Paris Passementerie


Nelson Sepulveda styles Paris Passementerie, photographed by Thomas Straub efw Ribbons, bobbins, tassels, fringing and braids no doubt each all have their own distinguished beginnings. However, ultimately they have come together to form what we now recognise to be passementerie; decorative and often elaborate trimmings. Essentially all a series of ropes, windings and ribbons suspended, arranged or woven in a lattice-like order, the term passementerie, unsurprisingly, sprung from the early French word for lace; passement. wefscz It was in the sixteenth century that this art form really took on a life of its own when fashions – or rather statuses – were about appropriate adornment. Not only from an aesthetic perspective but a symbolic one as well. Imported materials like silks combined with skill and expense could be conveyed by just the right trimming and accessory. With a minimum apprenticeship of seven years being required before being considered a master passementier, passementerie had clearly developed into both a rarified skill and valuable luxury commodity – there was even an Act of Parliament passed to restrict the wearing of ribbons by anyone apart from the nobility. edfgv

As with many refined and still sought after textile practices, the survival and development of passementerie was intertwined with the survival of their makers. Many passementiers in the 1600s were French Protestant Huguenots who, on being forced to flee France, took their skills and tools with them, consequently transforming the skill base available in London.


At this point it is important to emphasize that passementerie was for both clothing and furnishing, precious garments and upholstery would have been trimmed, edged or gallooned. However, it was not until the late seventeenth century – when both clothes and furnishings took on an altogether more extravagant style – that demand and therefore passementerie industry properly grew. It in fact was not until the Napoleonic wars, in the nineteenth century, that the ribbon industry saw a set back, when the skilled workforce were called to fight. Although it may well have been a war that halted the ribbon industry’s ascent, the use of passementerie in military adornment proved to be, and arguably still is, a crucial life line for passementeriers.

dgs Today the craft is still dominated by French artisans, such as Paris Passementerie (illustrated here and one of the few passementiers who still make everything by hand) or in the not-so-distant past Coco Chanel. However there are a handful of practioners in the UK such as Jessica Light, Watts of Westminster and of course V V Rouleaux who maintain this rich traditional craft. ••• Paris Passementerie 1 Rue Condorcet, 75009 Paris Credit all images: PARIS PASSEMENTERIE, photographed by Thomas Straub and styled by Nelson Sepulveda. Model: DEILA from Upmodels - Paris.

ERRATUM - SOMETIMES WE MAKE MISTAKES This article was originally published in issue 73 (the Decorative edition) of Selvedge, we were too late to correct our incorrect credits in the print edition so, to help make up for our error, we are publishing the correct version here and amending the digital edition. Apologies to Paris Passementerie and any confused readers!


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  • Diane Morgan on

    If one goes to Morocco the richness of the craftspeople there making passementerie can be see. Tiny little workshops produce the most beautiful fringes and tassels and it is possible to place an order – go back a few days later and get your own piece of history – just wonderful.

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