Looking Into Lesage: Master Embroiders Of Paris

“We are playing our part in the kingdom of the imagination. Embroidery can be a woman’s dream become reality.” -François Lesage.

Last year, I got yet another amazing opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at what goes behind the creation of beautiful French fashion. I got to visit the famous Lesage, which was once a small workshop, and now a booming multinational business specialising in hand-made embroidery mainly used for Haute Couture.

The company has since been taken over Chanel, but continues to provide and work for other designer brands to create one of a kind stunning works and collections.

What is Lesage?

Lesage is a popular embroidery workshop that opened up in 1924 by owner François Lesage and his family. They created beautiful handcrafted stitching for popular theatre plays and costume design throughout Paris. He started to also venture into fashion during the world war 2, for famous French designers such as Madeleine Vionet and Famous knitwear designer Elsa Schiaparelli. After that, he partnered with several couture houses offering his workshop and expanding it to create one of a kind pieces and fabrics through artful embroidery. They continued to innovate in the art of embroidery and uphold age old traditions of embroidery skills and styles to create new creations.

The Lesage’s come from a long line of embroiderers and actually took over an already famous embroidery company called Michonet who had already built up a large and well known portfolio of clients through the years since it had started in 1858.
The company had since fallen under the name Lesage, and is now owned by Maison Chanel. It now boasts a a prestigious embroidery school in Paris, and has workshops in India.
Haute Couture Today
Paris is famously home to Haute Couture fashion; this means High-End custom made fashion. In other words, this is fashion that is made to fit perfectly where customers still visit the maison of the designer and have the pieces measured and custom made to fit under the designer’s brand and skill. You cannot find these pieces in the stores.

Before a major shift in industrialisation in fashion moving to factory produced textiles and goods, this was how everyone “went shopping” for clothes. It was an experience that took time, dedication and was quite personal. You went to the maison or house of the brand, selected the piece you desired and then had it made to fit just for you. This was the trade. It took hours of hand crafted skill and excellence to make one item!

This trend does continue today, but it has now been positioned as more high-end fashion for those who can afford such a luxury. Most designers have pret-a-porter or ready-to-wear collections, to be made available and in stores hot off the runways. Many have had to do this in order to survive in the fashion industry and meet new demands. Yet, most maisons still continue to showcase their talents and skills in haute couture and this year in 2016, Haute Couture Fashion Week has never been so openly publicised in the media.
The haute couture fashion shows this year were breath-taking. Usually, the haute couture shows were kept more in a private and secluded light, but this year it was all over social media and fashion e-zines, as we got to take a first-hand look at the collections and what they were all about. Chanel’s amazing ecologically awareness show conveyed first-hand the depth and skill of what it takes to create those amazing couture works. Other brands were also all over social media, offering teaser campaigns into the up and coming collections.
Chanel’s HC Eco-collection 2016

Recently, Chanel opened up about Lesage on BOF, in a preview for a behind the scenes look abou what goes into making those finer and grandiose details in couture fashion. Here is the video:

My experience at Lesage
My experience at Lesage was very interesting, we got to go into the history of the business and where it stands today within the fashion industry. We also got to go to the actual workshop just to the North of Paris where we got to see actual garments being hand sewn by embroiderers at their tables.

I got to see some amazing samples taken from famous designer gowns and pieces from their many archives. There are thousands of samples dating back to previous runways:

Their basement is filled with hundreds of thousands of, beads buttons, tassles, ropes and cords of different kinds

The Ecole Lesage is a school where designers and seamstresses can be taught how to sew using various trademark skills to create those beautiful illusions in their work.

Is it fur? No, it’s lesage magic made from little sewn on beads. Dress by Jean Paul Gaultier.

On my return to Paris to the Ecole Lesage, I got to experience some sewing and was guided by a master seamstress. Now, I was always rubbish at needlework in primary school and rather preferred to do art. I had my sewing pulled out a few times to restart for the mess I would make in this activity. However, it was a lot of fun, but it’s something that definitely requires high attention to detail and impeccable skill. I will upload my finished work later.

Harder than it looks!

 On a last note, here are my favourites from Sppring/Summer 2016 Haute Couture collections, that featured at Paris Fashion week thus far:

A bientot,