19 as the 19th arrondissement of Paris hosts this place, but it is also the birthday of Coco Chanel. And M is for “hand”, “fashion” and “craftsmanship”. 19M is the nerve center where the Chanel house gathers its galleries.
In the north-east of Paris, Porte d’Aubervilliers, there stands a new glass house broken with white twisted ropes, and while we were there, it was shining in the sun. 19M is displayed in beautiful letters on the door near the door. Gabrielle Chanel was born on August 19, 1883, in the 19th arrondissement of the city, where the Porte d’Aubervilliers is located. And M is for “craftsmanship”, “fashion” and “handmade”. The little handymen are so called because of the quality of their work.
Inside: Chanel, the Métiers d’Art 2021/22
In this setting, six hundred artisans transform sequins, pearls, feathers and gold thread into beautiful embroidery. Small hands press the silk into the boxes to create the famous camellias. These are designed for Chanel haute couture, but also for other houses. “Competitors” such as Valentino, Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier and small independent designers such as Alexandre Vauthier also use the work of Chanel’s workshops. Haute couture is considered the flagship of a factory, through these special works, it shows the full extent of its knowledge. And the demand is there.
The 24-meter high, five-level building will house the workshops designed by Rudy Ricciotti, the French star architect behind the Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton and the Mucem in Marseille. The house is built as a main structure around the urban forest with benches and benches, where the residents can come for a breath of fresh air. Inside, it’s mostly concrete. Ceilings were removed, leaving exposed pipes, cables and other technical equipment.
In the 1980s, Chanel began to sell to small production companies and workshops. The button maker Desrues was the first, followed by the hatter Maison Michel, the shoemaker Massaro and the embroiderers Lesage and Montex, and the pleater Lognon. Many businesses are coming under the umbrella of smart businesses.
“These companies often face change problems. We are looking for a way to guarantee their continuity”, explains Bruno Pavlovsky, president of the production department at Chanel. “It’s their consolidation and management that allows them to continue to do what they do.”
In doing so, Chanel also met her own needs. After all, what is haute couture with small hands? “The most skilled craftsmen and sewing industry depend on it for their survival,” says Pavlovsky.
These investments, made over many years, have proven to be wise. Until recently, the factories were located in buildings that had been closed for ten years, but they were completely closed due to the increase in production. “That’s why we wanted to create a space where we can bring together several workshops under one roof.”
Thanks to Karl Lagerfeld
In order to appreciate the knowledge of small hands, Karl Lagerfeld, the late fashion director of Chanel, started in 2002, the Métiers d’art parade, which takes place once a year, to present a collection that combines everything. practical skills.
This particular collection is always presented in a place, a city or a region that has a link with Chanel or the life of Coco Chanel. Tokyo, New York, Monaco, Istanbul and Mumbai have been visited. The last report, at the end of December 2021, is clear at 19M.
“It’s one of the most ‘cool’ districts in Paris. The goal is to see and train about a hundred people from that district every year.”
For five years, Pavlovsky searched for a building that would accommodate all the workers. Finally he found a place. “In one of the most ‘sensitive’ areas of the city, but it is driven by a tremendous energy. Far from perfect, but in close contact with young people who want to keep their alive.” And they can come and show at 19M. “The goal is to identify and train a hundred people every year. And we want to attract the citizens of the community.”
Chanel financed the project for a hidden amount, but she did not consider keeping the product of the workshops for herself. “Many people think that the vision is for the past, but I see the future. The people, our ‘weapon’. We benefit from it, but the buildings other work. Pavlovsky praises the archives of the workshops. “All artists like to look at them, they are full of ideas and techniques that draw inspiration.”
On a special basis (workshops are closed to the public), we were allowed to go there. The first place we will visit is the Lesage sewing factory, with a separate room for archives, where 70,000 samples are carefully preserved in well-preserved black boxes. cup. In the middle of the room there are long tables where the manufacturer shows samples of the fabric with the skillful stitching of these boxes. All these wonders will make you dream. There are designs by Charles F. Worth (1825-1895), the couturier who founded haute couture, and works from the 1940s and 1950s by the surrealist designer Elsa Schiaparelli: many together in a museum, but these are only used. motivation, assures Hubert Barrère, director of Lesage. “Old technologies are a wealth of knowledge. In combination with new ones, they can allow unique experiences.” Like 3D angular embroidery of beads. “There’s not a single machine that can do that.”
On another floor, we see the workshop of the Lognon pleater. In the rooms will be kept more than 3,000 boxes or looms, intended to make different parts. They are baptized with names like “Soleil”, “Watteau” or “Paon”. Some are more than a hundred years old, some have been created. “The darker the box, the older it is”, explains Sophie Dion, manager of the Lognon factory. On large wooden boards, two young workers lay a loom to create a piece. They stretch the fine silk between two thick pieces of paper, then fold it back. Then they put weights on it to hold the fabric.
The loom is placed for thirty minutes in the oven, and then it is left to rest for twelve hours. “It usually takes one night. It’s only the next day that we know if the pleating was successful. It may take days or weeks before we get a pleat we’re happy with.”
According to Dion, ten years ago, there was no interest in businesses like his. “Precision, passion, patience… Few young people want to learn this profession.
The fact that young people want to work is also seen in other 19M workshops. Carefully, Lemarié attached the feathers to each one with pliers and a little glue on the organza. Benedictine Order. He was happy with his new work space, he explained, and with the light coming in. “Now I can see different colors better.”
Inside Chanel’s Subsidiary: Lognon the Pleater | Manufacturing Process
The 19M workshops are not open to the public, but La Galerie du 19M offers a glimpse of what was going on there. Place Skanderbeg 2 in Paris, www.le19M.fr