Tag Archives: handmade

Metiers d’Art Ateliers LESAGE & LEMARIÉ

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Recently I had the greatest pleasure of photographing one of the most beautiful, rare, masterpieces made by man- haute couture fashion. I knew it would be special, and it was, but in person it was breathtaking so much more than my preconceived notions had allowed my imagination to believe.

Now here we are in Paris and Chanel has invited me on a tour of where couture begins at their ateliers Lesage & Lemarié in Pantin, a suburb of Paris. These two famed workshops have been recused by Chanel to preserve their specialized  embroidery, feather, millinery, flower & couture skills.  From floor to ceiling archived boxes starting in the 1800s of pattern samples for precious embroidery for houses like Chanel, Valentino, and Dior, it goes without saying they are the best in the world. Thumbing through the archives I felt the free inhibitions of the designers, the almost child-like magic in design possibility as seen through color, texture, and pattern. This is not about what is popular for the masses, it is about an idea, it is about art, emotion, beauty and technical skill.

In a moment of humor, they had me try my hand at making a simple embroidery flower which then gave me an even greater appreciation for the skills and volume these artists work at. We looked through the archive of Chanel camellias, and then visited the room where every single flower is created by hand where at least 16 petals and one hour of work goes into creating one. Here  at Lemarié they hand make all the CHANEL camellias, around 40,000 a year.

I was so moved by the attention to detail and just shear human energy put into one single piece making the value greater than anything created any other way. I see now why couture is so special which is far beyond material quality, but artisan skill and above all… time.

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Weaving Life on Bali

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Bali is built on tradition and community, two aspects that permeate everything on the island from artisan’s work to religious practices and ceremonies. There is a rich heritage on the island of artisans, from jewelry making to weaving, and it is easy to see how these skills appear not only in the beautiful work made but also in the offerings presented at their temples.

Chain weaving, for example, has been going on for thousands of years in Bali. Women will work together, taking on different parts of the creation process to ultimately create a beautiful and intricate piece. This is mirrored in woven offerings, created with young coconut leaves by a number of women to make a detailed and gorgeous gift for the gods.

We had the most amazing peaceful experience on morning with our friends at John Hardy who wanted us to see the importance of tradition and community Bali is built around and how that influences the John Hardy designs, in this particular instance with Classic Chain. We rose before the sun to be dressed in traditional temple outfits and arrived at Pura Tirtha Empul, meaning The Holy Water Temple. People say it was built by Indra, a god of protection, and boasts pools of natural spring water for rituals. Water is the source of life and the Balinese use lots of holy water for blessing, drinking, and purifying – and you can even take it home with you! The temple is the biggest in Bali and people will come if something bad is happening to purify oneself or home.

Hinduism states that there are five elements of the body: water, fire, earth, wind and earth. Everything comes back to these elements in customs and rituals. In the ceremonies these elements are represented through the use of items such as incense and fire, which you see above in our offering the ladies created for us and below for the blessing ceremony.

The artisans at work in the ancient chain weaving manor:

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Just like women come together to weave the leaves into baskets for ceremonies, the community does the same with John Hardy’s approach to jewelry making and the classic chain weaving process. Like I mentioned before, John Hardy has a program where single mothers can work from home in their own communities in order to both make a living at their craft and raise their children.

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Below, the chains are later passed to another set of hands, continuing the creation process from one person to another, all working toward the finished product together.

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Community, ancient chain-weaving and ceremonies.

Below we witnessed the community of women working together on making the traditional offerings. These same type of techniques are passed down from generation to generation , showing up in spiritual practices, craft and trade and even as art pieces like some of the textile weaves we learned about from Threads of Life.

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Threads of Life

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One of the great arts of Indonesia is traditional weaving, which has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Each tribe or region in this cluster of islands has their own style and patterns with specific meanings, as well as unique techniques for making their dyes.

Threads of Life is a Bali-based initiative that is centered around fair trade and conservation of this cultural history, especially in rural Indonesia. They help these communities, some of which takes two days journey to reach, sell these naturally dyed and locally made artifacts. Many designers have visited the store in Ubud for inspiration including one of my personal heroes, Donna Karan. Everything from growing the cotton to tending the plants used to make the dyes is done by these craftsmen and it takes months or even up to a year to finish one piece. We met the co-founder Jean Howe, an ex-San Francisco native who has lived in Bali for a couple decades, whose passion for preserving this craft was infectious. She took us to visit Threads of Life in Seraya where we could see in person the traditional textile weaving taking place from start to finish~

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Above- picking a piece of mature cotton right off the plant and showing how the threading process begins.

Below- using traditional tools to spin and make the tread.

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FEED Heritage Bags

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Another New York Fashion Week is beginning today, which means a full week of beauty, glamour and all sorts of gowns…but I thought it would be nice to kick off the coverage by focusing on a brand that really thinks about the world around us and changes it for the better one mouth at a time.

FEED, founded by the wonderful Lauren Bush Lauren in 2007, has so far been able to provide over 75 million school meals globally through sales of a collection of totes, handbags, wallets, jewelry, t-shirts, scarfs and more. This season, FEED is introducing a new luxury collection of leather bags (I personally LOVE) handmade by master artisans in Kenya. Each item you purchase, whether it is one of the leather totes (available this fall) or a burlap all function bag, has a number on the back which tells you how many meals for the year you have provided with your purchase. I was intrigued by this design decision, because it’s so rare that you get to know and fully understand the personal impact of something you buy. When I complimented Lauren on it, she said she wanted to make sure FEED was tangible and meaningful in a way you can relate to personally and not simply a “percentage of proceeds” product.

The amazing thing about the production of the FEED products is not only the good that is brought about from the sales but also that it provides sustainable employment to the local craftsmen in Kenya or Guatemala who can then send their kids to school where they can have nutritious meals sourced from local farmers. Lauren’s passion toward the work she does with FEED comes through so clearly, whether she’s talking about how the beading on one Kenya Messenger Bag took two and a half days, or through watching the 8mm films of school children in Africa she shot on her most recent trip.

So here is to remembering this Fashion Week that there is nothing more fashionable than doing good.

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