Artisans & entrepreneurs in Paris: discover French artisans with Evanela
The French take great pride in their cultural heritage. More than anywhere else in the world, art, design, and craftsmanship are respected as more than simply superfluous and self-indulgent pursuits.
Despite the era of ongoing financial crises, technological development and ‘cheaper is better’ culture, even in France, these professions continue to renew themselves through new designs and new talent. Techniques passed down through the generations, in everything from embroidery to corsetry, shoemaking, glassblowing and cabinet-making may seem to some as giving way to the sands of time, but one French woman insists that they will not be lost, and that the French – and the wider world – will still be able to appreciate, and support, these expert artisans.
Shining the light on French artisans
Lucie Knappek is the founder of Evanela, an agency organising unique experiences with French luxury and heritage craftsmen. Her aim is to “give value” and “shine the light on art craftsmen”.
She says that for some artisans today, the biggest challenge is often discovering their inner entrepreneur: being more than a creator, and understanding how to run a business as well. “When you have your own business, the biggest challenge is to be profitable,” she says. “Because artisans love to create, they don’t often like selling. They would love their products to be sold without having to dedicate an important part of their time to sales. What’s missing then is time. And maybe formation – training.”
Because artisans love to create, they don’t often like selling. They would love their products to be sold without having to dedicate an important part of their time to sales
Lucie’s own passion for art craftsmanship starts with her family. “My mother is a painter, and my great grandmother was a corset maker. So I think there is this thing from [my] family; a love for entrepreneurship,” she says. “I think I have two sides to my personality, the French side for the culture and the American side for entrepreneurship.”
She adds: “I like painting and I also like creating decorative objects because my passion for arts crafts [comes] from decorative arts.”
The origin story
The idea for Evanela began “a long time ago”, when Lucie was living in China. She was keen to “meet local talent; to meet Chinese people who would make something ‘typical’ from China” and demonstrate their techniques to her. “I didn’t manage to meet these people because I didn’t speak the language or know the network there.”
“That’s why, when I came back to France a few years later, I had this idea of creating a web platform that would collect or compile all that information, to enable people to find talented locals,” she explains. “And when I finally started working on the idea, I went to art craftsmen because that’s what I love.”
As with all entrepreneurial ventures, it was tough going at first. “It was difficult because not too many artisans have a website yet, or they have an old version of an old website that does not look good or is not representative of their products,” says Lucie. “Platforms like Etsy are too mainstream, so they need to have specific platforms that correspond to their position.”
This is where Evanela comes in: giving a chance for artisans to reach their audience. Lucie says she and her team have met with about 150 artisans throughout France, and the list is diverse: “artisans, they are present in all the fields of activity of creation – in fashion, in jewellery, decoration, music, heritage restoration.”
Welcome to the workshop: ‘Genuine Moments’ and encounters with French artisans
Especially designed to enable people to live an authentic and human experience, Evanela has given a name to its encounters: Genuine Moments.
These ‘Genuine Moments’ are organised between private clients or small groups and artisans. Each encounter is held in the artisan’s workshop or in an exclusive venue that Evanela makes private for the occasion and in which the artisan recreates its universe for a global French art de vivre experience. It begins with a ‘VIP welcome’, usually with a glass of champagne.
What we do is really innovative, it doesn’t exist anywhere else
“Then, the creator presents the history of his workshop and explains where we are … he shows us the different parts of the workshop and how it is organised, explains the technique from A to Z, describing the process of a creation.”
“So if we take the example of an haute couture gown, he will go from the draft of the artistic director to the final [product].”
Demand is determined by what clients (those who book ‘encounters’ with artisans) want. “Of course, we always have requests for haute couture … [but] we want to shine the light on the little hands. Meaning, not those who are designing a Dior gown or Givenchy gown, but the partners who are working behind the scenes on feathers, embroidery, fans, and corsets, for instance.”
“Because of their know-how, their techniques are as good as the ones you see in haute couture workshops – in fact, they are [the ones] working for haute couture anyway.”
She says attendees are “always surprised in a good way by the whole experience … because what we do is really innovative, it doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Which workshop would you be interested in attending? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Come with us and be inspired:
Introduction // Quelques Femmes du Numerique // Kasia Dietz
Sandrine Benattar // Christina Montenegro //
Tom Clarke // Felipe Perez // Marie Van Haecke // Nicolas Piègay
Lisa Vanden Bos // Chris Nielsen // Olivier Magny and Nicolas Paradis
Lucie Knappek // Paul Arnephy // Caroline de Marchi
All images courtesy of David Guersan and Evanela.