The space brings together the best of luxury craftsmanship. Pleators, embroiderers, hatters: eleven art houses are now grouped together in 19M, a huge building at the gates of Paris. Haute-couture collections are embodied there, and unique know-how is passed on.

The initiative comes from Chanel: to bring together in the same space the “little hands” who contribute to its collections, and who were until then dispersed in Paris and its inner suburbs. After thirty months of work, the 19M (19 in reference to the 19th arrondissement and the date of birth of Coco Chanel, August 19, 1883; M in reference to “mode”, “mains”, “manufactures”) has been welcoming since March 2021 eleven art houses and 600 artisans. It is officially inaugurated this Thursday by Emmanuel Macron.

Installed on a vast plateau bathed in sunshine, with a view of the Saint-Denis canal, the Montex workshop lives for embroidery. Around a large U-shaped desk, three generations of women are busy. It is a production office, where elements are assembled for a bag from the Métiers d’Art collection presented in December 2021. Elisabeth, 61, designer is about to pass the torch. After four decades at Montex, she will leave the workshop “with great emotion” in April, not without having passed on his helping hand and his view to his colleagues. “My guardian was Babeth!“says Karima, 44, gently, in front of his stitching machine. “She taught me everything: reproduce a drawing by size, how to enlarge without the visual showing too much. I watched it a lot“. As Illona, ​​an apprentice focused on a bead embroidery design, does today: “I am fascinated by embroidery, accumulating pieces, beads, to create a landscape. It’s impressive, because it’s hours and hours of work“.

On each floor of this huge building built between Aubervilliers and Paris, the past rubs shoulders with the present without a hitch. As with Lognon, the pleater. In the aisles are rows of hundreds of rolls of very graphic kraft sheets whose beauty catches the eye; molds folded by hand, which will wrinkle the material, rolled up in these oven-baked boxes.

These models are created and then folded by hand by Marion Moinier, 30 years old, craftswoman, but not a museum guard: "Heritage curator? No ! I find that backward-looking whereas our job is not at all. Certainly there are very few of us, but the profession is far from disappearing"Because there are many candidates for pleaters, and places are expensive, explains Léna Bossard, one of the small hands of the Lognon house: "It's a profession that can only be learned inside this workshop, there is no school, no training. It's a series of gestures, a choreography that we will repeat and repeat. The learner will instinctively repeat the mirror gestures of the trainer with whom they wrinkle".

Maison Michel too, we work in pairs. Here we comb the heads. Boaters, capelines, caps, first take shape on a piece of wood thanks to Elodie Desfleurs Ladouée, hatter (note: she wants us to keep the male form). His helping hand, a dozen people master it in France; a job on the wire: "I am very demanding, and I can afford it here. It's much more difficult to work the old way, it takes time. The industrial millinery is much more competitive than me since it works with the press, with aluminum models. Me, I must have an irreproachable quality".

Within the houses established in the 19M, a hundred craftsmen are recruited each year.