French Artisans Struggle to Stay Afloat

A couple of stories in the news recently highlighted the state of craftsmanship on both sides of the Atlantic. One piece, in the Wall Street Journal, was titled “Couture Artisans Seek French Aid.”The lead paragraph stated that “France’s specialized embroiderers, seamstresses, tailors and hatmakers — once the backbone of a thriving fashion business–are today among the hardest hit victims of the global slowdown in luxury-goods sales.”

It’s sad to say, but the famous “petites mains” of the French luxury goods sector are struggling mightily and  the French government may have to step in to provide economic aid to these craftsmen. This sector is so intimately ties with France’s image and longstanding reputation as a fashion mecca, that it’s troubling to contemplate what would happen without the existence of these artisans. The number of “highly skilled” artisans employed in the country has reportedly dropped 80 %.

France is now considering tax breaks and new labeling rules that would highlight “the origin or artisanal nature” of a product (which  I think is a great idea). And then there’s Chanel, which has wisely been buying a number of these artisans in an attempt to preserve its ability to create those most elaborate couture gowns.  It’s interesting that Chanel actually requires that its own products be sourced in France.


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