One of the best parts about living in France is getting to visit some of the most incredible craft atelier houses still creating handmade pieces for the world of fashion. I have always wanted to visit Legeron and buy some flowers for my work, so I finally made time go into Paris and visit this wonderful atelier. Legeron is a flower maker started in 1880 and has managed to stay in the hands of the same family and is still run today by Bruno, the founder’s great grandson. I found my way through the small streets of Paris to the building and climbed up the narrow turning staircase to find the infamous atelier. Upon opening the door, I was greeted by Bruno and told to go through into the showroom in the back. The hallways were filled with boxes of supplies, some of which I am sure had been there for 100 years! The showroom was filled with antique drawers from floor to ceiling and I was told that I could open each one and choose whichever flowers I would like. The drawers were filled with every color and fabric choice you could ever imagine. Most of the flowers were samples that had been created for various designers over years of Haute Couture shows. Once drawer was full of latex flowers that had been created for Jean Paul Gaultier. Another drawer was full of Chanel camellias, needless to say I was very temped to buy some of them! Unfortunately my wallet could only handle purchasing a few small flowers that I am excited to use on some of my bridal creations.
After I finished my shopping in the showroom, Bruno graciously allowed me to take a tour of the atelier where they create the magical flowers. The first room I visited was were the petals were cut out into shapes using cookie cutter type tools. The next room was the dying room where each petal is hand dyed and shaded to create a realistic look. The final room is the work room where the flowers are formed and the petals are attached together. Inside this room, there were hundreds of flowers hanging from lines across the ceiling drying and waiting to be packaged up and sent out to designers. There was everything from large white flowing flowers to small Chanel tweed camellia flowers.
As one of the last flower makers in Paris, Legeron still works in the same painfully tedious, yet magical way it did many years ago. Each worker at the atelier is a skilled craftswoman who is referred to as a “petites mains.” (small hands) The flowers are all formed by hand starting with the fabric pinned to a frame and bathed in starch, gum or flour. The fabric is then punched out into shapes of petals. Each petal is dyed by hand and set aside to partially dry, then more dye is applied by hand to create shading around the edges. The petals are then placed on a try to dry over night. The next step is to hand form the petals using tools that are well over 100 years old. The metal tools are held over a gas flame to heat the tool which will round the edges of the petals to give a realistic effect. Some petals are embossed to create texture and they are then assembled and added onto a wire stem.
Legeron mostly supplies the world of Haute Couture, film and television. Perhaps one of the most recognized works of Legeron is in the movie Marie Antoinette featuring Kirsten Dunst. They supply many of the couture houses from Dior to Jean Paul Gaultier and even create the famous Chanel camellia.
After thanking Bruno and his assistant for taking time to explain the process and show me around the atelier, I left the atelier feeling honored to have been given the chance to see this little piece of fashion history. Legeron is one of the few ateliers that are still hanging on and surviving in a world that seems to prefer outsourced, mass produced products. I am truly lucky to have the chance to experience these ateliers before they are all gone. If you would like to learn about another atelier that still serves the Haute Couture trade, please read my blog about Lesage here!