Gold Embroidery - Couture Embroidery

stunning evening gowns © Michelle Chaplow
Not a machine in sight, all the work for the embroiderer's most high-profile clients is carried out by hand. (click on collage to enlarge photos) © Michelle Chaplow

Home | Dressing the Virgins | Couture | Process | See it


by Fiona Flores Watson

...from Page 2

After studying at art college in Seville, Francisco worked in the early 1980s embellishing wedding gowns for glitzy local designers Victorio and Lucchino (who created the late Duchess of Alba's wedding dress) - quite different from working on sacred garments.

One of the embroiderer's most high-profile clients, in international terms, is Spanish luxury brand Loewe. He worked on a variety of projects for them, from the 1990s until 2013, adorning stunning evening gowns, the height of glamour in a very Spanish style, including the Fiestas collection. But one of his favourite projects for the Madrid-based fashion house was a small production of hand-embroidered silk mantones (scarves), documented in a beautiful coffee table book which he proudly shows us.

In the book Francisco points out the typically intricate design, incorporating both contemporary, floral elements (roses, carnations), and vintage geometric shapes, rarely used now, such as checks. Francisco explains that these were inspired by the famous toca de rombo (diamond-patterned headdress) of the highly-venerated Virgen de la Esperanza from the Macarena church, created in the early 20th century by then-embroidery master, Juan Manuel Rodrigo Ojeda, who had a workshop of 25 women. Today's master craftsman, who has taken on Ojeda's mantle, was commissioned to create a new version of the Virgin's toca in 2008 - a huge honour which demonstrates Francisco's firm position at the top of his game. Now he is also creating a reproduction of another of this Virgin's tocas - the Juanita Reina from 1950. This toca will take 18 months to create.

The overall effect of the Loewe manton de manila is vibrantly sophisticated, with vivid Andalucian colours - pinks and oranges, reds and yellows - featuring the distinctive Loewe logo in the centre, and a hand-threaded cream silk fringe, as is traditional for these Spanish scarves. Only eight of the mantones were produced, each taking four people around three months to make, and retailing at upwards of 30,000 euros; they came with a booklet explaining how (and where) they were made. The scarves were commissioned by the luxury brand to showcase traditional Spanish workmanship, with artisans even doing a live demonstration, sewing the mantones in Loewe stores to bring to people's attention the extraordinary skill and attention to detail.

Continued ... Page 4 - How the embroidery process works