Hand Made With Love In France

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A silk rose being assembled by hand at Maison Legeron.

There is nothing quite as hallowed in fashion as haute couture, the creations are painstakingly assembled by hand from the finest of materials, the finished results being garments that fantasies are made of and millions covet, yet they are worn by a select few who can afford the sky-high price tags. As much as many of us have exclaimed with delight over the photos on Style.com and the Instagrams of those fortunate enough to attend the haute couture shows, the outside world knew very little of the maisons who work with the ateliers of the couture houses, providing unique services that help bring these amazing creations to life.

Enter 'Hand made with love in France', a documentary by French director Julie Georgia Bernard, which explores the stories and inner workings of several maisons whom all work with the likes of the big name labels, including Chanel and Dior among many others.  These businesses are long established in Paris and the owners themselves are fascinating characters whose lives are dedicated to their art, many of whom are doing a specialised job that they learned from their parents and grandparents.  Like many family businesses the problem of who will take the reins of the business when the current generation retire is an issue, as the younger generation are less interested in the time-consuming artisan professions anymore.

Maison Lognon specialises in the art of plissé, perfectly pleating the delicate fabrics into intricate patterns using techniques that have remained unchanged for decades.  Whilst at Maison Legeron, which was established in 1880, a team create exquisite artificial flowers that are hand-dyed and constructed petal by petal.  La Forme, owned by Lorenzo Ré, is a millinery whose exquisite headwear is assembled on wooden blocks that are sawn to the exact dimensions of the client.  These businesses are among the old guard of independent artisans who make sure every single detail is perfect and interestingly none of whom work with a computer.

Bernard has done a brilliant job of portraying the honesty of the characters in these maisons and the very real struggles they face in an industry that gets more fast-paced by the season.  It's telling that when asked what his greatest luxury would be, the head of Maison Lesage, which is known for its beading and is now owned by Chanel, says simply 'time'.  In an era of increasingly fast fashion when consumers move on to the next thing all too quickly, we're definitely left wondering what the fate of these crafts will be and how the decline in the number of artisans will affect the haute couture of the future.  All is not yet lost though, the film is quick to point out, with the haute couture houses themselves investing a great deal of money in acquiring the maisons that are so crucial to their businesses.  But you still cannot help but wonder how long the incredibly fast pace can be kept up and what the real cost is for everyone involved and the garments themselves?

Poignant, yet inspiring for it's refreshing honesty and French candour, this documentary is a must-watch for anyone with even a hint of an interest in fashion. It's films like this one that provide important commentary and encourage discussion in an industry that at times needs to stop and smell the (silk) roses once in a while.

You can watch the trailer here and catch it on the big screen at the French Film Festival which is on selected dates nationwide.

Pleats being worked on at Maison Lognon.

Images from the French Film Festival 


  1. This would be a super interesting film, will put it on my watch list. I love making things with my hands and have huge respect for all the artisans plying their craft all over the world. We musnt let traditions die out.

    ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.

    1. I definitely recommend seeing it if you can Paula, it's a really fascinating documentary. So sad that we could be a generation away from losing so many artisan products if the younger generation don't take up more crafts, would certainly be a very different fashion industry without those talents. I love making things too, I only wish I was better at it or I would become an artisan myself.


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