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200 Years Later, Leavers Lace Retains its Allure

The history and allure of lace was the object of a special exhibition called “The Lace Review: 200 years of Leavers Lace in Calais and Caudry, France” at Premiere Vision New York (PVNY) this week.

Jean-Philippe Trapp, an organizer of the exhibition, explained that the touring exhibition–PVNY was its second exhibition after bowing at Blossom Premiere Vision in Paris earlier in the month–brought together 14 leavers lace manufacturers from Calais and Caudry to portray the technical expertise and richness of the special material still used extensively in upscale lingerie and evening wear.

The exhibition, with a focus on the glamour and femininity of apparel made with the lace, showed the variety of looks and uses of leavers lace through 14 female icons from show business and fashion, including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and the Countess of Castiglione, “who by her strength of spirit and fashion style changed or revolutionized her time to become an icon,” said Trapp, whose company, Made in Town, helped assemble the exhibition.

The Lace Review was sponsored by the City of Calais, the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance and the Region Hauts-de-France. Leavers lace, named for the special machine that produces the intricate fabric, has marked the territory’s economic activity and creativity since its invention more than 200 years ago.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Made in Town partnered with Editions Falbalas to publish a bilingual book, “The Language of Leavers Lace,” illustrated with photos from the leavers lace factories and technical and stylistic elements that make it unique. Historically, the book notes, Calais is known for the production of lingerie, while Caudry specializes in weaving for haute couture of wedding dresses and evening wear.

Three companies–Solstiss, Sophie Hallette and Jean Bracq Laces–from the region were also exhibiting at PVNY.

Francois Damide, president of Solstiss USA, showed laces with a modern twist, including lace with 3-D sparkle yarn, stretch lace with lurex, fabrics with silicon overlay and pleated, stretch lace. There were also fresh patterns, like a peacock motif, and geometric and floral mixes.

Damide said most of Solstiss’s business is with high-end evening wear and lingerie brands, as well as couture designers.

“Lace has a core value and embellishment” that is unmatched, and while affected by economic conditions, it is somewhat immune to them, Damide said.