Monday, December 22, 2014

Where to find textile treasures in Paris

photo: Le style et la matière
precious fabric wound around wooden dowels  
It is possible for anyone in Paris to find a gold mine of fashion fabrics
and like many of the very best things, this treasure is hidden in plain sight!

My neighbor just asked me where to go for fabric in view of some very special occasions where she must be dressed en conséquence. I was pleased to pass along a very good address and thought some of you would appreciate it too.

photo: Le style et la matière
wish you could touch this too!

In fact, this shop isn't really hidden at all, but its unassuming storefront will have been passed up by more than one fabric enthusiast if she hasn’t been informed of the location in advance. Costume-makers and stylists, however, all know about this Aladdin's cave of fabrics. The good thing is, you don't have to be a textile professional to go to De Gilles Tissus. Venture past the plain threshold and the promise of fabric marvels awaits -many rarely accessible to the general public -
yet the atmosphere is undeniably nonchalant.

You might not even notice the famed Schiapperelli lobster design framed on the wall behind the front desk; it's half hidden by photos of family, friends and the exotic travels of the shop's owner, Catherine Kouliche-Goldman. Some of the fruit of those trips, suzanis and ikats are hanging nearby too, jostling the French silk in a neighborly way. You might say it's the colorful movie posters lining the stairwell that hint at  the uncommonly high level of interest of the material here. Yes,
 along side Vincent Lindon, Audrey Tautou, Jean Dujardin etc, etc, we could say,
also starring De Gilles Tissus!

photo: Le style et la matière
The puckers of a rose-colored couture cloqué fabric

The majority of the merchandise is French, a portion of it comes from the UK and Italy, but most importantly every single fabric found in the shop has been chosen individually by Catherine Goldman, who guarantees its quality. Not for her, the bargain-container approach that some in the field practice. Catherine is the third generation owner in her family, though the trade has changed along the years from wholesale to retail. Her stock today is a treasure trove of articles from buttons, ribbons and even vintage pantyhose to truly precious stuffs otherwise destined for couture houses. There are gold and silver braids and trim from a  passementier specialized in metallics, fabrics from the 50s-80s of mills now defunct, overstock from today's manufacturers, as well as a more limited selection of valuable hand-crafted items from Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Peru....

photo: Le style et la matière

This magnificent silk velvet on transparent ground has the flavor a Gruau illustration and I would guess it comes from the great house of Bouton-Renaud in Lyon known for hand-painted and high novelty articles of this sort. 

photo: Le style et la matière
floral lampas/brocade
De Gilles provides mostly high fashion fabrics but there are exceptions and of course, your own creativity can come into play here. The haute couture is well-known for using furnishing fabrics to suit its own ends, I say these things can go both ways with a little good judgement. After all, the notion of specificity between fashion and furnishing fabrics only came about in the late 18th century. So, a length for a skirt, a bit more for drapes - Scarlet did make a dress of her curtains....

photo: Le style et la matière
Vintage meets South American

photo: Le style et la matière

Some of France's finest -
warp printed silks with their distinctive soft blurred appearance and full-bodied crisp handle.

photo: Le style et la matière

photo: Le style et la matière
Fancy silks

photo: Le style et la matière
Crunchy tweeds

photo: Le style et la matière
reworked tweed
photo: Le style et la matière
Mmmmm, fabulous highly textured yanked wool

photo: Le style et la matière
The coppery coating of this Grand-Siècle-inspired design gives this fabric a lot of punch!

photo: Le style et la matière

photo: Le style et la matière
This billowy silk mousseline (chiffon) was printed to resemble an Indonesian ikat 

photo: Le style et la matière

photo: Le style et la matière
Among the exotic textiles can be found a few costumes and hats.

photo: Le style et la matière
 Rare lacquered silk brought back from Taiwan.
This ancient artisanal technique that uses mud to achieve a noble,
almost leathery look with a subtle sheen.

photo: Le style et la matière
cotton, linen, hemp - here a mix of weaves in bold blue ramie

photo: Le style et la matière
threads left hanging - but oh, what threads!

And another part of the treasure is Catherine Goldman herself. She is no-run-of-the-mill shop owner! She was educated at the Ecole du Louvre, understands the arts and is passionate about fabric's place among them - as well as in world economy.

Like many of us in the textile profession, Catherine has become more and more concerned with the problem of the diminishing quality of textiles today and what's more, with the steady loss of the textile culture. She does her part to remedy to the problem by raising consciousness through a very lively blog called Passion Textiles that I warmly recommend. You will find articles on the history of various fabrics and their techniques, reporting on the textile craft from around the globe, as well as practical tips on care and some op-ed pieces, too.

Mass production and the battle of always more-for-less has led to a certain disregard for fabrics. What was once valued as essential and often precious is taken for granted because too often it is replaced with ersatz materials that don't last a season. Those who have not been educated to distinguish quality often settle for what is easiest and cheapest to obtain.
We live with textiles everyday. They are our second skin. They transform our homes. Don't settle.

De Gilles Tissus
156 Rue de la Roquette
75011 Paris

Thursday, November 27, 2014


detail from Story of Gargantua, France 1888 © Musée Mulhouse
roller print on cotton

Bon appétit, les amis!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In passing

all photos Le style et la matière

The wheel keeps turning but I'd promised myself to post more often 
and even when times are busy and exciting projects are at hand -
 I'd like communicate something of what I see - a slice of life, an ambiance, a little lèche-vitrine -
 in the whirl of the day.

I could give a quote

and hope to turn your head

but today is simply about beauty wherever it's found 

it's one of the things that makes my heart sing  most

in my twisting and turning paths through the city -

 in the  walk-by whizz of places to go -

lacquer screen at 
La galerie des laques 


at Lelièvre

and at Veraseta

color and cords at Christian Astuguevieille

all photos Le style et la matière

a golden moment -

in an ordinary day

Friday, October 31, 2014

Le redoutable chat noir

Hommage to black cats! 
Still to this day, maligned and mistrusted, 
but always appreciated by artists 
for their 

graphic potential,

their clever and amusing ways.

and their mysterious demeanor.

Tonight's their night, after all.

All images from the site 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spirits of the loom

Hussein Chalayan
source Design Cat Walk

GHOST, n. The outward and visible sign of an inward fear.

"There is one insuperable obstacle to a belief in ghosts. A ghost never comes naked: he appears either in a winding-sheet or "in his habit as he lived." To believe in him, then, is to believe that not only have the dead the power to make themselves visible after there is nothing left of them, but that the same power inheres in textile fabrics. Supposing the products of the loom to have this ability, what object would they have in exercising it?

source Buzzfeed
 And why does not the apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost in it? These be riddles of significance. They reach away down and get a convulsive grip on the very tap-root of this flourishing faith."


by Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, October 16, 2014

House trained

This grizzly image has been jammed in the back of a file for some time. 
It's surreal and it fits into my old anthropomorphic furniture (animal-pomorphic?) and curio themes. 
It's a stunning piece of Americana -hard to look on today-
but it made me think of  Jean Baudrillard's book, Le système des objets
 where  he calls objects the perfect pets!

 L’objet est l’animal domestique parfait. 
C’est le seul " être " dont les qualités exaltent ma personne au lieu de la restreindre. 
Au pluriel, les objets sont les seuls existants dont la coexistence est vraiment possible, puisque leurs différences ne les dressent pas les uns contre les autres, comme c’est le cas pour les êtres vivants, mais convergent docilement vers moi et s’additionnent sans difficulté dans la conscience.

The object is the perfect pet. 
It  is the only "being" whose qualities glorify my person instead of restricting it. 
In the plural, objects are the only entities with whom co- existence is fully possible, since the differences between them do not pit them against one another, as is the case for living beings; 
instead submissively, they come together with me and are amassed with the greatest of ease
 in my consciousness. 

more on the chair's maker here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The tale of the three beds from the château of Effiat

This is not a tale of cottages. No, the story begins in a certain château in Auvergne.


It was a proud dwelling built between 1626-28 by the Marshal of Effiat, Antoine Coëffier de Ruzé, counselor to Louis XIII and close friend of Richelieu.
 His château held at three beds,
They were sold at auction in 1856, as were the rest of the furnishings that had managed to be keep intact until then.

Through my various explorations this way and that, I realized that I had seen all three of these beds and had photographed them, although my pictures aren't all of the same quality. I thought I would reunite the beds here and supplement better pictures where needed.
My story is a simple one. A document really. There are no indignant bears or sassy little girls  - unless Time itself could be said to hold the role of Goldilocks!

photo:RMN Louvre

The most famous of these beds is today in the département des arts décoratifs at the Louvre. It is the perfect example of the bed à la française or the lit en housse (covered bed) of the mid 17th century and one of the few beds to come down to us from the period with its original textiles. With its hangings of Genoa velvet down, it makes a cube and has the solemn air of a catafalque. Underneath all that exhuberant fabric, the bed posts are said to be uterly simple. The luxurious aspect of beds of this time owed entirely to their upholstery and trim. In fact if few of these marvelous beds have survived, it is because the precious textiles wore out and the plain wood, usually of no value in itself, was probably burned.

Abraham Brosse
This engraving by Abraham Bosse shows the cords for raising the curtains - the 17th century gradually left the expression courtines behind for rideaux.
Otherwise tie backs were used to attach the curtains to the posts.
photo Cluny via Chest of books
An early image shows the hangings parted but we don't see the headboard.

photo: jpbraud decoration
It may have been like this one, Effiat bed No. 2  at the chateau of Azay le Rideau whose hangings have been beautifully reconstitued here.

photo Marc Walter
These seem to be the original bed textiles found in Jacques Anquetil's book La Soie en Occident.

photo: Le style et la matière
To quote Bill Pallot,
"Beds were greatly prized pieces of furniture in the 17th century 
and as such described very precisely in inventories. Louis XIII had one 
covered with purple damask and adorned with large gold embroidery, Richelieu 
owned another with tapestry of white satin and gold embroidery and Mazarin 
possessed several. Beds accompanied their owners in their travels. They were 
taken apart and placed in leather trunks. Often monumental in size, they 
were set in a corner of the bedchamber. 

Abraham Brosse

The space between the bed and the 
wall was called the 'ruelle' (narrow street). This was where private 
gatherings were held as it was customary to receive company at home while 
lying in bed."

photo: Le style et la matière

photo: Le style et la matière

photo RMN

Finally, my visit to the Musée de la Renaissance at Ecouen a few weeks ago permited me to see Effiat bed No. 3. Made in the late 16th century, it is the oldest of the trio but retains some 19th century modifications.

photo: Le style et la matière
The hangings are not original and the curators plan to restore it to its 19th century state as it was presented by Sommerard at the Hotel de Cluny in what was called the
chamber of Francois I.

photo: Le style et la matière
This ornately carved bedstead
has fine detailing on the foot posts

photo: Le style et la matière
and military cariatides at the head of the bed.

image: RMN

This engraving of the Musée de Cluny depicts the brimming cabinet d'amateur atmosphere that reigned in 1840. There must have been some indecision as to how to assemble the posts. Here the cariatides have been installed at the foot of the bed rather than at its head. 
 I have seen other beds with four cariatides or atlantes, never only two as we see here. 

© Léon et Lévy / Roger-Viollet
Here, somewhat later but still at Cluny, the columns have been switched around in the way 
which is today believed to be the correct assembly of the bed.

Cluny is now specialized in art and artifacts of the middle ages, Ecouen is the place to go for the 
15-17th centuries which is why this bed is located there now.

photo: Le style et la matière.
No pomme , no panache naturally, on this 16th century bed from Effiat at Ecouen, 
but nearby in the textile department is displayed a vase-finial which looks very much like those on the later Effiat beds in the Louvre and at Azay. 
From this angle, in a case, we get a good close look at its construction 

and next to it is a charming miniature bed, once considered to be part of a doll house.
(C) RMN-Grand Palais Gérard Blot
(musée de la Renaissance, château d'Ecouen)  

It is now recognized as an upholsterer's or embroiderer's maquette. 
 This is a model of  a Duchesse bed 
which really only became popular at the end of the 17th century.
 Louis XIV himself prefered four posts.


For another article on beds and my own 17th century bed - 
look here
 It is carved with a commemorative date of 1601 and the initials I.V. and C.G.. 
The date probably refers to a wedding date.
One day I may find out just who I.V. and C.G. were...