PARIS, France — Today, BoF takes you inside the atelier of Maison Lesage, a name synonymous with embroidery. Although Lesage was founded in 1924, by Albert and Marie-Louise Lesgae, the Parisian maison's archive dates back to the 19th century. “When the company was created they had just bought all of the archives from a previous company named Michonet, from 1858, so here we have more than 150 years of archives and more than 60,000 samples, 70,000 now because [in 2013] we bought the archives from a company named Lanel,” Caroline Leborgne, managing director of Lesage, told BoF.
Yves Saint Laurent himself would visit the Lesage archive before each collection, fingering some of the 70,000 samples stored there, which had been created for designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Frederick Worth and Madeleine Vionnet. “Other [embroidery] brands don’t have these archives. One of our main assets is working with the designers with these archives, to be able to reproduce all the techniques that you see in these boxes, and all the different looks that you see in them,” continued Leborgne.
In 2002, the maison became part of Chanel’s Paraffection subsidiary. Lesage and Chanel have worked together since François Lesage, Albert and Marie-Louise’s son, forged a strong working relationship with Karl Lagerfeld in the early 1980s. Today, the maison's ateliers are situated in Chanel’s Paraffection complex, which is located in the Pantin suburb of Paris. From here, the Lesage craftsmen and women are responsible for much of the ornate and delicate embroidery that punctuates the couture and ready-to-wear collections of fashion’s most prestigious houses; from behemoths like Christian Dior and Chanel, to smaller designer brands such as Mary Katrantzou, Bouchra Jarrar and Alexandre Vauthier.
Looking to the future, the maison is seeking to diversify its offering further, by expanding both its textile production (it currently makes the more complex tweeds used in Chanel collections) and its client base. "The main challenge for the company is flexibility, flexibility in terms of different kinds of customers. Chanel needs are not the same as Mary Katrantzou, and Alexandre Vauthier needs. They do not have the same limitations in terms of budget. We need to be flexible enough to say to Chanel, we can do that for you, but we can also do something inspired by that for another, less established designer."