Remembering Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld meant a lot to me. He is the reason why I went to Paris and studied at Lesage. He was the reason that Chanel acquired Lesage in 2002. And without his intervention, who knows where the atelier would be today, and where I would be today.
I was lucky enough to meet Karl in 2010 at the Chanel couture show in Paris. I spoke with him telling him that I was a student of Lesage and I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to learn from the masters of embroidery. This is a memory that I will never forget.
Meeting Karl outside the Chanel couture show
Many of his colleagues and friends have been sharing their memories of the legendary designer, and this past week was perhaps one of the biggest tribute to him so far. Colleagues and friends gathered at the Grand Palais, the site of many of his extravagant Chanel shows, to celebrate Karl.
The tribute to the designer included video testimonials and clips from throughout his long life and readings from his favorite authors including Stéphane Mallarmé, Colette and Edith Sitwell performed by Tilda Swinton, Fanny Ardant and Helen Mirren. There also were performances by Pharrell Williams; the concert pianist Lang Lang, who played Chopin; the violinist Charlie Siem; and a troupe of 17 tango dancers from Argentina. It was a larger than life production, for someone who loved to create extravagant stage productions for his collections.
A post shared by @ mausadu on Jun 21, 2019 at 12:03pm PDT
The German-born designer had been the creative director of Chanel since 1983 and Fendi since 1965. He was known widely as the man behind the dark glasses, tight black jeans, ponytail whitened with imported Japanese powder, and fingers covered in chrome heart rings. But to many people, he was so much more than this, myself included.
Karl cared about the craftsmanship and tradition surrounding the world of fashion. He helped open my eyes to the details and handwork that goes into couture clothing. To carry on the traditional techniques, Karl helped to purchase many couture ateliers under the Chanel umbrella to help protect the traditional techniques. His will to preserve the endangered arts and crafts and to support master artisans was remarkable.
While many people are aware of Chanel’s intricately crafted clothing and accessories, few really know about the intense labor of love that goes into the making of the brand’s most elite looks. Over the years, Chanel has acquired many of these atelier houses, some of which even pre-date Chanel’s existence. This group of specialty ateliers is known as Paraffection.
Under the umbrella of Paraffection, ateliers that focus on the smallest of details (everything from feather applications and embroidery to fabric flowers and gloves) help create Chanel’s exquisite couture and ‘Métiers d’Art’ collections. Chanel’s acquisition of these ateliers helped to rescue the faltering haute-couture sector, as many of these companies were struggling before the brand bought them.
Step into the beautiful world of Maison Lesage’s savoir-faire. In every drawer, a world of art and elegance awaits, revealing beautiful samples of embroideries. We asked a young brodeuse why she chose embroidery: “I have always enjoyed using my hands to make something that’s real. And I love the savoir-faire. It is so rewarding.” How long did it take her to learn? Two or three hours to understand the technique, but seven or eight years to master the knowhow. Today, the Ecole carries on the tradition Monsieur Lesage wanted to share and preserve with future generations. Thank you, Jane and Laure (@ecolelesage), for a wonderful moment of timeless elegance and superb savoir-faire. 📷: cognoscenti_paris. #lesage #hautecouture #craftsmanship #metiersd’art #frenchheritage #paraffection #atelier #chaneltweed #embroideryart #handembroidery #coutureembroidery #coutureaddict
A post shared by Marie Laure Chigot Fleming (@mlcf_paris) on Oct 20, 2018 at 10:40pm PDT
With the passing of Karl, the atelier’s will continue to thrive under Chanel and the traditional techniques will live on. This is just one reason why Karl was such a fascinating and important person in fashion. He played by his own rules and never strayed from his vision. This is perhaps why 2,500 people came out to remember Karl at the Grand Palais this week.
Karl Lagerfeld hurtled through life collecting books, furniture, houses, experiences, and people and operating according to one simple precept: Never look back. This powerful way to look at life is something we could all learn from. Why waste time looking back and regretting when there is so much to look forward to.
Thank you, Karl, for inspiring me and leading me to Paris. I am now looking forward and will try to continue carrying on the tradition of couture by teaching the techniques I learned from Lesage that would have not been possible without you.
Click here to learn more about my Haute Couture Beadwork and Embroidery classes inspired by my time at Lesage in Paris.