In France, and especially in Paris, Haute Couture expertise is more alive than ever before. A few days before the last Chanel Métiers d’Art show, we slipped between the seams at Atelier Montex, a singular fashion house where embroidery is a constantly evolving modern art.
Paris' right bank. We go through the door of a Parisian building, with its light facade. Here, scattered over five floors, embroiderers male and female work at the Atelier Montex, one of Chanel’s 22 art houses. Today, the workshop is abuzz with final preparations: in less than 24 hours, the last pieces have to be sent to the Chanel studio before being shipped to Hamburg for the 2017/2018 Métiers d’Art collection show.
Three weeks to do it all
From showroom to shipping, and drafting table to loom, we shadowed Aska Yamashita, the workshop’s artistic director. “We have about three weeks to get everything done, from the initial sketches to the show itself.” Aska Yamashita smiles at our look of sheer panic: “That’s nothing! Sometimes the deadlines are much tighter!”.
Timeless craft, contemporary pieces
Seven embroiderers in a row at a long table are busy making organza, lace, and crepe ruffles. The rhythmic tapping of the Cornely embroidery machine sets the pace of their work. Almost disappeared from use in Europe, this machine, with its delicate and inventive manipulations, is part of what makes the house so original. Above and below, Lunéville crochet hooks work with precision. A beautiful 3D pattern gradually emerges, made up of thousands of strips of coloured celluloid, piled up and assembled on the fabric. While the craft may seem timeless, the resulting piece is decidedly modern.
Decidedly contemporary embroidery
In the craft world, embroiderers have a special status. “Because they work with the very skin of the piece”, explains Maria Roques, general manager of Ateliers Montex. And amongst embroiderers, Montex, too, occupies a special place... New techniques, new textures, intermingling materials and patterns, Atelier Montex has created a decidedly modern vocabulary of embroidery, a recognisable style, and one that soon found great favour with Karl Largerfeld.
A perfect blend of craft and fashion
It is Chanel’s Métiers d’Art’s raison d’être: a perfect blend of craft and fashion, expertise and creativity. This annual rendezvous, which does such a good job of showcasing the craftsmanship of French haute couture, is eagerly awaited by Atelier Montex year after year.