I don’t know about your high school career day, but mine did not include the option to learn about being a plumassier. What, pray tell, is that? A plumassier is a skilled artisan who crafts flowers, trims, or entire garments from feathers and other delicate materials. At the turn of the last century, there were 300 plumassiers plying their trade in Paris, principally trimming women’s hats.
But times change. Today, there are almost no plumassiers left in Paris, or anywhere else, for that matter. Those who are still in business have formed important alliances with haute couture houses. Lemarié, a firm that dates from 1880, crafts those lush camellias for Chanel – 20,000 of them a year! Some of their other clients include Dior, Valentino, and Lacroix.
Nelly Saunier has her own Paris atelier, and a no less exalted client list including Givenchy, Nina Ricci, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. According to industry legend, an entirely plumed bolero that she created for Gaultier’s 1997 collection required 1,000 hours of work. She also teaches a course at a Paris high school to try to pass on her savoir faire before there are no more plumassiers. Why couldn’t my high school have had that class?
Today’s expression, c’est un fleuron à votre couronne, (set uh fluron a votruh cooron) literally means “that’s a flower-shaped ornament in your crown” or, more succintly and figuratively, “that’s a feather in your cap.” One of the fleurons that Saunier has enjoyed was the 2009 Prix (see yesterday’s entry to learn more about this word) Liliane Bettencourt. This is particularly fitting, since the slogan of the Bettencourt foundation is “Donner des ailes au talent” (dunnay days ell zo talon) or “Giving wings to talent.”