Art & Photography / In Pictures

Lace and Fashion: On Aura Tout Vu

The International Centre of Lace, Calais, presents Sensations: On Aura Tout Vu

On Aura Tout Vu
On Aura Tout Vu Photography by Frédéric Collier

In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the opening of The International Centre for Lace, this month the museum presents On Aura Tout Vu: Sensations, detailing the fantastical, glittering world of designers Livia Stoianova and Yassen Samouilov. “It is couture, but a little twisted,” explains curator Lydia Kamitsis. "They are not couturiers, although they know the tricks of the trade; nor are they fashion followers, although they master the medium perfectly."

“It is couture, but a little twisted" — Lydia Kamitsis

The Bulgarian designers graduated from the National Academy of Art in Sofia in the early 1990s before launching On Aura Tout Vu, which roughly translates as You Think You’ve Seen it All. Their witty and imaginative couture costumes incorporate a number of eccentric and everyday items including spoons, forks, lemons and watches, blended with elaborate crystals, fur and of course, lace. “We were stopped at customs with this one,” explains Samouilov in reference to their dress made from hanging watch fobs. “As we had a big, ticking bag… they thought it might be a bomb.” Their stag headpieces and flamboyant corsetry has been worn by the likes of Lady Gaga, Ivana Wong and a host of royals.

Calais has spent many years reaffirming itself as Europe’s promotional hub and resource centre for lace. The museum houses 2,500 metres of lace within their permanent collections, covering four centuries of hand craftsmanship. They hold five working Lever’s lace machines, tracing back the history of mechanical lace as well as an impressive digital catalogue. The intricities of lace are astonishing: it would take hours and sometimes days to produce one square centimetre. It was a highly lucrative industry in its time, with lace makers placing their looms within wooden boxes, so that those working on either side would not steal their designs.

On Aura Tout Vu previously created a series of hybrid mythical creatures and dolls for an exhibition at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, which hang throughout the space, alongside literary scrolls from Theophile Gautier and Jane Austin to Oscar Wilde, most poignantly his 1924 verse in which he wrote, “All dress is fancy dress, is it not, except our natural skin?”

On Aura Tout Vu: Sensations is at The International Centre for Lace untll December 31.

Text by Mhairi Graham