Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tag along at Benoît's new teaching job!

 My friend Benoît has a new teaching job out in the posh 16th arrondissement. He moved from a school in the even more posh Place des Vosges where he'd taught in the vocational trade school for sixteen years. His students lived out in the banlieus/suburbs and Benoît dealt with socialist Paris at work teaching disenfranchised suburban youth learning a trade, apprenticing and getting a job. Benoît teaches the history, French and geography section. He needed a change and started in September at this vocational school devoted to design, millinery and textiles.
 I begged him for a visit. So come with me to Lycée Octave Feuillet and see the amazing talent and these creative artisans learning their craft. These students go on to apprentice and work at the Moulin Rouge, Follies Bergeres, costume design and in haute couture for Chanel and Dior.
 Samples of the millinery department. It's the hardest department to get into.
 A sample of the flowers they hand craft.

 Here's one of the teachers opening her drawers to show us lace.
 Feathers craft consists of dyeing the feathers, gluing and arranging.
 This project was a marabou scarf. I couldn't stop watching their intricate work.

 This machine is about 150 years old and is used to form leaf designs.
Here's the hat forms.
 And the flower department, where skills to handcraft life-like flowers are in demand in haute couture. Those individual stamens - those tiny things - are made in only one place in France and are pricey.
 They are doing an annual fashion show - a defilé - of their work and their theme is recycled materials.
 This was a project commissioned by the Ministry of Defense for November 11 World War I commemorations featuring poppies and bleuts. Here's the teacher who said this piece will go in the war museum.
What struck me is how wonderful it would be to study here and learn. All the students were motivated, talented and working in the field. I love France's commitment to it's artisanal crafts. To the students it's all part of designing whether it's refurbishing the feathers of the show girls in the Follies Bergeres, or re-beading costumes at the Moulin Rouge or crafting camelias for Chanel.
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Talking about hats EvKa the student milliners are designing and crafting special hats for Saint Catherine's day. It's a tradition from when single gals worked in fashion - les petits mains - the little hands and got one day a year to parade in their creations...les Catherinettes!

  2. Splendid, Cara. How wonderful to know that these crafts are still preserved and setting young people on the road to good, steady, and satisfying jobs. So much better than what we have done, talking about college as job training and charging a fortune for it.

  3. Delightful, Cara! Barbara's closet friend is a a distinguished milliner in NYC, who apprenticed for years to a legend in the business. She received her mentor's hat forms on his passing and it is extraordinary to watch her work! As for the flowers, what else can one say than WOW!