“Haute couture consists of secrets whispered from generation to generation!” said Yves Saint Laurent.
Proud of our heritage, we would like to share a few of our know-hows : traditional smocking, embroidery and couture techniques passed down within our atelier. It is these secrets which make the quality of our dresses!
The first step of smock making lies in making regular pleats with the fabric. Four to five times the surface of the pleated panel is required depending on the weight of the fabric, knowing that it sometimes needs to be lined to ensure the pleats stay put.
To obtain greater precision, we use a smocking pleater. Invented by the Read Company in South Africa around 1950, this manual machine works with a system of grooved rollers, specific needles and threads. The fabric is pushed in from the back and fed into the machine. Once held pleated by the threads, the fabric is ready to be stitched upon.
In the video below Harisoa is pleating sky blue cotton fabric for a size 4 years old classic smocked dress.
Handmade fabric pleating
For striped and checked fabric, we do not use a manual machine. Each pleat is entirely made by hand one after the other. This allows us to make one color of the stripes visible only. The same technique is used for velvet due to its thickness. This fabric preparation is absolutely essential in order to obtain a regular surface on which to make embroideries.
This step, which requires the most careful gestures, can take up almost a full day of work! A running stitch is made along the rows. Once the fabric is gathered, the threads are knotted off two by two on each side and the pleats are pulled up to the width of the pattern piece.
Here Natacha is hand pleating the white and pink cotton of a striped smocked dress with Peter Pan collar.
Smocking is the art of embroidering geometrical or figuratives shapes on top of tightly pleated fabric panels. Entirely handmade, smocks require great patience, regularity and meticulous gestures. The eye guides the movements of the hand. It is through observation and practice only that one gradually becomes an expert!
Often made of several colors, meaning several thread shades, the embroideries, wherever figurative or geometrical, imply a thorough creative research from our designer beforehand. A prototype is first made to serve as a basis. The choice of the threads which need to match the fabric, the positioning and size of the patterns are all crucial to guarantee visual harmony.
Here Adeline is making our iconic Eiffel Tower smock on a pink and white striped dress with Peter Pan collar.
Below Natacha is making our iconic Fabrice smock in pink and white. The little pale pink knots of the pattern look almost like pearls!
Handmade Amandine puffed sleeve embroideries
The Amandine smocked dress is one of our signature designs. Its beauty lies in its intricate smocking across the bodice, frilled collar but most of all, in its delicate puffed sleeve embroideries. Made in the same thread colors as the smocks, the tiny flowers upon the sleeve add a chic and romantic detail to the dress. From front, back and profile, this dress is utterly dreamy!
Here Natacha is embroidering the puffed sleeves of our pastel green striped Amandine dresses, the pink details will add a precious feel.
Handmade stem stitch
Frequently used for our finishing details, stem stitches outline the borders of our designs. Embroidered like a delicate rope, the individual stitches, slightly slanting in one direction, seem to flow into each other. They perfectly follow the shape of the ruffle and we always make sure that the thread color matches beautifully with the fabric.
Here Hanta, is making a stem stitch to outline the ruffles of a Netti dress. She is adding the last finishing touch to this party dress embroidered with the name of its princess : Eloise James Hertz.
Handmade petticoat openwork
The additional white cotton layer is an essential feature of our designs : it allows the dress to twirl beautifully and gives volume to the skirt.
The tiny handmade holes just above the petticoat hem are called “openwork”. This traditional couture technique consists in drawing out of some of the threads, from the warp and/or the weft of the fabric. The remaining threads are then bundled and embroidered together with a hemstitch. Often used for house linings, openwork is a distinctive sign of high quality.
Here, Hanta, in charge of finishing details is at work. Perfectly mastering the movement, her openworks are very regular.
Blind hem stitching
Frequently used in haute couture for skirts and dresses, the blind stitch hem connects two pieces of fabric without showing any threads on the outside of the garment nor on the inside. The secret is to use a single thread and to catch only a few fabric threads. The needle navigates from one fabric to another catching as little as possible of the material.
Here Vohirana is stitching the hem of one of our smocked dresses, the thread will be almost invisible giving an elegant finishing detail to the garment.
We hope this small insight of our atelier's traditional craftsmanship will allow you to fully appreciate our dresses.