship rely on couture techniques. The collections and their elaborate themes are brought to life by the small specialist workshops that CHANEL began buying in 1984, in order to preserve the expertise and craftsmanship associated with French luxury, among them the buttons and accessory maker (Desrues), costume jewelers (Goossens), embroiderers (Lesage and Montex), feather and flower makers (Lemarié), milliners (Maison Michel), shoemakers (Massaro) and so on. Today these ateliers have become essential to the everyday running of the fashion house, providing CHANEL with everything from lace to embroidered buttons.
For the Métiers d’Art collection 2020, named Paris – 31 Rue Cambon, Virginie Viard, who was with CHANEL’s haute couture department for more than 30 years before taking the helm as the Maison’s creative director in 2019, brought the show back to the legendary designer’s apartment, creating the magnificent set-up that placed emphasis on Coco Chanel’s famous mirrored staircase.
Her favorite look of the collection was number 34, and it was also mine. It is a piece of art, created using the intricate trompe-l’œil embroidery done specifically at the ateliers of Lesage, and the attention to detail is undeniable.
The story began in 1858, when Charles Frederick Worth opened his haute couture fashion house, and started making use of the prodigious talent of the embroiderer Albert Michonet, whose studio was purchased by Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage in 1924. This was the beginning of a period of fruitful and close collaboration with the best-known names of the time. They introduced tambour embroidery to the studio using the Lunéville technique, which could respond to the voracious demand for beaded and sequinned gowns during Les Années Folles.
In 1949, on the death of his father, François Lesage (1929 – 2011) took over management of the company at the tender age of 20. For 50 years, he has cleverly combined the skills of a traditional craft with meeting the pioneering requirements of the new generation of fashion designers. In 2002, the company became part of the CHANEL family.
Coming back to Look 34, that I am wearing in this outfit post. It features the Lunéville technique that involves using a crochet hook to chain stitch small decorations (black and gold beads) to the underside of the fabric. In this case, over 25,000 gold beads and 35,000 black tube beads are used to form the embroidered braids, before the seamstresses at the tailleur atelier carefully place them along the edges and cuffs of the wool tweed jacket and trousers. The classic handbag was created to complement the look, crafted in the same red-and-black wool tweed and finished with the embroidered braid detailing all around the edges.
Why am I explaining all of this to you? Those pieces are one-off creations that continually push the boundaries to showcase the fine arts that are only alive and well today because of CHANEL’s continued patronage. If you love fashion, you will appreciate the craftsmanship of those eternal items. This look is very dear to my heart.
My look: Tweed jacket with embroidery, matching tweed pants, and classic handbag, layered pearl necklace with bows, and two-tone slingback shoes, all by CHANEL (Look 34 Métiers d’Art 2020 Paris – 31 Rue Cambon), velvet and Leavers lace-trimmed stretch-tulle halterneck bodysuit, and gold-tone, enamel and faux pearl clip earrings, both by Saint Laurent, and Carretto-print face mask, by Dolce & Gabbana.
Photos: © David Biedert Photography
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