Handmade with Love in France is a beautiful documentary by Julie Georgia Bernard on the present and future of artisan ateliers that cater to haute couture. During the recent Moritz Feed Dog fashion film festival in Barcelona, the documentary was included in the programme.
I knew that it would be difficult to watch, beautiful but heart-wrenching. Four ateliers are featured, Plissage Lognon (specialising in pleating fabric), Maison Legeron (specialising in flowers and feathers), La Forme (specialising in hat blocks), and Moye & Da (specialising in jewellery and feathers).
These exquisite and skilled artisans and ateliers have been slowly disappearing over the years and few are left in Paris, not to mention the rest of the world. The handful that are left have been in existence for more than 100 years, passing from generation to generation. Now they find themselves with the conundrum of having no children to pass the knowledge to or their children are just not interested.
A double-edged solution for some is to be bought by a big couture house, namely Chanel or Dior, as was the case of Maison Lesage, world-famous for their embroidery. The knowledge can survive but the eccentric, analogue, disorganised, quaint atelier is lost.
The intention of Handmade with Love in France is to reflect on life, our modern life, the passage of time. The loss of essence, of knowledge and craftsmanship. The solutions that might exist. It all sounds a bit dreary but the four ateliers featured, the humans behind all this knowledge are incredibly warm, endearing, friendly and ironic. They still know how to laugh, even though they are facing very uncertain futures.
Suffice to say that I was brought to tears. How much has been lost over the years? The documentary focuses on France, specifically Paris, the world’s capital of haute couture. But what about all the other countries. My thoughts turned to Spain, to Barcelona. How much have we lost since our Golden Era of Couture, spanning from the 1940s to the 1970s? We barely have a fashion industry anymore. The fast fashion and risible attempts at a fashion week just make us all groan and duck our head in embarrassment.
A bleak outlook for a Friday. Watch the trailer, find the documentary. Indulge in the beautiful attention to detail. Mourn the loss. Rack your brains for solutions. Rail at those who make it impossible for a fashion industry to exist in Spain. Sometimes things can’t be perfect. But we will never lose hope.