The End of a Beautifully Embroidered Era

Monsieur François Lesage, master craftsman, has died, at the age of 82.

Lesage operated one of the most important Haute Couture ateliers in the fairytale of fashion – his embroideries graced gowns by Poiret, Vionnet, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Lacroix and Chanel among many others, including young, new designers. Whether you knew his name before now, you had surely seen his work on the world’s grandest runways.

François Lesage and Frédéric Mitterrand at the Maître d’Art Ceremony for Lesage on
François Lesage and Frédéric Mitterrand at the Maître d’Art Ceremony.

He said Yves was like a son to him, and Karl, like a modern-day Napoleon. Lagerfeld deemed his work so important, that Chanel purchased his atelier, along with several others, to enable Haute Couture to continue – not only for their House, but for their couture compatriots, aussi.

The couture debate has been ongoing these past couple of decades – questioning the relevancy of such expensive works in a time of bailouts and ballyhoo.

Well, the hullabaloo about fashion that is haute for me ends on one note: should all art in the world no longer exist? Should beauty cease because there is ugliness, too? Should we stop reading poetry books because we have iDevices? Or should our vices be visual, our escapes elaborate, and our stories, embellished?

Lesage was awarded the honorary distinction of Maître d’Art (Master of Art, in English) by the Ministry of Culture in Paris, just a week prior, with admirers young and old, looking on.

Maison Lesage embroidery on
An example of Lesage embroidery.

When asked about his career (which started by running his father’s business in LA, working with Hollywood’s hautest), he told WWD: “When I was a young man in Hollywood, working with the studios on dresses for Ava Gardner and Marlene Dietrich, they would discuss the colours of their dresses for hours even though back then all the films were in black and white.”

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, France’s Minister of Culture in his speech at the ceremony said to Lesage, “You are one of the architects of that Beauty of which France is the ambassador to the world.”

Monsieur Lesage may be gone, but his couture dreams must carry on in all of us – young or old, famous or not, rich or poor – for we are poorest, indeed if we cannot appreciate beauty.



[P.S. Uncle Karl, I may not agree with you regarding Indian embroidery. India just might save couture, one day.]

Ceremony image and Lesage quote courtesy of WWD; embroidery example image courtesy of Olivier Saillant/Maison Lesage.

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