Hands Up: Madame Olivia (Chanel)

July 6, 2021



Her pale pink lacquered fingers make circles; they skim the air as if it were made of crystal satin. “Making huge dresses that weigh nothing,” she says. In the workshop she runs, the Chantilly lace flounces gently snake a black muslin petticoat under a cotton gauze cape. You can almost see the bride’s breath. A mother who is a hairdresser in Lille; a grandmother who is a seamstress she never knew; a family that is all about one daughter — the only one, of course: Olivia Douchez, 38 years old, blonde like the sun of the South, the angelic skin of a sturdy northern girl. Gradient frizzled tulle, frayed, turned, petals of organza embroidered at 31 rue Cambon. The two adjoining rooms seem to float in the clouds. “I try to be zen, the stress rubs off on the dresses. Everything from her hands, like those of her workshop (33 people), becomes a promise. The joy of double-sided mikado and pleated blouses following the curves of the body. “I am blurred. I have more affinity for flowing fabrics. I love suits. But I have more emotion in volumes. Chanel was my dream. From school to workshop, twelve years at Givenchy-, she affirms “It’s on the ground that we learn”. Passing a gathering thread, tucking the fabric to make the clips disappear — pleating a silk chiffon, not forcing anything, sliding a bias of organza between the model and the soleplate of the iron so as not to shine the fabric. Each gesture has a softness that counts. And even if the capricious velvet, “marks”, the fabrics pulse and smile. “We never take the dress fully in our hands. All it takes is a speck of dust and you need to start all over again.” @laurencebenaim

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