In Paris, Haute Couture Face Masks for All

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There are disposable masks purchased in bulk: gentle blue, three-ply, fixed with white elastic hoops. There are D.I.Y. masks, stitched at dwelling, and designer masks, sold for $10 or $100.

Then there are masks made by a collective of the world’s most elite couturières: the seamstresses of Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, amongst others, who spent lockdown making greater than 3,000 of them — a restricted version of types.

However these masks usually are not on the market, and the individuals carrying them usually are not influencers or celebrities. They aren’t the type who, pre-pandemic, sat within the entrance row at Paris Trend Week, carrying a masks plastered with vivid white Chanel camellias. They’re town’s nurses, bakers and firefighters. And that distinction is essential to the masks’ makers.

Their collective, referred to as Tissuni (a portmanteau of the French phrases for “united cloth”), was based in March by Marie Beatrice Boyer, a seamstress at Chanel.

This was early on within the pandemic, a number of days earlier than American designers like Christian Siriano started sewing masks from home. Ms. Boyer, 36, had heard from a midwife good friend {that a} hospital in Grenoble was utilizing cloth coverings to protect its surgical masks.

She enlisted a number of fellow Chanel seamstresses, and so they started creating prototypes. On March 18, the day after Paris’s lockdown started, Ms. Boyer purchased the Tissuni area title.

Since then, the collective has grown to greater than 100 members, based on Ms. Boyer. Many are high fashion seamstresses; along with Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, they arrive from Jean Paul Gaultier, Schiaparelli and the Paris Opera.

They made their masks from private cloth provides, and when these have been depleted, used outdated curtains, pillowcases and garments. They donated the masks to hospital employees, but additionally to legislation enforcement and Paris’s “entrance line”: cashiers, supply individuals, taxi drivers.

Demand grew past the collective’s capabilities. “Typically we obtained greater than 200 requests per day,” Ms. Boyer stated.

The collective was adamant about not charging for the masks (although some recipients would supply fee as thanks). Because the lockdown continued, Ms. Boyer watched as masks making shifted from , neighborly deed right into a “industrial initiative.”

“What offends us is to see luxurious manufacturers promoting cloth masks for greater than $100, and to promote them,” she stated.

Her want for extra accessible couture was channeled into Tissuni’s subsequent providing, in mid-Could: an open-source design for a gown sample. It was a summer season gown, with a excessive neck, cap sleeves and drop waist, made with linen from northern France.

It was white, however Tissuni referred to as it the “little inexperienced gown,” winking on the sustainability inherent in making one’s personal garments at dwelling. It was an experiment in so-called sluggish trend, a motion aiming to scale back waste.

Extra lately, although, Ms. Boyer has returned to work, centered on the subsequent Chanel assortment, which might be introduced in a digital show on July 7.

Within the weeks main as much as the couture exhibits, the petites mains of the Paris couture homes, like Ms. Boyer, can spend hundreds of hours of hunched-over labor on a single gown. They’re famend for his or her talent in making intricate clothes, tapping into what Ms. Boyer referred to as “ancestral know-how, handed down from technology to technology of seamstresses.”

But making masks gave her a completely new perspective on trend.

“You understand {that a} easy piece of cloth, properly minimize, can have a direct influence on individuals’s lives,” she stated. “We’ll by no means see a extra lovely assortment than that of all of the masks made and distributed freed from cost by all of the seamstresses and dressmakers from all homes and all areas.”

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