Beyond the shows, there is another face to Paris fashion week that takes place in rented studios and hotel suites scattered throughout the city. Long after the last editor has left, American and British designers will pack up and fly their entire collections to the City of Light to show to international buyers. It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a designer to yourself, as was the case during the tail end of fashion week, when my dear friend Mary Katrantzou took a break from her hectic schedule to join me for tea. While the designer was showing buyers her spring collection inspired by luxe footwear, Paris was celebrating a shoe fetish of another kind with the opening of the exhibit Virgule, etc…in the Footsteps of Roger Vivier, at the Palais de Tokyo.
Most will recall Vivier’s whimsical designs for the house of Dior in the fifties, as opulent and well crafted as the couture gowns they were meant to enhance. I thought of those very shoes when looking at Mary’s collection, with its blown-up prints of Lesage embroideries, reembroidered with a constellation of beads, ribbons, feathers, and crystals. “It was this labor-intensive process, with some pieces going back and forth between my studio in London and the Lesage workshops,” confided Mary, who three years ago was approached by the house of Lesage, then looking for a young designer to experiment with on new ideas.
For her first collaboration, she had the storied Parisian embroiderer embellish her gowns with hundreds of yellow pencils complete with pink erasers. “This time around I was interested in embroideries made specifically for shoes. At Lesage’s new headquarters we were shown into the archives, where we got to look through boxes of embroideries that had been created for various couture houses over the decades,” recalled the designer, who has long championed craft throughout her career.
“It’s been a privilege to work with Lesage, which has a long history in couture know-how. It is an incredible experience to visit the workrooms and watch the embroiderers working on these pieces,” said Mary, who graciously shared a collection of images she’d taken, documenting Lesage’s expert hands at work on her Spring collection.
Photos: Courtesy of Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz