Story of a feather that takes flight
The history of the feather is a model of resilience. Gracious object of desire, material sometimes arousing suspicion, the feather is in perpetual moult. The feather, pampered or heckled, transcends itself to live with its time
A sacred art that crosses time
Feather art is a sacred art that has crossed time. From primitive peoples, from Antiquity, we have traces of the presence of feathers in sacred episodes, events and all moments with a strong symbolic charge.
At the same time sign of identity and social distinction, the feather is significant, a kind of language during rituals and ceremonies. For example, the eagle feather of the Amerindians is a symbol of honor and courage.
Under Charlemagne, peacock and flamingo feathers were highly prized. Later it was Louis XIV who popularized the wearing of feathers, ornamental, aesthetic more than symbolic. At the time, rooster, vulture, heron, jay and ostrich feathers were sought after by the nobility. Fortunately, today, the choice and use of feathers is strictly regulated.
The Revolution passed by, and we will wait for the Empire to see the feather reappear on clothes. We pass the centuries, to find ourselves in the Golden Age of featherwork which begins at the end of the 20th century and extends into the 1920s.
Splendors, miseries and rebirth of the art of featherwork
In Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, the featherwork market was flourishing. There were no less than eight hundred houses in the capital. These firms employed six to seven thousand people. The plumbers were specialized by type of feather, by technique of embellishment. They made hats, ornaments, and dress ornaments.
The beauties of the time competed and it was to the one who would have the most beautiful, the most sophisticated, even the highest of the hats.
It is from the sixties that the feather so prized, fashion accessory of women's clothing loses its superb. It is the relative end of the use of feathers in fashion. The reasons for this abandonment are certainly in the evolution of our societies. Women's clothing becomes useful and not only decorative and ornamental. Women are working and are gradually abandoning the use of hats.
Today, there are about forty feather craftsmen who officiate. The profession is emblematic of the artisanal values, with unique methods and tools. Highly prized by the luxury world, this art requires meticulousness, precision, dexterity and also creativity.
Because featherwork is not dead. Although the days of the Belle Époque are long gone, featherwork knows how to defend itself, defy time and favour the long run. If featherwork has left the heads of elegant women, it is reinvented in jewelry, watchmaking, interior design, furniture, and even in art.
And featherwork becomes an art
Plumbers are now solicited to adorn cars, boats, walls, furniture. The field of possibilities is infinite. The star decorators seize it and in a more confidential, more discreet way, use this material to dress, which the walls of an anteroom, which the walls of a private lounge. The beauty, the excellence, the infinite play of light on this material make it a privileged playground. To the point of attracting the attention of art lovers and museums.
Julien Vermeulen founded his House in Paris in 2014. This one has the ambition to preserve the ancestral tradition of this craft, while innovating and evolving the techniques, he modernizes the pen and shares this know-how. The young artist has notably worked for Jean Paul Gaultier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Schiaparelli, Valentino, or Dior, and has entered the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs thanks to his work.
As a visual artist, Julien Vermeulen transcends the pen and ink. Proof that the pen is not dead. It is sometimes discredited by ignorance, but it is a precursor in many fields. Julien chose to establish his "Maison Vermeulen" at the Viaduc des Arts in 2017, immediately after finishing his residency at the Ateliers de Paris. Thus, year after year, the Maison Vermeulen has built its reputation, its image under the shelter of the vaults. Aware of the reputation and status of the Viaduct, the young entrepreneur wanted to set up his house at "Une Adresse".
Like several craftsmen before him, five years later and strengthened by the attractiveness acquired thanks to his talent and the reputation of the Viaduct of Arts, Julien Vermeulen joined his region of heart, the region of Anjou, so fertile in art crafts, spinning mills and other feather industries.
A profession, precursor of up-cycling
Let's face it, today feathers don't come from animals that are killed for this purpose! And this has been the case for a long time now; a time when the word "up-cycling" was not known. But that's what it's all about.
As early as 1902, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture protected all bird species. In 1950, this convention became the International Convention on the Protection of Birds. In France, the DREAL (Regional Directorates for the Environment, Development and Housing) list the protected species.
It was in 1972 that birds were protected at the international level by laws governing the protection of nature. Also called the Washington Convention, an intergovernmental agreement between States was signed on March 3, 1973 and ensures that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of species.
If it is forbidden to kill animals to use their feathers, the collection itself is prohibited in France.
So where do the feathers that feather craftsmen work with come from? The feathers are waste products from the food industry or "moult" feathers. Traceability is strictly monitored. All imports must be declared.
Feathers are therefore recycling products and only recycling products. Trendy as we said and even precursory if we stick to the reflection led since 1902.
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