French artistry: a tradition that lives on
This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.
A hallmark of unparalleled tradition and expertise, French artistry is in the spotlight again, now more than ever before.
Existing in a wide variety of forms, French artistry encompasses more than 510 different occupations. The nimble hands of musical instrument-makers, fashion designers and jewellers are the pride and joy of French artistry. Over 3 million people currently work in the artisanal sector in France in a variety of areas, including the fashion industry as well as upholstery and ceramics.
These artisans are trying to carry on the tradition of French craftsmanship with a focus on values such as respect for longstanding practices, love of beautiful materials, and attention to detail. To get an insight into the leather goods industry in France, we spoke to leather bag and accessories designer Sandrine Lafarge.
The unusual career path of one French designer
Sandrine Lafarge, better known as the woman behind the label ‘Alexane’, had no idea she would end up working as a designer. In fact the career change came as a huge surprise to her! After many years working as an accountant, Sandrine, decided to act on an impulse and follow her dream – designing bags.
Failing to find the perfect bag (something we have all experienced!), she decided to design her own handmade version. The creative process of designing her first bag came as a revelation. After weighing up the pros and cons, Sandrine eventually decided to give up her job as an accountant to become a leather designer.
It was certainly a risk but one which turned out to be worth the effort.
Expertise and passion: the key to success of French artisans
After training as a leather designer in order to familiarise herself with the different types of leather skins and how to manipulate them, Sandrine decided to open her own workshop and boutique called ‘L’Atelier d’Alexane‘ in Toulouse. The space provides an opportunity for customers to discover the artist’s creations, as well as to watch her work at her sewing machine and talk to her about the design process.
For this artist, the permanent contact with the material and the chance to make it into something unique and authentic are of paramount importance. The leather (calfskin, lambskin etc) used in these one-off pieces and limited edition models is selected with great care from local suppliers, also faithful to the ‘Made in France’ drive to produce locally.
The ‘Alexane’ brand makes use of several materials to produce a leather goods range in a wide variety of colours and styles. With a collection including tote bags, handbags and evening bags, there is something for all tastes and all budgets (prices range from 40 to 300 euros).
Each entirely handmade model, showcases the designer’s respect for materials as well as her creativity and energy – the secret of her success. Sandrine Lafarge is proudly celebrating the 10th anniversary of her business.
Artistry – a profession with a future?
Life is not always easy for those working as artisans and to make matters even more difficult, the profession is facing mounting competition, especially from large brands. Patience, expertise and creativity nonetheless make all the difference as anyone who appreciates beautiful and unique pieces would agree.
As Simone de Beauvoir said: “Artistry is considered to be one of the most exemplary forms of human activity.”
If this quote were to be believed, it would seem that a bright future lies ahead for artisans despite the difficulties they currently face.L’Atelier d’Alexane
27 rue des Pharaons
Email et Facebook page. References:
1. L’artisanat en France, on artisanat.fr.
2. Definition of ‘artistry’ on linternaute.com.
3. Métier maroquinier, on artisanat.info. Image courtesy of L’Atelier d’Alexane.