Paris Part 4 - Declercq Passementeries and the YSL foundation
We began the day with a visit to Declercq Passementeries, a world completely foreign to me...
I still barely (after three years!) have blinds or curtain's on most of my windows, let alone a tassel, so I had no idea what we were going to see or learn.
but seemingly, as with all of these cotton and silk companies, they may have a degree or more of separation from each other but there is always an overlap somewhere.
and this was no exception because Declercq not only make tassels but trim by hand using very traditional methods, and they would have been perfect for a future little French jacket had they been for sale!
We were met by Jérōme Declercq, a sixth generation family member who runs the sales and design side of the business in Paris while his sister Elisa manages the production in their factories , both in France and abroad.
An apprenticeship can take ten years or more, and for a family member entering the business you can include many more years as they must be experienced at every level from the factory floor up.
and Jérōme knows his trade as he more than impressively demonstrated when he offered to weave trim for us in the showroom on a very old and beautiful fully working warp weighted loom, the same as are used in their factories to this day.
Just trying to work out the sequencing of the threads was confusing, to have to co-ordinate my hands as well would have been more than I could do.... apparently many different designs can and will be made each day by each worker depending on the order schedule.
Imagine having to learn a new design two or three times a day??
There is an actual full time worker who is employed in the showroom to weave and he arrived right before we left, so we were able to watch a little of what he does...and he was fast, inches a minute were just flying off, it was absolutely incredible to see.
Its a very awkward looking machine, there are leather harnesses that you lean into once you sit, which allow you to be supported while you all but hover over the loom, threading the shuttles and braiding back and forth.
In the showroom at the back (we were asked not to take specific pics of these) are wall to ceiling cabinets filled with hundreds of years of history, samples of styles and designs produced for Versailles and the Opera house and for palaces, museums, stately homes and residences from all around the world.
You can literally stand there and see the ornate and over the top styles come and go throughout history, decades of opulence replaced with periods of simplicity before it all circled back again and again.
It was wonderful to see that they have kept their very unique traditional methods alive and are still thriving as a business - cotton and silk are still sourced from the field/cocoon, milled for them and dyed by them for each and every order -
An incredibly highly skilled artisan (one in the showroom and more in the factories) create embellishments one by one, and all by hand.
We thought Ros was going to stay there, she loved this so much!
and we were able to wander around and take pictures of some of their samples, I loved some of the ways they have diversified such as with this fringed light which was absolutely gorgeous.
Sadly, as with many of these businesses, Declerq is the last in what was once a vibrant thriving industry, an industry that all but died with the introduction of RTW and mass production in the 70's.
They are modernizing where they can with a great website, Facebook page and a large social media presence, they use computers to help with design, and embrace technology in everything but their physical product.
and recently, one of Jérōmes seven children has started her long apprenticeship with plans to eventually take over and continue the business for another generation... which is a glorious thing in this day and age....
Susan tells the wonderful story of a previous visit where somebody asked if they would ever automate the process, and Jérōme simply horrified struggled to find an answer before eventually settling on "but then it would not be us, non?"
and so after that lovely morning, we headed off for a really good sit down meal at a local restaurant for lunch (so much nicer than a sandwich everyday!) and a quick visit to a bakery for macaroon and meringue as we walked...and its a good job we did lots of walking - those things were huge...and I was eating them every single day!
Before heading off to..
THE YSL FOUNDATION
The YSL foundation is housed at 5 Avenue Marceau, near the Musée Galliera and a nice walk from the Champ Elysees.
Although, YSl and Pierre Bergé started in a smaller atelier in Paris originally, this is the building where the haute couture business was based for the last thirty years of YSL's career.
You enter through the main entrance, up a beautifully ornate staircase and are greeted by some absolutely enormous floral arrangements and a very discreet receptionist.
From there, you are shown into the first waiting room where clients were shown, to await your guide. Ours was Clementine, a very knowledgeable Parisian with fantastic English.
and the first thing she said ..."No photos" can you imagine? I'm stood in YSL' s bat cave and I can't take a picture! I was a bit disappointed to say the least but when you start to get further into the tour, you kind of get it....everything is kept at a certain temperature, the blinds are all drawn, the humidity controlled, the lighting museum quality...all to keep the house and its contents preserved for generations to come....so thousands of flashes every day would be very detrimental.
(So instead, I did a lot of google searching to come up with the images shown, they are all almost exactly what I saw, and while its wonderful that they exist, I wished they would have let us take just one of our group in his actual studio!)
When YLS announced his retirement in 2002, he had already decided that his studio would close...unlike other Couture houses he felt no need hand over his clothing brand to a predecessor.
(The rights to the accessories, bags, shoes, make up etc had been bought years before and are owned by a large company with no association to the Couture house, which is why they continue today)
What I had not realized is that Pierre Bergé had thought to save and file every sketch, drawing, photo, letter and all miscellaneous pertaining to the house from the very first day of its existence, which amounts to over 15,000 items.
This hindsight also included swatches, runway photos, model fitting pictures and notes...and over 5000 garments, all stored and filed in humidity controlled rooms ready to be sent to museums, exhibitions and the occasional photo shoots.
Apparently each garment has a schedule, if it has been out on loan for six months then it must remain at rest, and in a dark and humdity controlled room for six months...so as not to degrade and stress the fibers, colours etc
One of the upper floors is dedicated to this very purpose and is filled with endlessly rotating clothes, and yes, of course, I want a job there!
From the waiting room we were taken into the beautifully appointed dressing room with a distinct 70's vibe where clients would first see their garments to try on.
I loved seeing that there was a hidden door behind a mirror in there that led directly up to the sewing floor, so adjustments could be made quickly and discretely without the client leaving the room.
From there we were led up the main staircase to the second floor and into Monsieur Saint Laurent's actual studio.
and I swear you feel as though he could walk through the door at any moment., I got chills as I stood there...
I've seen so many iconic pictures over the years, and to then find myself standing there will forever be one of my all time favorite memories.
(Spot the golden thimble, the same one that Madame Grés and Monsier Hertault the umbrella maker have received from the Haute Couture commission)
There is also a rotating schedule of clothing shows in the studio, and what we saw was a little different than show here ..
Its a huge light filled, a floor to ceiling fashion and history book filled room, with a wall of mirrors, bright lighting and racks of original muslins (toile) as well as a black rope to stop us from touching :-(
and while the table has been removed and the mannequins installed there instead, it still feels the same....
We also had the incredible opportunity to view some of the documents filed from some of the older collection's.
What I would give to just sit for a day, and go through these, one by one!
Below you can see the file number, name of the model who wore the pant suit, the show it was created and worn in, as well as the fabric notes etc for the garment.
If there was a garment we liked Clementine would pull out the relevant file and show us the actual photo of the finished garment walking the runway...that's a game I could play all day!
The tour lasted a good 90 minutes and from what I understand is open to the public but needs to be pre-arranged - details here, they will not give entrance to anyone who just turns up, its apparently not cool at all!
I would highly recommend a visit should you have the time, its really wonderful.
and on a silly note, while leaving the studio and walking down the stairs, I spotted in what is truly the cleanest, most immaculate house, a single pin deeply embedded between two planks on the stairs...
I pointed it out very quietly to Susan, who quick as a flash dug it out...
and I am sticking to my theory that as nothing has been sewn there since YSL retired, I have in my possession a pin that he used!
So, of course I did what any sensible person would do, and bought a 110 piece lego set of Moujik in the gift store
and now my pin has pride of place in Moujik's food bowl on my sewing table!
Moujik the third...
and the original Moujik.
and after that busy day, as an unscheduled extra, we decided to walk around the corner and enjoy the Sonia Delaunay at the Musée d’Art Moderne.
A huge retrospective of over 400 works, paintings, wall decorations, sketches, textilles, clothing and prints.
I personally thought her rugs in the final gallery room were worth the entrance fee alone, abstact is a hard medium...to find colors and shapes that work harmoniously takes such skill and I think they were just perfection.
and I just found this one on 1st dibs for the bargain sum of $19,750!
and after that it was back to the hotel and then out to dinner...
Wishing everyone a happy Monday!
Don't forget to email or leave contact info in the comment section if you would like to enter for the Vinatge trims and buttons.. I'll close it on Saturday.