On March 10th the Broderers set off for Paris slightly depleted in numbers since it was during the eerie days just before the Coronavirus took hold. The break was designed to combine a wine and food tour with a look at the way embroidery is used in the haute couture industry. It was organised by the excellent Cindy Marie Harvey of ‘Love Food and Wine’. We stayed at the delightful and very well situated Hotel Castille in the Rue Cambon - the centre of Chanel’s Paris empire.
On the first evening after a welcome glass of champagne in the hotel we walked to the Bistrot Volnay around the corner. The meal included breast of guinea fowl and was good and the wines which came largely from small family owned vineyards were delicious. We particularly appreciated a Burgundy from Volnay after which the bistro is named.
The next morning we were joined by Alois Guinot, a fashion expert and journalist who took us on a walk west along the Rue St Honoré to the Place Vendome. We started at the Chanel shop. Here we saw how they still use exclusive braid to decorate their creations. During the walk Alois told us about the history of haute couture and the connection between Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel and Atelier Lesage. Lesage is the most famous embroidery house in France. It was recently bought by Chanel. We visited the workrooms of Schiaparelli in the Place Vendome - a real treat. Once again it was possible to see how the designer enhances the designs with the subtle use of embroidery. Alois finished by bringing us up to date by showing us the tiniest shop in Paris called Brigitte Tanaka, a French Japanese collaboration where as well as their own designs, they do embroidery to order.
In the afternoon we visited the Gobelin factories, founded by Louis XIV for Versailles, where they still make tapestries and carpets. The designs were modern but we still got a good idea of how tapestries are made. Nowadays the cost of these original productions is so great that they are made exclusively for the French Government and used to decorate Government buildings and French embassies.
Supper that evening was at Lavinia a stylish, up market wine bar. They generously created a table for our dinner and served us with another selection of extremely good wines. I particularly liked their Bordeaux ‘Moulin de la Rose’.
On the final day we went to see The Musée St Laurent where they had a special exhibition featuring Betty Catroux. Betty was the most important inspiration for Yves St Laurent with her boyish figure and could be said to be the originator of the trouser suit. She did not wear embroidery much but we were able to see St Laurent’s workroom with all the threads and spangles used for other designs. At a recent auction a St Laurent jacket featuring an all over embroidered design of Monet’s waterlilies was sold for over £300,000.
Our final meal was at l’Ardoise a lovely rustic restaurant where we had a delicious meal of duck and crême brulée. Again the wines were exceptional - a Beaujolais and a St Emilion.
It was a real treat to be able to sample so many excellent wines and I congratulate Cindy Marie on her choices. Everyone was free to take part in the outings or not and so it was a tour to suit many different interests. I was sad to leave.
Judy Hardy, Liveryman