Fashion Museum Curator Rosemary Harden travels to France with ICOM UK Travel Grant | The Fashion Museum

Fashion Museum Curator Rosemary Harden travels to France with ICOM UK Travel Grant

29 November 2018

Last month, Curator Rosemary Harden travelled to France for a four day study trip courtesy of a travel grant awarded to the Fashion Museum by the International Council of Museums UK (ICOM UK). Together with support from Heritage Without Borders, ICOM UK offers a number of travel grants each year to support staff from regional and local museums to travel to Europe to develop mutually beneficial projects and partnerships.

Rosemary visited Dior Heritage in Paris to strengthen relationships with the archivists there and conduct research into the prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, a client of Dior in the 1940s and 1950s and wearer of several Dior pieces in the Fashion Museum collection.

Black wool New Look ‘Daisy’ suit by Christian Dior 1948, worn by Margot Fonteyn

Rosemary then travelled to Millau in the Occitanie region of southern France, a centre of the European glove-making industry, to better understand the craft and manufacture of gloves and build partnerships with glove experts at the Maison Fabre, a glove-making company established in 1924, the Musée de Millau et des Grands Causses, and the Causse Gantier, a leading luxury glove-maker.  This research will inform an exciting new exhibition Rosemary is curating for 2019 called Glove Stories, which will showcase the world class Glove Collection Trust collection established by the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London and housed here in Bath at the Fashion Museum.

Rosemary wrote a diary while she was away to record her travels and we are pleased to share a few extracts below:

Monday

First stop is Paris, via Eurostar, to spend the afternoon with Soïzic Pfaff and Solène Auréal-Lamy at Dior Heritage. Dior Heritage is… well, it’s Heritage Heaven, with the most beautiful study and storage facilities. Everything is fashioned in soft whites and Dior light grey, from the colour of the front door to the exquisitely-crafted custom-made storage boxes for the collection of shoes, hats, scarves, and glittering jewellery. There’s a couture sensibility and a take on archives at Dior Heritage, with careful thought about how users will engage with the collection. And here’s a Dior top tip: label objects three times, on the object itself, on the branded box, and the space in the drawer where the box fits. Genius!

Wednesday

The taxi driver last night said it right: Millau is indeed the capital of gloves. An early morning walk, and there are signs of the town’s glove-making heritage everywhere, from street names and shop fronts to tourism banners and signs on buildings. 

Set up in 1924 by master glove-maker Etienne Fabre, the Maison Fabre is still run today by the Fabre family. I had a wonderful workshop visit this morning with atelier manager Stephanee Cazares. Stephanee walked and talked me the glove-making process, from working and cutting the leather to stitching and pressing the completed gloves. Three ladies were stitching in the workshop. One had worked for the Maison Fabre for 55 years. She was putting linings in the gloves by hand. Her co-worker was assembling the different parts of a glove, including the fourchettes or panels between the fingers on the gloves, on a sewing machine, with a work area smaller than a one cent coin.

What I love about this is that it is real life. It’s not re-enactment, it’s not for show. Instead, this is a working atelier producing high-quality leather gloves in, essentially, the same way that they have been produced for centuries.

IMAGE 4 Maison Fabre - supplies_0.jpg

From the Maison Fabre, to the Musée de Millau et des Grands Causses, just a short stroll away, in the old town. There’s an immense richness of glove-making equipment, archival material and actual gloves on display here. It’s a traditional museum setting, but fascinating to see now I have just seen the glove-making process for real at the atelier. 

And my final visit today, to the Causse Gantier a leading luxury glove-maker, founded in Millau in by the Causse family in 1892. The firm was awarded the Enterprise du Patrimonie Vivant by the French government in 2006, and now occupies modern architect-designed premises with museum displays, a shop and workshop viewing area. Causse Gantier makes 250,000 pairs of gloves each year, with 80% of their production for Chanel. Chanel’s design director Karl Lagerfeld is a brand ambassador for Causse Gantier, and there were examples of his trademark fingerless gloves on display in the showroom.

I had a fabulous personalised conducted tour of Causse Gantier with Judit Alvarez. Judit introduced me to the expert leather cutters in the workshop. They took me through what they were doing, including preparing the leather to cut the trank, the rectangle of prepared skin from which the different parts that go to make up the glove are cut. With all these gloves, how could I not try some on? Judit measured my glove size and helped me to put on pair of peccary leather or hog skin (the most luxurious of leathers) gloves. The fit was exquisite, they were super warm and comfortable, and they made my hands look elegant (quite a feat).

Later that evening I set off on the first stage of my journey home, a long bus ride from Millau to Rodez. My head was full of all things gloves that I had seen that day. It was a privilege to spend 24 hours in Millau, in a place and with people where gloves are a key part of the raison d'être of the town. Truly, an immersive experience.

The Fashion Museum is very grateful to both ICOM and Heritage Without Borders for this fantastic opportunity and would like to thank Soizic Pfaff and Solène Auréal-Lamy and the team at Dior Heritage; Stephanie Cacceres and the skilled workers at Maison Fabre; and Judit Alvarez and the expert leather cutters at the Causse Gantier in Millau.

Glove Stories is on display at the Fashion Museum from 2 March 2019 until 1 March 2020.