PARIS –– “Embroidery is a work of generosity, because it’s done collectively, for someone else, working behind the scenes to bring to life designers’ ideas. So it was normal to share with readers or fashion history lovers the true story of this house to this day. The history of fashion is threaded in the embroideries of the house [as] almost all luxury houses have darkened the threshold of the house for collaborations, to browse the archives,” said Lesage art director Hubert Barrère at the book signing for “Lesage, Brodeur,” published in French by Thames & Hudson on Jan. 30.
Author Patrick Mauriès — a French writer and literary critic who also wrote “Chanel Catwalk,” “The World According to Karl,” “Jewelry by Chanel” and “Fornasetti” — had met the late François Lesage through couturier Christian Lacroix, who “really boosted the field with his requests,” but the embroidery master died soon after.
Writing this book was Mauriès way of affirming his believe that “some craftspeople are so much more. They are designers, with the necessary folly involved. It was the case of Robert Goossens [on whom he wrote a 2014 book] and of Mr. Lesage,” he said.
“‘Lesage’ is a book on a craft that traces back to the 18th century. The idea was to talk about the fashion work but also decorative arts, furniture, everything,” he said at Galignani, the English-language bookstore on Rue de Rivoli. “[François Lesage] was a man of ‘action’ so he didn’t speak or write much on the topic. I had to reconstitute the pieces of the puzzle” by sourcing indirect testimonies and using material from “Haute Couture Embroidery: The Art of Lesage,” a 1988 book by Palmer White, until then the only definitive book on the house.
Through the 224 pages of this volume containing 140 illustrations and photographs, Mauriès tells the story of the Lesage family, from the 1924 purchase of embroiderer Michonnet by Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage, parents of François, to the work of the specialty atelier with Elsa Schiaparelli, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent but most of all, Chanel and its late artistic director Karl Lagerfeld.
The author also wants to readers to break free of the brands — even if Chanel rescued many of these crafts through its Paraffection subsidiary — to see the artistry and the man behind it all. “It was above all someone’s life adventure.”
The English-language version, titled “Maison Lesage, Haute Couture Embroidery,” will be released by Thames & Hudson on March 3.