“Lesage and all the maisons d’art are part of the future of fashion,” Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, wrote in an email, “and the contribution of each maison is key, not just at Chanel, but if you look at shows today, everyone wants to value the unique savoir-faire.”
This past summer I spent an afternoon in Lesage’s shimmering world, where sequins, beads, metallic threads and more come together with the skill of the petites mains (in English, tiny hands), as the skilled seamstresses of Parisian fashion houses are called.
At Lesage, the artisans are predominantly women from varied backgrounds. Some are graduates of École Lesage, the in-house embroidery school, although its training program, which can involve as much as 150 hours of instruction, is not a prerequisite for a job. One worker now on staff, for example, formerly taught history and geography.
“The most difficult part is to make,” Mr. Barrère said. “We’re talking about humans, not machines.”
Mr. Barrère said it takes at least 100 hours to make an embroidery for a simple ready-to-wear garment. “In haute couture, it’s 600, 800, 1,000 or 2,000 hours of work, it depends,” he continued. “Each time you multiply it with the price per hour and it becomes very, very expensive.”
The creative process at Lesage is both collaborative and intensely personal. Here is how it works:
Conveying a Theme
Fashion collections usually have themes, and Lesage artisans work with designers and their teams to turn those themes into embroidery.
“Each project is unique,” Mr. Barrère said — and to explain it, he described the work behind the Chanel Cruise collection, designed by Virginie Viard, Chanel’s creative director, and presented in May on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles.