PARIS — As French couture houses move to preserve their archives with state-of-the-art conservation facilities, the French government is stepping up efforts to protect what it considers a key element of the country’s cultural heritage.
French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay on Friday unveiled a series of measures to safeguard the country’s fashion assets, including the creation of a permanent collection to be housed at the National Center for Visual Arts, which will purchase five designer pieces every season.
The decisions follow a report from curator Olivier Saillard, director of the Palais Galliera museum in Paris, on the state of the fashion collections housed in 32 museums and 12 private collections in France.
“This report confirms the key role of France and Paris in fashion design and underlines the growing involvement of fashion houses in preserving their heritage and the sometimes little known riches nestled within the collections of regional museums,” the ministry said in a statement.
Dior recently unveiled Dior Heritage, a new facility near its headquarters on Avenue Montaigne that employs 12 people dedicated to preserving several thousand garments, as well as shoes, bags, hats and jewelry, scores of documents and a digital archive.
The Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris is expected to open in the house’s historic building on Avenue Marceau during Paris Fashion Week in late September, with the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech set to bow on Rue Yves Saint Laurent, near the Jardin Majorelle, on Oct. 14.
But Saillard warned that some other collections were at risk because institutions did not have the same kind of skills or resources to restore or look after clothing items.
Azoulay said items from the Fashion Collection at the National Center for Visual Arts could be loaned for temporary exhibitions in France or abroad, or deposited in museums. The ministry will create a French Fashion Heritage label to underline the exemplary nature of the conservation work carried out by certain couture houses and luxury brands.
It plans to launch professional meetings focused on the issue, as well as list the collections of the 32 museums that carry fashion items on Joconde, the Culture Ministry’s online portal spotlighting more than half a million objects housed in French cultural institutions.
The ministry is looking into additional measures, such as encouraging donations by designers or collectors, and supporting research in the fashion sector.