Dearest Blog Readers, yes, the rumors are true. I am moving to London! For the semester only, don’t worry. I’m so excited to live in the land of red phone booths, tea, fish and chips, Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen, and Burberry (just to name a few). And of course, the Royals. I’ll be studying at Central Saint Martins and living in the East End. If any of you have suggestions on what to do they are more than welcome, I’ve never been to London before!
If the name Lesage doesn’t get your heart beating, please leave now. This legendary house, started in 1924, when the embroiderer Michonet sold his house to Marie-Louise and Albert Lesage, is one of six remaining embroidery houses in Paris. The Metiers d’art, or craftsmen, are the ones responsible for the couture you see every season. The costume jewelers, feather workers, milliners, bookmakers, glove makers, fabric pleaters, and embroiderers are the ones who make the exquisite pieces you see on the couture runways (under the designers direction, of course).
Lesage is perhaps the most famous because of it’s work with Chanel. Yes, it is the house that embroiders Chanel. But Lesage has worked with many other legendary designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Elsa Schiaparelli being two (they still have samples from Elsa-all the way back to the 1930’s!)
They also work with new and emerging designers, Mary Katrantzou being the most notable. As a side note, I am obsessed with her, and was almost more excited to see a garden-print dress being embellished than a tweed being made.
Lesage has over 60 tons of materials, and only 60 employees. Everything is stored beautifully, right down to the color-coded thread in antique shelves. They also have an incredible archive- every time they make a sample it is put into their archive, so they have amassed quite the collection after almost 90 years.
One of the best parts was learning about how the designers collaborate with the craftspeople- designers will come and give the theme, and then the craftsperson will create samples based on the theme and what they think the designer is looking for. The designer will then pick their favorite, and a series of drawings and patterns and samples are made. Once the embroidery is complete, the pieces go back to their respective fashion houses and are assembled there. Pretty cool, right?