Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Brigitte Bauer
Helmut Newton

Crusader Helmut - beads of yellow and gold hand-embroidered on yellow chiffon. Gala and devastating for an appearance at the most festive opening or party. By Stella, made to order at I. Magnin.  Necklace by Apex Art. The beading by Albert Lesage of Paris.

Gleaming Evenings - The American Custom
Harper's Bazaar October 1963
Photography: Helmut Newton

Maison Lesage was the last great embroidery atelier in Paris - known for couture embroidery since the 1920's. Albert Michonet, who worked for Empress Eugenie and her couturier, Charles Frederick Worth, had founded the firm in 1868. 

In 1924, after the First World War, Albert Lesage, a businessman with a talent for fashion, bought out Michonet upon returning to Paris after a stint designing for a Chicago department store.

The economic strength of the 1920's proved profitable for Maison Lesage in a fashion era heavily influenced by the flapper look which was dependent upon beading and embroidery.

Albert ran the firm with his wife at his side and their young son Francois growing up in the atelier's workroom where his drawings were often incorporated into the works produced.  

Sent to America at the age of nineteen to learn English, Francois lived in Los Angeles where he wasted no time in promoting the Maison Lesage's embroideries to the costume designers of the movie studios and soon opened the atelier Lesage-Sunset Boulevard.

During the decade of the fifties,  many of  Maison Lesage's original European couturier customers had passed on. During this time, Francois garnered new clients to the atelier. Fath, Balmain, Dior and Balenciaga all used Lesage embroideries in their couture collections. By the seventies, a new breed of couturier enlisted Francois to create adornment that included plastics and metal trimmings. Hubert de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent all used the inovations  of Francois Lesage to create their couture embellishments. Christian Lecroix was another devotee, collaborating with Francois through the eighties for his eponymous label.

Some of the ateliers most spectacular creations included a gown with a twenty metre train whose embroidery alone cost 1.6 million dollars and a coronation gown for an African empress which took eleven thousand  hours of hand-made labor. 

Heralded as a man who upheld the tradition of couture, Francoise Lesage passed away in 2011 at the age of 82.

... all things femme fatale

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