The Mumbai atelier that’s the secret workshop of top French fashion


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Mumbai (AFP) – Four men in lotus positions weave shimmering beads into the gold threads of organza sheets, carefully crafting a wedding dress that will immediately wow the crowd at Paris Fashion Week.

The French couturier behind the designs, Julien Fourny, is determined to shine a spotlight on these artisans. His new collection, which will be unveiled in Paris on Tuesday, is made entirely of Mumbai fabrics.

A sort of “design imperialism,” he says, means that French fashion houses often downplay the fact that their fabrics are made outside of France.

“Maisons who don’t allow it are afraid to lose customers,” Forney told AFP.

But that is ridiculous, he continued.

Creations by Shanagar have created fabrics for top fashion houses and the movie Moulin Rouge. © Punit Palangupe / AFP

“India is the best in the world at embroidery.

Fournie works with a company called Creations By Shanagar (which means “to decorate” in Sanskrit). The company is located in a nondescript beige building near Mumbai’s international airport.

Dozens of men in gray polo shirts sit cross-legged on cushions, their heads bent over large sheathes of fabric. There is silence except for the click of needles and beads, the swirl of ceiling fans, and the occasional plane flying overhead.

“full of delusions”

For decades they have played an important role in the European, Japanese and American fashion industry.

“I like working with Julian because he is one of those craftsmen who knows his subject very well,” said director Chetan Desai, 55.

“He has a lot of fantasies. He comes up with his own concepts and I have to translate those ideas into embroidery.

Chetan Desai expands his father's business internationally
Chetan Desai expands his father’s business internationally © Punit Palangupe / AFP

“It was a very rewarding experience, but also very rewarding,” he added.

Back in France, Fourny delivers his compliments.

“What they know how to do better than anyone else is to embroider with degraded gold thread and thread it through transparent beads to create a color gradient. This is unprecedented. .

It gives the silk the aged and elegant look of a wedding dress that is ‘not too shiny’.

“Haute couture customers don’t want to look like Christmas trees.

“I’ve worked with some of the great French embroiderers, and every time it’s complicated. Everyone wants to incorporate their own ideas, so you can never get exactly what you want. ”

star client

Desai’s father founded Creations By Shanagar in the 1960s as a handwoven and embroidered saree workshop.

In the 1990s, Desai looked further afield to France, partnering with Franco-Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaia to create a Naomi Campbell-like dress.

He doesn’t reveal his current clients in his book, but his past roster suggests they’re in high demand. Jean Paul Gaultier, Yohji Yamamoto, Donna Karan and others participated.

Shanagher helped design Nicole Kidman’s costumes in the 2001 blockbuster Moulin Rouge and even visited Hollywood.

The atelier attracts workers from all over India, including 31-year-old Biswajit Patra, who has been working here since he was 16.

Haute couture creations featured in Julien Fournie's latest show at Paris Fashion Week
Haute couture creations featured in Julien Fournie’s latest show at Paris Fashion Week © BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

“My father was doing the same business and my brother and sister were doing this as well, so I learned the trade in a village near Kolkata,” he said.

Among their unique ideas is how to roll up tulle to create floral embroidery.

“They have different techniques that we don’t have here,” said Jean-Paul Covan, director of the House of Fourny in France.

One of the most delicate tasks is preparing fabrics arriving from India and heading to workshops where they are assembled into dresses.

Fournie herself irons the fabric.

“60% of haute couture is ironing,” he said with a smile.



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