PARIS – The Renaissance project is a matter of second chance.
The French non-profit association offers training to job seekers through a workshop that reuses designer clothes to give them a second life – an approach that attracts the attention of key players in the industry, including the Maison AlaÃ¯a, which joins forces with Renaissance on a capsule collection of recycled clothing.
On Monday evening, the association held its second annual parade to highlight the work of this year’s participants, who hope to find jobs in fashion houses after a first edition in 2020 which took place just before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, hampering the prospects of its graduates.
Models paraded the Parisian auction house Drouot in outfits celebrating the notion of gender equality, in an effort to show that upcycling is a unisex affair.
Men’s clothing has been deconstructed and transformed into women’s outfits, ranging from variations of tailored jackets to a wedding dress in solid white tulle, while women’s basics, including corsets, have been transformed into men’s wear. – think of embroidered sweatpants, lace-trimmed tops and the flowy kind. evening looks with obi sashes.
The approach seduced Marylin Fitoussi, who designs the costumes for the Netflix series âEmily in Parisâ alongside the consultant Patricia Field. For season two, which was shot in Paris this summer, she dressed Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, aka marketing manager Sylvie Grateau, in a cream dress and jacket embroidered with chains from the atelier.
This is proof of the requirement of the project, imagined by Philippe Guilet, who spent nearly a decade working as a research director alongside Jean Paul Gaultier, in addition to stints with Thierry Mugler, Karl Lagerfeld and Joseph .
After several years in the cultural sector, notably as artistic director of the French Embassy in Romania, he founded Renaissance in 2019.
Installed in a low-cost housing estate in the south of Paris, the workshop welcomed 17 trainees this year for a six-month program aimed at familiarizing them with the techniques and jargon of haute couture, the top of the fashion pyramid which rests on highly skilled workers to produce bespoke clothing.
The participants, who all earn a salary during their training period, come from as far away as Chechnya, Algeria, Morocco, Ukraine, Turkey, Guinea, Russia, Moldova, France, Ivory Coast, Afghanistan and Brazil, and include experienced tailors and absolute beginners. .
“The objective is to help them return to the job market by giving them confidence through training and by letting their talent show through, so that they can apply in sewing workshops,” Guilet said in a post. – Scorching midday, while his students quietly worked around work. tables with a radio in the background.
âMany of them arrived in France with sewing techniques, but no method. Obviously it’s quite confusing, so here we teach them how things are done, âhe added. âWe speak the vocabulary of the houses, so that if they join a brand, they immediately understand the language and the hierarchy of the workshop.
He said the initiative was welcomed by residents of the city of Vercors in Villejuif, which has battled crime – although on a recent summer afternoon, children were playing outside with their mothers. .
“There have been reports of drug and arms trafficking in this housing project, and we have been put here specifically to change mentalities,” Guilet said, noting that there had never been a theft. at the workshop. âObviously, they can see that we are doing great things here, and that changes the gloom surrounding. “
Likewise, cultural barriers seem to fall inside the studio, with people of all religious backgrounds collaborating on the gender-fluid collection, which recalls Gaultier’s influence with men in heels and transparent dresses for women. . âEveryone leaves their cultural baggage at the door. It was not a problem, âsaid Guilet.
Dressed in a white work coat, he sets the tone for the place with a mixture of stern warnings and warm encouragement. In one corner, a seamstress has assembled tubes of fabric made from flight attendant ties into a strapless dress. In another, a dressmaker’s mannequin showed a coat assembled from embroidery samples.
Guilet capitalized on a growing trend in sustainable fashion, reinforced by the introduction last year of a French law prohibiting companies from destroying unsold products. Its âDetox your Stockâ program aims to help fashion brands find new uses for their inventory.
âMaison AlaÃ¯a has ordered a collection of 15 pieces made entirely from their inventory of unsold clothing and will be presented in September,â he said, noting that Monday’s runway collection was designed as a showcase to attract additional partners.
âThe collection with AlaÃ¯a is causing a lot of noise, because people are wondering how a small organization that offers vocational training to the unemployed has managed to work with AlaÃ¯a on pieces that are effectively intended for sale,â he said. .
To demonstrate her skills, her team created runway outfits incorporating items such as vintage kimonos; a Yohji Yamamoto costume; a Fendi dress; a Gaultier men’s jacket, embellished with lace courtesy of wedding designer Celestina Agostino, and paint-splattered clothing provided by Chilean painter Eduardo Guelfenbein.
Some are embroidered on site, while others are embellished in India through a partnership with the Kalhath Institute, an embroidery center in India co-founded by Maximiliano Modesti and Amine Dadda, who donated 2,500 hours of embroidery by his students. to the project.
Guilet has managed to attract a number of other prominent funders, with donors ranging from prominent social figures like Jacqueline de Ribes, who donated one of her couture gowns, to businesses such as the construction company Vinci and airport operator Groupe ADP, who donated uniforms for upcycling.
Pascal Morand, executive president of the Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion, supported the initiative in a personal capacity and attended Monday’s show.
With business resuming after 18 months of coronavirus restrictions, Guilet predicts an increase in demand for skilled labor from major haute couture houses.
âSince the sector is generating a lot of interest, I ask our partners to welcome the best for internships of at least three months. If all goes well, it will lead to a more permanent job, âhe said. âIf it hadn’t been for COVID-19, many of them would have already started. “
The pieces presented this week will be auctioned at Drouot in September. Many donors have expressed interest in repurchasing the outfits made from their old clothes. Guilet, meanwhile, is already thinking about the next start of the internship, which should begin in October.
âIt’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when you see the end result,â he said. âHonestly, every morning when I come here, I am happy. It’s very rewarding for me, and I think for them too. There is such a strong and positive energy around this project that I don’t think any other job can bring me the same satisfaction.
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