Paris - Part 1
Bonjour from Paris!
So where to begin?
I've been updating my Instagram daily with everything I have done, and looking back on it today, I can't believe where I have been and what I have seen..
I knew when I signed up for Susan's Paris trip that we would be given access to a few of the most skilled artisans in the world but I had no idea what that would actually entail.
Its been humbling, and thought provoking..and incredibly inspiring.
I was trying to think of a word that would summarize my stay here and I keep coming back to the concept of "time" ...... it seems to mean little in this small couture world we've glimpsed.
Its accepted and seemingly expected that training will take decades, that a product will take weeks to create, that materials will be the best available and that knowledge will be shared.
and because of that open and giving attitude, there has been so much to see and so much more to learn. I'm ready to pack up the family and beg for a internship! I never imagined that such a world truly existed.
So, although the official trip ended late last night, I am still here for a few more days, and because of that, I thought I would split these posts into a few parts because I have more sewing related things to do before I leave that I want to include.
The Dries Van Noten exhibition at the Les arts decoratifs
I flew in a few days early, wanting to get a head start on jet lag and find my way around Paris again, and so I found myself walking and walking and walking..
I wear a fitbit and logged almost 30,000 steps a day getting totally turned around on myself trying to do the tourist thing...it was great to just wander, and I have to say by the end of each day I was so tired that there was no jet lag issues at all!
View from the Louve (2nd floor)
The Jardin des Tuilleries
I'd forgotten all the beautiful flower stores on each street, I have so many pics of them!
I visited everything from Napoleons tomb, and the Dries Van Noten exhibition, to the Mona Lisa, as its been a long time since I was here, and even longer that I was anywhere alone. I found it such a novelty to just walk with no particular place in mind and no whining kids, no planning, no meltdowns to deal with!
Napoleons tomb at Les Invalides...
and the ceiling above...
and so by the time the tour officially started on the 2nd, I had my bearings and was more than ready for a slower pace.
We started the tour with a light lunch which gave us a great opportunity to meet each other and go over the agenda. It was such a nice diverse group of twelve women all with different interests and sewing skills...for some it was the first time they had met Susan, and for others a continuation of multiple classes.
and so, we headed off after lunch for our first outing, to the Palais Galliera for the Les Annees 50 exhibit.
This was such a stunning exhibit, filled with 50's French couture. Dior, Channel, YSL, Balenciaga, Balmain...room after room after room...
and I think what struck me the most as I wandered around spending time with each, was that each garment had flaws. A hem that puckered, noticable stitches, a slightly uneven neckline, missed matching...and yet each was absolutely beautiful ....because they were handmade and not mass produced.
I have personally got so used to seeing such flawless finishings on RTW that I expect my sewing to meet that standard, and I become so frustrated when it does not, and yet happily not one of those very exquisite dresses was finished to that machine made level. I can't tell you how good it felt to see that...
and after that lovely afternoon, we headed to a local restaurant and had some genuine crepes and galettes for dinner....
Tuesday November 4
I really liked that each day was very different, and that not each event was strictly a sewing related outing...
because otherwise I would never have visited The Cluny museum. It was a short walk from the hotel and took us right through the Luxembourg Gardens which are so very French and beautiful. (I ended up walking through again on Sunday and it was filled with families, renting wooden boats to sail on the water like a scene from the 50's..)
Medici fountain in the Luxenbourg gardens
The Cluny museum is nestled in a very busy neighbour hood near the Sorbonne. Its an extraordinary sight to see a medival castle with exposed Roman foundations sandwiched between retail stores and homes.
It is entirely devoted to the Middle Ages and exhibits a very impressive collections of items such as remarkable stained glass from the Sainte-Chapelle, paintings, garments, statues, various documents, tapestries …
The two most famous tapestries are the Tapestry of Seigniorial Life that represents the daily activities of a noble man, and the series The Lady and the Unicorn.
The Cluny Museum also exhibits the heads of the statues that decorated the Gallery of Kings of Judea and overlooked the three portals of the facade of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
During the French revolution, the Parisians mistook these statues for those of the kings of France and beheaded them. This was one of my favorite rooms, its part of the original Roman baths, and is cavernous...and light and feels very peaceful.
It would have taken me all day to work through the various rooms had I been alone and I really wanted to, but we were here for to view the tapestries and hear some of the history from our guide.
and even more specifically to see the Unicorn tapestries..
A series of six in total, floor to (medieval) ceiling in size....five representing the senses and the sixth unknown. They were found in 1841 in a castle, badly damaged and have been restored beautifully.
They date back to around 1500 and are so incredibly detailed and saturated with colour that its hard to appreciate just how old they are...
There is no provenance with them, and so sadly little is known about their origins....
Apparently all the weaving is done from the back of a piece, and you could not see the front until it was actually complete...and these in particular are so skillfully weaved that the knots where the colours join cannot be seen...
They think that each one would have taken a year or more, with ten or more artisans working on them.
The things I've learnt this week!
They also house the oldest purse in the world, dated around 1338 and originally believed to have come from Italy.. Its so fragile that it has never been opened.
and after a lovely lunch, we headed off on the metro to Tissus Edre...which was to be the first of a couple of fabric stores we visited last week.
This is a real treasure trove, as Sophie the owner stocks the end cuts from all the couture houses...Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior....
I imagine that it can be a bit hit and miss, but the prices certainly justify a visit.
While we were there some Armani privè was delivered in three colour ways and was snapped up immediately!
Sadly (happily) I seem to have become very spoilt with the access to fabrics I have, and nothing really caught my eye, so I think I was the only one to leave empty handed..
But everyone else was super happy with their purchases, and they really did get some beauties..
and after that it was back to the hotel, so we could all do our own thing for the evening...
I'll have the next couple of days up this week, the wi-fi in the hotel runs literally at dial up speed, so bear with me, I am working slowly on getting it all together :-)
I'll finish this post with a picture I love .......
I walked behind this couple for a while last weekend... they spent the whole time talking and laughing, and when one got ahead, the other stopped and waited. I hope one day, I find myself at a grand old age walking the streets of Paris on my way to lunch like this..
I also want to mention -
That Susan has spent almost two decades building friendships and relationships with these couture houses, as well as with the individual artisans and so access is limited unfortunately to private tours such as hers. Her tour will change year by year depending on availabilty of such artisans and exhibitions...... but she has given me permission to share what we did on this trip, and I am very grateful to her for being so generous.
Have a great week everybody!