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Face masks for everyone in Paris Haute Couture

There are disposable masks that are bought in bulk: light blue, three layers, fastened with white elastic tires. There are DIY masks that were sewn at home and designer masks that sell for $ 10 or $ 100.

Then there are masks made by a collective of the world’s most elite couturières: including the seamstresses Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, who made more than 3,000 of them – a limited edition.

But these masks are not for sale and the people who wear them are not influencers or celebrities. They’re not the sort to sit in the front row before the Paris Fashion Week pandemic, wearing a mask covered with bright white Chanel camellias. They are the city̵

7;s nurses, bakers and firefighters. And this distinction is important for the mask maker.

Her collective called Tissuni (a portmanteau of French words for “United Fabric”) was founded in March by Marie Beatrice Boyer, a seamstress at Chanel.

This was early in the pandemic, a few days before American designers like Christian Siriano started sewing masks from home. Ms. Boyer, 36, had heard from a midwife friend that a Grenoble hospital was using fabric covers to get his surgical masks.

She hired a few other Chanel seamstresses who started developing prototypes. On March 18, one day after the Paris blockade began, Ms. Boyer bought the domain name Tissuni.

Since then, the collective has grown to over 100 members, according to Ms. Boyer. Many are haute couture seamstresses; In addition to Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, they also come from Jean Paul Gaultier, Schiaparelli and the Paris Opera.

They made their masks out of personal supplies, and when they were used up, they used old curtains, pillowcases and clothes. They donated the masks to hospital workers, but also to law enforcement agencies and the “front line” of Paris: cashiers, deliverers, taxi drivers.

The demand grew beyond the capabilities of the collective. “Sometimes we received more than 200 requests a day,” said Ms. Boyer.

The collective was determined not to charge the masks (although some recipients would offer payment as a thank you). As the blockade continued, Ms. Boyer watched the mask making process change from a good, neighborly deed to a “commercial initiative.”

“What insults us is that luxury brands sell and advertise cloth masks for over $ 100,” she said.

Her desire for more accessible couture flowed into Tissuni’s next offer in mid-May: an open source design for a dress pattern. It was a summer dress with a high neck, cap sleeves and low waist made of linen from northern France.

It was white, but Tissuni called it the “little green dress” and winked at the sustainability associated with making your own clothes at home. It was a so-called slow experiment, a movement aimed at reducing waste.

More recently, however, Ms. Boyer has returned to work and is focusing on the next Chanel collection, which will be featured in a digital show on July 7th.

In the weeks leading up to the couture shows, the small main courses in Parisian couture houses, like Ms. Boyer, can spend hundreds of hours bent over a single dress. They are known for their ability to make intricate garments and use what Ms. Boyer calls “ancestral know-how that has been passed down from generation to generation by seamstresses”.

However, making masks gave her a completely new perspective on fashion.

“They realize that a simple piece of cloth, well cut, can have a direct impact on people’s lives,” she said. “We will never see a collection more beautiful than that of all masks, which are made and distributed free of charge by all seamstresses from all houses and regions.”

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