Paraffection means for the love of and this is certainly a love story made in France! Let’s start at the beginning…
The heritage and tradition of Haute Couture is inextricably linked with Paris. As early as the 17th and 18th centuries the creations of Parisian dressmakers were distributed throughout the European Royal Courts on Pandora fashion dolls due to the desire amongst royalty, aristocrats and courtesans to emanate the French styles. By the 20th century Haute Couture had been elevated to an art form by designers such as Charles Fredrick Worth, Jacques Doucet, Lucile, the Callot Sisters and Emile Pingat. The Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne was established to maintain the standards of excellence, with a daunting list of requirements for those who wished to enter a veritable ‘Hall of Fame’ alongside Paquin, Poiret, Vionnet, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Gres, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Saint Laurent et al.
Observing a Haute Couture garment up close in a museum or gallery is likely to take your breath away. The genius of design, mastery of skills and perhaps most of all, the hours of time dedicated to the embellishments are awe-inspiring. The garments appear as if from a fairytale, made by fairy-godmothers and worn by illustrious princesses and queens. As your eyes pour over every last detail, devouring the sequins, beads, ribbons and lace, it seems impossible that it could be made for a real person. And yet they are made for real people and they are made by real people too. Sequestered in ateliers and studios are the most skilled and talented professionals of the couture industry, they were once known as les petites mains, but are now celebrated and revered as artisans and masters of their craft. The names of these ateliers and their specialties have become synonymous with Haute Couture such as Lesage and embroidery, Desrues and buttons, Maison Guillet and artificial flowers, Maison Lemarie and feathers, Anne Hoguet and fans.
Paraffection was established in the 1980’s when Chanel acquired eleven ateliers; Desrues, Michel, Lemarié, Lesage, Massaro, Goossens, Guillet, Montex, Causse, Barrie and Atelier Gérard Lognon. The Parisienne ateliers, several of whom had worked closely with Coco Chanel throughout her career, were struggling with changes in the market and difficulty finding young apprentices to the extent that the savoir-faire of their craftspeople and their treasured archives were in danger of being lost forever. Paraffection is an endeavour to preserve this heritage of craft, enabling the ateliers to continue to create magnificent works of art. Tribute is paid to these craftspeople at the annual Métiers d’Art fashion show, showcasing their astonishing skills and talents around the world. You can get a glimpse inside the ateliers at the Chanel website where they post beautiful videos such as the ones below. A very happy ending indeed!