The Atelier Approach

Paraffection S.A. is the subsidiary of Chanel that was established in 1997 to preserve the heritage, craft and manufacturing skills of a group of highly skilled fashion artisans working in specialist ateliers located mainly in the Paris region.

By 2015, Paraffection had acquired twelve “Atelier d’Art” or workshops capable of providing the parent company Chanel with the specialized skills required to decorate and embellish its haute couture creations.

“The driving force behind our decision to take over these companies was affection,” insists Paraffection director Dominique Barbiery. Cleverly, the Paraffection investments have been marketed as a labor of love.

‘Paraffection’ loosely translates to mean ‘for the love of”. Mr Barbiery states that Chanel’s relationship with its satellite firms is to “protect, advise and assist” the firms, not gobble them up, merge them or take over their work.

This year Chanel will celebrate its 13th Métiers d’Art show an annual event to honor the fine craftsmanship that its artisan partners in the Paraffection group bring to the house’s collections. With a runway show that takes place outside the traditional fashion schedule, each year, Chanel turns to a different location to pay tribute to the workshops that provide the house with everything from lace to silver buttons and fine embroidery work. After Salzburg last year, Dallas in 2013, Edinburgh in 2012 and previous shows in Mumbai and New York, Chanel headed to Rome for last season’s Métiers d’Art 2015, in the city’s Cinecittà film complex.

Chanel is not the only institution safeguarding French fashion. When, in 2012, the French lingerie manufacturer Lejaby announced plans to outsource production to Tunisia, then president Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to seek a solution. Lejaby was bought out by a French leather goods manufacturer that supplies Louis Vuitton, in a move overseen by Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, and close friend of Sarkozy, who called the takeover part of “the battle for employment in France”.

Within the leather goods industry companies such as Hermès continue the tradition of artisan production at their atelier in Pantin near Paris where the prevailing sentiment is that of everlasting love: each bag is affectionately crafted by a single artisan from start to finish, which would explain why they only turn out two pieces a week. No leather-worker is allowed to intervene in another colleague’s bag and each individual has their own set of tools, which they eventually take home with them when they retire.

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Similarly Bianca Mosca, known for it’s ultra luxury exotic and precious leather bags and accessories, is a close adherent of the atelier approach.

Visiting their fragrant workshops in Italy and France is a real sensory experience. Your eyes, your nose, you ears; they’re all part of a luxurious journey. First, it’s the tap-tap-tapping sound that rhythmically follows your every step, a sign of industrious hands at work. Then it’s the smell of the leather, from the simplest and supplest Taurillon leather to rare finds like Louisiana alligator in a rainbow of colors, all sourced by Bianca Mosca’s experienced leather-hunters.

What is clear is that making luxurious objects in the ancient traditions espoused by the true ateliers of France and Italy takes time-a lot of time.

“The end result is worth it” says Tim de Rosen of Bianca Mosca.

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