In 1992, the prestigious Ecole Lesage opened its doors to share their high caliber couturier secrets with the public. Today, housing over 45, 000 samples,60, 000 tons of materials, and 60employees (including 6 drawers and 44 embroiderers), the esteemed school offers presentations, private lessons and appointments to interested guests. Whether you wish to take a class, or simply learn about the craftsmanship, the Maisonof Francois Lesage has something to offer everyone, from buddingfashionistas,to seasoned design veterans alike.

On Friday, March 30th, IFA Paris’ third year Bachelors of Fashion Design students had the privilege of attending a private presentation and tour at the prestigious school, situated close to IFA Paris in the 9th arrondissement. Three executives guided theclass through the semantics of couture historystarting with haute couture’s founding pioneer, Frederick Worth and moving through the 20th century to contemporary business models and the globalization of fashion amidst the economic crisis.Our students received both a historical and business analysis of haute couture’s archives, through a close examination of the modern age, the second world war, the “New Look” a la Christian Dior, the come back of Coco Chanel, and fashion revolutions’ RTW boom.  Three separate lecturers provided our students with a dynamic perspective of Lesage’s design contribution to the fashion industry, not only in couture but also RTW and accessories.

After a chronicled history of couture, students learned about Métiersd’Art, or the art of the craft, including an explication of its most important contributors:fabric pleaters, glove makers, costume jewelers, feather & art flower makers, hat makers and milliners, bootmakers, and embroiderers.  Students also gained valuable insight in the collaboration between the designers and the craftsmen, and the process from which designs evolve from a sketch to a final product.

After the presentation, IFA Paris’ design studentsbegan a tour, which startedwith a hands on examination of the precious archivesthat date back to the early 20th century.  Our tour guide granted excited volunteers the opportunity to pick drawer from whichever year they desired, and then viewthe original samples up close.  Samples included fabric from the likes of Schiaparelli and Chanel. 

Theyproceeded through the design helm, where busy embroiderers hand-stitched intricate beaded and lace confections, learning that the process requires extensive coordination, for sewers complete samples only viewing the front of the fabric, yet designs must look equally impeccable on the back face. 

From here, they toured the drawing room, which possesses the only machine that exists in Lesage’s design process, and is used solely to place tiny holes in the fabric, before embroiders hand stitch the design.  Students were fascinated by the salon’s proliferation, and the meticulous attention that embroiderers give to each sample.  They also learned how ateliers produce samples without knowing the finished product, for example, the sumptuous meters of lace and fabric designed for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.

After the presentation and tour came to a close, students were given the opportunity to sign up for embroidery classes and many eager peers took interest in participating.  “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about a craft from an affluent historical Maison that has worked with designers like Valentino, Versace and Ralph Lauren,” said one student.   The experience couldn’t have come in a more timely fashion.  Our undergraduates are currently completing their upcoming collections for our annual fashion show, ‘East Meets West’ in June.

Update: Our students visited Ecole Lesage in 2014, read it here: