This week, my classmates and I were able to visit Paris’ oldest embroidery studio, Maison Lesage. I always assumed that embroidery meant just sewing thread or yarn on material, but I learned it encompasses much more. You can add beads, sequins, pearls… basically any material to cloth and it would be considered embroidery. Founded in 1858, Maison Lesage works with major designers and fashion houses–Dior, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, etc.– to create masterpieces for their haute couture and ready-to-wear lines.
We were able to tour the fabulous studio and caught a few glimpses of sketches from next week’s Paris Fashion week (hence no pictures were allowed inside). At the Maison Lesage, fashion designers approach the studio with a certain theme and the team brainstorms and creates small samples. They store ALL of their samples, which date back to the 1850s and include over 60,000 pieces!
Next to the Maison Lesage is actually a school, Ecole Lesage, which opened in 1992. Amateurs can sign up for embroidery courses and professionals can even be trained. After our tour, we were given a lesson in needlepoint and practiced setting beads and sequins. I’m not going to lie. It was painstaking work. My piece was only 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches and it took me two hours to do. I asked the teacher how long it takes her and she said 30 minutes. While that’s faster than two hours, 30 minutes is not that fast! I can’t imagine spending 800 hours to make a dress. I definitely understand haute couture better and why it costs so much. I will never look at embroidery the same.