Ever wonder if you might have actually met your personal Guardian Angel? This is the story of how Lloyd Klein may have met his and might lead you to wonder if you'll meet yours. When Lloyd was 25 years old, he was offered the extraordinary position as the Artistic Director for Maison Grès. It was the eponymous fashion house that was originally founded by the legendary, Madame Alix Grès, in Paris. One of the more daunting challenges that he faced when he accepted the role, was to reorganize the Grès artisans, and rebuild the atelier from scratch. It was 1992 and the atelier been already closed for several years following her retirement in 1989. The house had fallen from subsequent financial calamity by several entities who'd purchased the house after the Mme left for he South of France. What was left twas only a licensed memory of what had once been the most prolific Houses of Couture in France.
Normally, a newly hired Artistic Director, for a decades-old fashion house, would start off with the full support of a thriving atelier, fully staffed, and with a complete archive of physical dress samples, sketches, and images upon which to build from. But in this case, part of his job as Head of Design, was to start from scratch, quite literally. The atelier that had been the creative fountain that created some of the world’s most beautiful gowns and had become the favorite place for women of notoriety to visit at least once a year. The taxes on the business hadn't been paid and it was assumed that the building had been abandoned. The unpaid bills activated the government bureaucrats to respond by destroying the physical remnants of all that was left as was the normal practice more than as punishment. However, the result of this action left the house with nothing but history and memory of an enterprise that was largely only known to a relatively small group of clientele and fashion insiders. Yagi Tsucho, a textile conglomerate from Japan, purchased the Gres master license, with the intention of reinvigorating the trademark. They'd searched for the perfect candidate to replace the founder and bring the company back into business. After a long and exhaustive search they came upon a young designer who was getting great critical review and offered him the position.
THE REAL LIFE PROJECT RUNWAY CHALLENGE
So his first task, on his long list, was the re-formation of the atelier, which is the backbone of any fashion house. He needed to hire staff immediately. Although there is no shortage of capable hands to hire in Paris, aka, the capital of fashion, he knew the importance of bringing back as many of the previous and original staff that had worked with the Grand Couturier directly. They alone held the keys of knowledge and know-how that could unlock the secret of technique that was honed for decades of exactitude in craft, under the watchful eye of their beloved Madame. Only they would know the proprietary intricacies of draping and technical methods used by the Founder. Without their knowledge, it would be nearly impossible to recreate without her "recipes". Without them the techniques would remain hidden in the shadows of her mysterious legacy. Unlike most fashion designers, Madame Grès did not work from a pattern, but instead, created draping fabric on the body. Without understanding her technique of making 50 yards of jersey silk fabric disappear into a flowing, wispy goddess gown, that transformed into what seemed like a dress that used only 5 at the most, would have been long-lost, unless taught to the next generation.
As he began to call upon the various ex-staff members,optimistically assuming this to be a no-brainer, of sorts, his hope of reassembling the artisans was quickly dismantled. With each attempt to persuade the now retired staff to come back to work, he heard only, "no merci", "c'est impossible", and "absolument pas". His exuberance in tracking them down became increasingly desperate, as each door shut and when the fifth one slammed without a word in reply, he became worried. His situation was becoming grave and his youthful optimism was replaced by dread. As he was returning home to his flat in the Marais, confused and deflated, he stopped at his favorite cafe. just at the edge of the Seine, with the hope of coming up with a solution. For several years it had become his unofficial "office". He’d often composed his thoughts and it had served him well as a place to figure out what to do next. He rarely missed an opportunity stop by and enjoy that, which was for him, a sanctuary of creativity, that faithfully energized him time after time. Its ambiance was peaceful, and it drew other young artists who enjoyed it for their ritual afternoon coffee. As he sat trying to identify a new strategy, an idea came to mind. It was one of those “Voila” moments that he had pined for. He'd already come to the correct conclusion that his request was disregarded in part, because of his age. He saw the disdain on the faces of those who considered it a travesty for a 25-year-old to have the audacity to attempt to succeed the mantle of the respected Madame. The other reason for the general non-compliance, was that for the most part, they were now already ensconced in retirement and had accepted the generosity of leisure and time with grandchildren and family that is hard to give up once enjoyed. He needed someone who