Yesterday Francois Lesage passed away (he was 82). Now unless you are really up to speed on who is who in the French fashion world you will now be shaking your head and wondering who an earth I am talking about. 

Francois Lesage with some samples - picture taken about ten years ago (Jacques Brinon/Associated Press)

Well. Monsieur Francoise Lesage was a master embroiderer who ran the Maison Lesage embroidery atelier. He was an esssential part of French haute couture for decades and designers such as Lagerfeld, Gaultier and Galliano could not produce the pieces they did without him and his team. He essentially spent more than fifty years making every stitch and sewing every bead on by hand on many of the finest couture creations that exist.

His father was also an embroiderer and his mother a fashion colourist. He once said: "I was born on a mound of pearls and glitter." His family made couture pieces in the 1920s and 1930s for Elsa Schiaparelli and in the 1950s for Yves Saint Laurent so his future was pre-destined.

Elsa Schiaparelli: The Circus Collection (made February 1938 by Lesage senior)

Yves St Laurent Van Gogh tribute jackets embroidered by the Lesage Atelier (Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger. Provided by de Young museum)

In his early years as an embroiderer Lesage lived in Los Angeles and set up a studio there making embroidery for costume designers and Hollywood stars: “Marlene Dietrich liked figure-hugging dresses. She wanted embroidery that transformed her body into a jewel. It was a pleasure to work for her.”

He then returned to Paris and in an interview last year he said he met Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Lacroix (his godson) when they were 'just beginners'

He was a master craftsman who understood how the rarified world of couture worked: "Our role is to be chameleons. With Karl, I am Karl. With Christian, I am Christian... We receive a sketch and it is up to us to interpret. The couturier is the architect, we are the decorators."

Perhaps his most famous piece was for Jean Paul Gaultier in 1998 and it was a faux leopard skin dress made entirely from beads (see below). It is a work of art and will make you gasp if it is the first time you have seen this dress.

Photos of the JPG dress courtesy of the Sewing Divas blog

If any of you are interested in becoming an embroiderer he founded a school Ecole Lesage twenty years ago in Paris which students still attend today.

Love Lovely x