HUBERT BARRERE, Artistic Director of Maison Lesage (CHANEL group), story of Maison Lesage :
“The story of Maison Lesage, famous house of embroideries, begins in 1864 in Michonnet family. Maison Michonnet was creating embroideries for Charles Frederick Worth – the first great couturier. And in 1924 Albert and Marie Louise Lesage bought Maison Michonnet.
Albert and Marie Louise Lesage decided to continue heritage of Maison Michonnet by creating embroideries for Madeleine Vionnet, and then for Elsa Schiaparelli, the great priestess of the surrealist fashion. It was a creative adventure. Their son François Lesage was a successor of embroidery house in 1950s.
He returned from the United States where he was proposing embroidery to the biggest movie productions in Hollywood. He continued this creative adventure. He worked for Yves Saint Laurent for 44 years, Christian Lacroix and of course, Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel from 1983 until today. I arrived in Maison Lesage in 2011 to continue this adventure after François Lesage, who has unfortunately left us since.
Maison Lesage is so renowned today because of the house history and it’s archives. We have about 80 000 embroidery in our archives, that unfold the history of fashion from Charles Frédérik Worth until today’s couturiers.
We allow to many couturiers and luxury houses to come to see our archives. Maison Lesage is indeed is the source of inspiration. The heritage of our embroidery house is known today to big public because of massive communication of Mr Lesage about metiers d’art. Our famous embroidery made with creativity and unique techniques.
As Mr. Lesage liked to say with all elegance and grace, embroidery is the second oldest profession in the world. Embroidery started in the beginning of human history. Art of embroidery had a real boom in the Middle Ages in France. Then the golden embroidery arrived in France with the contribution of crusades and trade, and “crystallized” at the time of Renaissance. Then Marco Polo brought new techniques of embroideries from China to France. Great voyages and exploration of new cultures organized by Colbert at the time of Louis XIV gave incredible rich knowledge to the masters of embroideries.
These are sources of French embroidery, which is ultimate cultural image of France. The contribution of all these different epochs and cultures makes French embroidery is multi-disciplinary complex art and craftsmanship, with enormous palette of techniques.
If the embroidery still exists today it is because trough the times masters of embroidery collected and added new found materials or techniques, corresponding to their time. And all these archives of techniques were collected and treasured by Mr Lesage.
Today we are not more modern than before I think, except that the world shows us cultural and technological upheavals that make us necessarily to compel with. What I find interesting and exciting is the possibilities to use new technologies, the 3D printers, or the laser together with the classical technique of the embroidery.
One of the classic techniques of embroidery, the Luneville or the needle technique, absolutely extraordinary traditions, evolved according to our time, creating new aesthetic.
So together with traditional techniques we take everything that can be adaptable for embroidery, like 3D printing for example. For Chanel we made camellias entirely in 3D print mixed with classic embroidery by hand.
We also use laser cutouts, it is not fundamentally new, but it is not a technique of XIXth century. The computers for us are of great use for the elaboration of the technical drawing.
Of course all the poetry comes from the drawing by hand. But then we use the computers to interpret the drawing for the multiplications, for ready-to-wear productions for example.
Our archives has nothing to do with a museum, because it is very dynamic, it changes all the time. They can go to fashion designers, who want to consult them. It’s like some kind of big book of fashion. There are many colors, patterns, techniques…
One of the most unique embroidery is the work for Homo Faber exhibition in Venice, organized by Michelangelo Foundation. Homo Faber is an international event that stands as a tribute to the arts and craftsmanship, highlighting the work of the best European designers.
We were invited to present the Lesage embroidery as a mini-exhibition – the embroidered plan of Venice. And also we proposed to all visitors to participate in embroidery.
We gave to the visitors a small kit and proposed to embroider a small element of the plan. There are many elements that obviously were embroidered by Mr Lesage, but the people who came could put the small houses or the trees. For everyone who came to this exhibition it was a real experience to participate in poetry. It was so great to see that so many people wanted to embroider and participate in this magic.
In our archives we have some amazing pieces. For example embroideries with “tweed effect”, with baroque crosses mixed with woolen elements, embroideries with gold leaf mixed with glitter, embroideries with plastic leather beads, embroideries with organza rhinestones mixed with pearls, embroideries with latex mixed with traditional embroidery. Countless treasures.
I am in the house that is exceptional by its embroiderers, who are just fabulous. I fell in love with them. It’s true, because they are …
This metier is deeply human. They are beyond the possible, they are passionate, they love their metier. They are very dynamic. It is the expression of a real passion.
Everything is possible here at Maison Lesage.
The most important thing that this house has this incredible human vibration made by the embroiderers. All the creativity they give. The empathy they have for their work… It is amazing.
I get up every morning with a lot of joy. “Go! We are going to create something great today with the girls”. Mr. Lesage called them his girls. I am a little less paternalistic, they are fairies of embroidering magical land. Here is a magical house, every day it’s a fairy tale.
The embroidery is something “participative”, it is collective work, and it’s a story of sharing.The embroidery is generous…”
Photo: Laurent LO
See RUNWAY MAGAZINE special episode dedicated to Hubert Barrere and Maison Lesage (Language French) :