Dior Couture with Lesage Embroidery
Since beginning this blog, I have intended to write a post about embroidery. It's a particular interest of mine, as my sisters and I spent much of our childhood attending embroidery classes at The Embroider's Guild. Once a fortnight we would spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon being instructed (along with other girls aged between 7 and 14), in various embroidery stitches, working our way through the set projects until we graduated. It is only as a Mother myself that I can now appreciate exactly why my Mother thought this was so important. Firstly she managed to get all three of us out of the house for a few hours on rainy or very hot weekends, plus we were learning a life skill. Win/win.
Lacroix jacket with Lesage embroidery
Christian Lacroix with Lesage embroidery
detail on a Balenciaga dress
from a recent collection, Oscar de la Renta dress with machine embroidery
hand embroidered monogram
Lesage embroidery on Porthault linens for Aristotle Onassis's yacht
Fashion and Interiors go hand in hand, and there have been several specialist embroidery companies through the ages that supplied the detailing to Couture dresses and to Interior Designers. Some embroidery is still entirely hand made at the couture end of the spectrum, but much is now machine made for the Pret a Porter ranges. There is still skill in understanding how the various stitches will appear and respond, so there is still artistry involved, and the machines are so specialised that they cannot produce en masse.
Lesage hand embroidery
Lesage in Paris has supplied couturiers throughout the 20th Century with their embroidery needs. The business was recently sold to Chanel (as part of their purchase of the Petites Mains), in order to safeguard the future of the Embroidery house - many of the other specialised embroidery houses disappeared over the past 50 years as demand dried up for their skills and machinery was instead used. Lesage combine work in their Paris atelier with hand work done by embroiderers at their studio in India. They also opened up a school of Embroidery that services both interested home embroiderers as well as professionals. It's run out of their Atelier in Paris.
Chanel dress embroidered by Lesage 1996, one of the most expensive pieces ever made by Chanel
In Interiors, there are some embroidery houses still embroidering to order the edges of sofas or curtains or bed hangings. When I was working in London we used a single woman who did the most exquisite appliqué detail for the leading edge of curtains and their pelmets. Her contact details were jealously guarded so that other Designers would not be able to copy the look.
Villa Savoia embroidery
The current issue of Architectural digest has an article on an American Embroidery house called Villa Savoia (one of the few items of interest in this month's otherwise horrible issue). The designs shown in the article are contemporary in nature, and show embroidery versatility - it's not all flowers and frills.
If you're feeling inspired, and don't have the funds to commission either couture from the French fashion houses, or expensive linens from Porthault or Leontine, then perhaps consider taking classes from the Embroider's Guild (there are branches in each State), or if you're lucky enough to have the time and ability to spend some time in Paris, from Maison Lesage. Certainly the richness and tactile nature of embroidery can add so much to a contemporary or traditional setting, it's all in how you use the details.
All images via my Pinterest Embroidery board
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