Paris Trip Finale...Part 5 - Legeron, Lacroix, Palais Garnier and Julien Cristofoli.
Ah Bruno...if I had the time I would write five posts this week about him..and probably a couple more next.
Funny, kind, passionate, highly skilled and with the dirtiest laugh you have ever heard, this was such a facinating morning.
Bruno Legeron creates flowers, head pieces, garments and embellishments with feathers, leather and fabric for all of the Haute Couture houses -Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Ungaro, Lacroix, Givenchy....as well as Cartier, opera houses and Theatre companies.
The company was founded in 1774 and bought by Legeron in 1880 and is now in its fourth generation of family ownership (and final unless he gets married soon!)
It's kind of a Couturiers heaven, a real insight into a completely magical world and Bruno was so enthusiastic and open about the process, delighting in showing us around..
We had been told to look at Bruno's hands when we arrived as apparently they are always an indicator of what he is working on...it was pink Dior flowers that day!
Legeron is based in a rambling old building a nice walk from the Tuileries, the Champs Elysee's and the Louvre. Its by appointment only sadly, and I believe can only be arranged by somebody who knows somebody... who knows somebody.....who met somebody...
We started in the main reception area where there are large displays of work on show, as well as drawer after drawer of stock in huge cabinets...which we were allowed to rummage through and buy if we wanted - it almost turned into a scene from black Friday!!
We heard a little of the family history and were shown some examples of work to date...
Some of which I recognized immediately. His work is prolific and features heavily on each seasons runways, as well as in stores all around the world, magazine and editorial advertisements and of course on the classic Chanel jacket...
and in a lovely coincidence, while I was walking along the Rue du Faubourg the next day, I spotted these flowers in the Lanvin windows which I knew instantly where made at Legeron...
To learn a little of the business, we were shown some of the different stages starting in the stock rooms, where box after box of feathers are held. Apparently they can last an indefinite amount of time and no special care is required other than a dry, dark atmosphere.
He went to great lengths to show us some of his vast range, and to stress that they only use feathers from birds that we would be allowed to legally eat.
Its a complicated process deciding on which feathers can be used for which collection, as different countries have different laws, so each item is evaluated individually to ensure that they can be sold not only in Europe but also be imported America and the Middle East..
Small samples are made per the couture houses specifications, to enable Legeron to be able to calculate a time and price and for the customer to approve of the design, material etc.
and every sample, full order and re-order are detailed extensively with dye numbers, molds, fabrics, quantites, dates and price in log book's dating back from the 1880.
Some custom flower orders..
There were so many stages to making these very beautiful flowers..
The fabric is first soaked in a gelatin mix to create a stable stiff structure, shown here is a medium weight boucle, but from what I understand almost any fabric can be used..
Once the fabric is completely soaked through, it is hung from nails onto the edge of a specially designed frame.
and the frame is tightened until the fabric is taunt. It is then left to dry at room temperature until stiff.
Once dried, the fabric is taken to the cutting room where a die is chosen and the work of cutting the flower shapes begins..
Bruno demonstrated with a Hermes scarf he had to hand!
When the petals have all been cut, they are taken to the dye room where Bruno creates the requested colours, and petal by petal brushes, blots and dips the colour on.
Before each petal is placed on a drying rack so that the dye can set slowly and dry naturally overnight.
and from there, they are taken to the final room where the flower petals are slightly dampened again one by one to reactivate the gelatin wax finish.....
before being curled and shaped using various heated tools, until they resemble specific flowers.
and sadly after all this work, if the fabric flowers get very damp or wet, all is lost :-(
For leather flowers, each is cut and then a low pressure metal mold is used to shape the flower petal or whole flower.
Each individual piece is then sewn to a mesh to create a specific design as well as for stability and foundation...
and then areas of that mesh are cut and removed to be sewn to the final fabric.
LEATHER SHAPING AND MANIPULATION
I've often seen manipulated leather come down a runway or being worn in a fashion magazine, but I can honestly say I never thought about how did they do that....which is so strange considering how much time I think about fabric in general.
But after meeting Karen Grigorian who works with Bruno and is based in the Legeron building, I've been obsessed and have found myself doing a lot of research over the last few weeks to learn more.
Templates are made from stiff brown butchers paper and light card, using designs that are created purely in Karens head...he says if he sees a picture or image of the final product, he knows exactly how to mark and score the card to achieve this.
A design can take from a day to a week depending on how complicated the final shape needs to be and for each template another needs to be made to match exactly.
The template above was designed to be hung from a very exclusive retail store window, so that shoes could be placed in each pocket for display.....you can just see the blue shoe peeking out as a demo.
and the above was for a haute couture house who needed a very elaborate leather belt/corset detail...
and this was a non specific skirt/sleeve/dress template!..
Karen only spoke French and there was some rapid translation flying back and forth which got a little confusing, but if my research is correct the process from here on in is fairly simple!
When a template has been created, a skin or skins of leather (or fabrics) are sandwiched as much as is possible between the template top and bottom and then clamps are used to hold the three layers tightly together.
The single piece is then placed in a steam closet/cabinet/room for up to 24 hours until the middle layer of fabric has softened sufficiently, and taken on its new form.
Although I have also read that the leather or fabric is softened for a short amount of time in a steam closet and then pressed between the two templates, before being placed back for further steaming, so more research is needed!
and unlike the flowers, this remains a permanent change, until the process is repeated again...
I'm wondering if asking for 10 yards of brown card/paper and a steam closet would be an appropriate and justifiable Christmas gift? After all, it could double as a sauna I am fairly sure!
The video below, although only in French, has beautiful images of the flower making process and is really a great insight into the world of flowers and feathers.
and these, while are a little clunky, are full of info and helpfully subtitled!
AND so after that fabulous morning, some of us headed out with boxes of bought flowers and a free flower gift each (I told you - sweetest guy ever)
and walked over to Wolff et Descourtis a shawl and scarf store, located at the Galerie Vivienne, a historical covered walkway with beautiful shops and restuarants.
Victoria Wolff now owns and runs the business that was founded by her great great Grandfather in 1875.
She explained that she spends much of her time sourcing through old family textile documents in order to re-create original designs. Patterns generally include an elephant, toucan, or flowers, and the end result is always captured in the finest weaves of silk, wool, cashmere, stunning burnout velvet, or a blend of any two.
Victoria works with ateliers in Lyons and Como to achieve this extraordinary quality of fabrics, which are then cut and sewn into the quintessential French accessory—a scarf or a shawl. Prices begin around 250 euros for a fine wool-and-silk blend challis shawl and can rise to above four figures for a hand-painted jewel-colored velvet creation.
and as each pattern is only ever made 24 times, it does guarantee an exclusivity similar to the couture world.
These are some of the nicest quality fabrics I have ever felt, with some of the most vibrant colours I have ever seen, and are huge, long generous scarf's but I bought nothing again, just to much choice!.....however, I would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful store even if its just to touch and try..
Apparently Nicole Kidman is a huge fan, and Pavarotti was a wonderful client!
And so after a quick lunch, it was back to the hotel to meet....
Dominique is the owner of the largest collection of Christian Lacroix haute couture garments in the world (approx 250 and counting) from the first to the final collection.
She bought in a small collection to show us, half were Pret à Porter, but labeled first sample, and so were more often than not made by hand by the couture atelier ....and the remainder of her garments are all strictly haute couture.
She is a teeny tiny sample size petite, incredibly French and stylish and says that she wears and enjoys every garment that she owns, none are kept for show.
The jacket she was wearing...
A skirt and jacket set in silk and wool....
A stunning little gold dress in Silk Gazar...
Shoulder darts for shaping..
The glorious back..
and the three piece sleeve.
The most elaborate coat I have ever seen in embroidered silk metallic jacquard, lace, beading and tulle.
A little yellow jacket in satin damask..
and a beige jewel satin dress with four shoulder darts for shaping...
Couture waist stay...
and the all important serial number!
and after that super inspiring and very packed day, it was time for a quick change and off to the ballet we went!
and what a stunningly beautiful building the Palais Garnier is... the Chagal ceiling alone was worth the visit.
We had time for some picture's on the stairs - not the best lighting...sorry :-(
and I wish the picture was clearer because Susan bought me her gorgeous lantern sleeve coat to wear - which you might recognize from a Threads magazine cover.
Let me tell you I felt super fancy wear Khalje couture in Paris and sipping champagne at the ballet!
A whole entire day with Julien Cristofoli....I swear I could move to Paris for this alone.
He is truly a master of draping and to have had yet another day of watching him work was such a gift.
Some of you might remember that I attended my first draped dress class earlier this year with him and was just blown away by the whole concept!
So when dates where announced a few weeks ago for more classes next year, I signed up immediately and will probably do so every year going forward until it finally sinks in (poor man!!)
For this class, Julien demonstrated a skirt and top which was new to me and seemed slightly more manageable than the dresses I tried to learn last year (my fault entirely for starting at the hardest level!)
and after that super inspiring day, it was time for a final lovely evening meal and another excuse for us to get all dressed up and eat and drink in a private room at La Cloiserie des lilas.
A favorite haunt of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller and Picasso to name but a few, this place was just how you would imagine an old French restaurant should be...right down to the piano player and apron wearing waiters. Divine.
So I thought as this has dragged out for long enough, rather than finish the last couple of days of the official tour, which are really more shopping than visiting, a final Paris post could be fabric and other sewing related places to visit and shop should you ever find yourself there.....
I will have that finished midweek at the latest , as I am desperate to finally put this computer down and sew again!!
Trim winners will be up late tomorrow, early Tuesday morning.. I'm slowly catching up..
Have a lovely Monday!