Demonstrating the contemporary side of feather work — hand weaving, silk screening, laser-cutting and incorporating less conventional materials or new techniques like 3-D printing — is a priority to keep the company moving forward, said Christelle Kocher, the artistic director at Lemarié.
“Fifteen years ago, there was less interest in all these crafts, which can only be done by hand, with precision and passion,” she said. “The fear was that they would be lost with the older generation. Our challenge was to shake things up and, through Virginie’s vision for Chanel, show that they can be modern and encourage a certain openness.”
Samples displayed to a visitor recently included flora in feathers and hand-painted rhodoid plastic; origami and intricate pleating by Lognon. One swatch featured a camellia motif — a Chanel signature — woven, plume by plume, from feathers in 19 colors. Producing a single couture jacket with that weave could take as long as 1,200 hours, Ms. Kocher added.
“What’s exciting is seeing how, season after season, these rare, age-old techniques can produce something new and innovative,” she said. “With all the métiers under one roof, the possibilities for creating a dialogue between past, present and future are pretty infinite.”
In one Lemairé atelier across the hall, a 19th-century machine whirred as a worker fed ribbons of organza into it, turning out spaghetti-like strands on the far side. In another, baskets of duck, turkey, goose and ostrich feathers awaited a second life as flowers and other embellishments that, while not necessarily visible on the runway, bring rich detail and added movement to designs. Ms. Kocher said that all the feathers the company uses are responsibly sourced.
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