Ready To Wear: The finesse of haute couture was in François Lesage's blood

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Indy Lifestyle Online

How ironic that just as the collective fashion consciousness turns its attention to the spring/summer season, and the craft of haute couture appears more influential than it has done for years, one of its main protagonists has left this world.

And so farewell François Lesage, whose fanciful flourishes graced the surfaces of every grand couturier's designs for more than half a century.

Drawing inspiration from a mid-20th century haute couture silhouette is nothing new. Since the dawn of the new millennium, everything from Cristóbal Balenciaga's sack back to Yves Saint Laurent's tulip skirt has proved rich pickings for contemporary designers. The difference this time is that whether shapes are sweetly nostalgic or not, the most powerful statement lies in the intricacy of their execution.

Just look at the fine workmanship in the daisy embroideries and over-embroideries at Louis Vuitton, pictured, where Marc Jacobs has been indulging in haute couture craftsmanship for several seasons now. There's a hand-spun feel to the collections of Christopher Kane (jewel-encrusted and with flowers appliquéd by hand) and Giles with its feathers and overblown frills and furbelows.

Then there is Karl Lagerfeld's latest offering for Chanel, proof if ever any were needed that embellishment need not be heavy-handed; the luxury lies in its lightness.

Ah, Chanel. We have this monolithic fashion house to thank for the fact that such technical virtuosity has survived. In 2002, it bought not only Lesage but also Desrues (costume jewellery and buttons), Lemarié (feathers and flowers), Massaro (shoemaking) and Michel (millinery) in the knowledge that such apparently anachronistic attention to detail was facing extinction. Their profiles were duly raised and ready-to-wear designers were attracted into their folds.

Such sweet nothings may cost the earth but, make no mistake, there are still women who buy them to wear for a lifetime, before passing them down to their daughters as the ultimate fashion heirloom.