Hands Up: Jean Philippe Burucoa (Chanel)

October 5, 2021
Photo credits : Laurence Benaïm

Every time you walk into the Chanel Maison, you get the impression that a floor has been built; that the rue Cambon and rue Duphot sides are constantly being connected by new corridors and new offices. Behind the black “Jean Philippe” door, accessible by badge only, the large white work tables contrast with the Stockmans that pop with coloured toiles in pink, blue, yellow – “the test for apprentices”. We are in the third ready-to-wear workshop, that of Jean Philippe, who sums up his career in three well-defined sentences. “At eight years old, I had three dreams: to go to Chanel, to see yellow taxis, and to take a trip in Orient Express,” he says, remembering this as though it were yesterday. “When little, I sewed, I collected pieces of fabric, and then I started making binders. This was my base.” Stowed under a cutting table, the object is there with articles slipped into the eyelet pockets – pages of advertisements with Inès de la Fressange that tell of a passion. The energy is palpable; the joy intact. Entering the house twenty-two years ago, he maintains: “The first time I made a blouse, it came out of my head, my heart, my hands. Finally, in my hands, there is all that I am”. When he speaks of his hands, Jean Philippe Burucoa (which alternately translates as “head”, “damn”, “leader” in Basque) speaks of all the others, those who prolong the work, do not “keep” a jacket for themselves, for example, but reaffirm their versatility. “The hand has to transmit. I want us to be acrobats.” The fabrics speak to him. With each collection, they are lighter and lighter. Touching a net of jet beads tied with black satin, he says, “It’s flexible, it moves, it lives.” Tweed, “as malleable as chewing gum” – although he says you still have to exercise “control” without “felting” it when ironing. As for jersey, it can be “complicated to stitch”. Never mind the leather satins and the perilous exercise of piped pockets. “I touch the fabric, and I wonder what it tells me; every time it’s a different story.” There is an expression for the Maison’s famous suit: we say that we take it “in rabbit skin” — a tweed, a lining, that we turn over, so as not to have a hem that passes the famous gold chain, which gives the jacket its aplomb. Thus the jacket, known as the “5 pieces” comprises pockets at the neckline, twenty pieces, twelve days of work for the development of the model… And ultimately, thirty pairs of hands to coordinate: “I play chef; I no longer have my hands in the matter. But if I lost them, it would be the end of my life”. @laurence-benaim

Photo credits : Laurence Benaïm

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