Sunday, 24 April 2016
This season has seen an infestation of decorative embroidered insects on the catwalks, (see my last post but one on Dior's SS16 collection). Dolce Gabbana also did it brilliantly for the men (here) last year, and now Chanel presents their take on all things winged, and creepy-crawly for the women with an amazing display of the artisan's art in their SS2016 collection. It is a real tribute to the ateliers and their specialist craftspeople devoted to the arts of costume jewellery, embroidery, feather-work, button-making and pleating.
Chanel had the foresight to begin buying up several of these specialist artisanal ateliers in 1985, not only to support these craftspeople but also in order to preserve their skills and expertise for future generations of fashion designers. The history of the various specialist craft ateliers can be traced back to the mid-19th century, and most have archives of thousands of examples and patterns of their craft, which have now been catalogued and preserved. These examples are now being used in the collections of Chanel, and those of other fashion houses creating couture garments. The ateliers were originally spread throughout the different districts of Paris, but the atelier businesses saved by Chanel are now housed under one roof in a building called Paraffection based in a northern suburb of Paris.
The two pictures above show the amazing details of some of these crafts specialists in this current Chanel collection. The diaphanous net sleeves and body of the dresses make it seem like the insects have been caught in a bee-keepers gauzy visor, or the butterfly collectors net. Magnificent examples of opulent insect costume jewellery are illustrated below.
I thought that what I did with paper and scissors was fairly intricate and fiddly, but check out the work of the plumassiers - who create art out of feathers, in the short video below. It shows the amazing attention to detail demanded of the artisans who put the finishing touches to Chanel's couture creations. It is a real testament to their art. The demonstration of pleating towards the end was also a real revelation.