Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The National Bedmaker

 France has a centuries long tradition of art, design, and architecture from the kings to Napoleon to the present. Whether by royal decree or state subsidy the craftspeople and artisans have crafted their wares and skills to serve France. Kept alive by public patronage and the government, now due to the economy, a lot of their trade is in danger. Here's a case in point, the National bedmaker of France, with information from a Telegraph article.
 "They made an extra-large one for Charles de Gaulle and a normal-sized one for the current self-declared normal president François Hollande. And their clients include heavyweight French celebrities like Gérard Dépardieu and fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld.
But France’s ailing economy and its hefty taxes have dashed the dreams of Le Lit National - National Bed Company - which has just gone into receivership after a century of providing restful nights for the country’s rich and famous.
The news of its possible demise came last week as thousands of French bosses took to the streets in a week of demonstrations against government regulations and taxes that they say are choking companies, discouraging hiring and strangling the economy.
 Christine Péjaudier, the owner of the family firm based in the Paris suburb of Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, did not join her fellow bosses’ protests but said she feels badly let down by the state.
“We were told by a tribunal that they would help us by getting our VAT and social security contributions deferred, but they didn’t deliver,” she told the
These broken promises and a decision by the firm’s bank to pull the plug on their credit dealt a potentially lethal blow to the company whose 40 employees make around 900 handmade beds a year.
The firm, which after World War II focused on the luxury market as its competitors opted for producing beds on an industrial scale, enjoys the “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” (Living Heritage Company) label granted by the Economics Ministry to reward companies for the “excellence of their traditional and industrial skills”.
It has provided beds for French presidents and prime ministers since the time of Charles de Gaulle.
“Every time there is a new president we deliver a new bed,” said Mrs Péjaudier, who noted that the six foot five inch de Gaulle required an extra-long one.
Various African heads of state and members of the French jet set later joined the firm’s client list, but its elite clientele has not been enough to ensure its survival.
Mrs Péjaudier recently requested that her company be put in receivership to give it six months’ breathing space to try and secure fresh credit and work on its plans to tap into the export market, which it had previously largely ignored, selling the bulk of its products in France.

Various artisans who create, preserve and restore the national heritage are at risk; stonemasons who work on ancient cathedrals, cabinet makers, cutlery and knife makers, wood carvers, cut crystal glass makers, pottery and porcelain makers, silversmiths, carpet weavers, beaders and feather artisans who work for haute couture and the list goes on. Many of these are family owned and run. They pass on their skills to the next generation and take apprentices. Karl Lagerfeld, of Chanel, has even bought up several small workshops with a few employees who stitch couture by hand, embroider and bead, a dying skill.

Cara - Tuesday


  1. Sic transit gloria cubilis?

    Interesting article, thank you.--Mario R.

  2. This engenders mixed feelings within me. On the one hand, I couldn't care less if politicians, be they French or U.S. have a "new, hand-crafted work of art to sleep upon." On the other hand, the arts (and sciences) are frequently one of the first things in every budget that are attacked when the budget scissors are brandished, and that's just wrong.

  3. So true, Everett. While the Medici's were a manipulative lot they gave patronage to great art. This craft artisanal work needs to be kept alive or we'll only know Stalinist concrete blocks imho

  4. It's tragic what happens to these no longer employed skilled artisans. Their skills are rarely transferable to the modern, e-driven economy and they fall back to competing with the unskilled. The problem seems endemic to much of Europe where taxes are forcing so many small businesses--especially local players in the luxury business-- out of work. A timely post, Cara.