Building connection one heart at a time
Building connection one heart at a time

Golden Thread of Art Running Through the Centuries

Pick Keobandith on gold embroidery in haute couture
05.30.2022
Golden Thread of Art Running Through the Centuries

Dr. Pick Keobandith is an expert in culture and cultural diplomacy and a person who is in love with art. As a journalist, she regularly interviews outstanding creative people from different countries and tells her readers a lot about what inspires and delights her. Pick Keobandith prepared an interesting lecture on gold embroidery in the field of fashion for her participation in a conference in Bukhara. Within our information cooperation with her, the Global Women Media journalists wrote an article based on the expert’s presentation.

Pik_профайл.jpg Pick Keobandith
PhD in Art History, expert in art and cultural diplomacy, founder and International Director of Inspiring Culture

Art and fashion represent that very ‘thread’ connecting people from different countries and eras with one another. Beauty, sophistication, and elegance motivate and inspire people. In that sense, the art is a language understandable to different people without words. It enchants us and enriches the world around us.

Pick Keobandith, PhD in Art History, is particularly fascinated by embroidery in fashion. After all, embroidery is what makes art closer to people. It is not just silk threads, glass beads, gold, feathers, or jewels on fabric. It is art integrated into life and expressed in clothing, which serves as the reflection of the person wearing it. That is why Pick Keobandith decided to devote her presentation at the conference in Bukhara specifically to gold embroidery in the works of outstanding designers from different countries.

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European and Asian gold embroidery started to be used in fashion many years ago. Such a trend has its own history and patterns of development. Today, many designers are aware of the ability of embroidery on clothing to mesmerize and literally ‘intoxicate’ with its sophistication. Thus, embroidery puts fashion designers at the same level with artists who create amazing paintings on canvases.

Gold embroidery is primarily associated with the Baroque art characterized by its brightness and abundance of gold. The Palace of Versailles in France, an outstanding monument of architecture of that style, has inspired many designers and continues to do so.

In the Baroque period, a person’s high status was demonstrated through well-elaborated decorations together with the abundance of jewelleries, luxurious clothes, and power. The Palace of Versailles, which was the embodiment of wealth and extravagance, illustrates that very well. Allegorically, it can be compared to an haute couture model in architecture. The use of gold can be seen everywhere in Versailles: in the garden, on buildings, statues, fountains, and paintings. Of course, the wardrobe of royalty had to match the gold décor of that place.

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Much of the gold in the palace came from the reign of King Louis XIV. To this day, he is still called the King of High Fashion or the King of Haute Couture.

King Louis XIV called himself the Sun King. Like the planets revolve around the Sun, he believed that France revolved around himself. That is probably why so much gold was used in the decoration of Versailles. King Louis XIV chose the Sun as his royal emblem and gold as his favourite colour to symbolise power and wealth.

The King consciously chose the course ‘towards luxury’ as a state policy. The furniture, textile, clothing, and jewellery industries created by King Louis XIV not only provided jobs for his subjects but also made France the world’s leader in the fields of fashion and technology. According to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the King’s Minister of Finance, “fashion is to France what the gold mines of Peru are to Spain”.

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Fashion became the main means of expressing King Louis XIV’s royal power. The majority of his iconic looks were made with gold and jewel embroidery. When the King demanded that all fine fashions must be made locally in France, he gave birth to a new epoch in the fashion industry.

Many of the embroidery skills used today in creating haute couture designer outfits were inherited from the 17th century’s French fashion.

At the same time, gold embroidery also has another ‘branch’ of history that goes back to the Uzbek national culture. The city of Bukhara, which was the capital of Sheibanid State in the 16th century, is of special importance here. Golden embroidery was made an official craft of the court. Later it gave rise to an entire fashion industry in the region.

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In the 19th century, masters of Bukhara gold embroidery art were known in many European countries. Interestingly, gold embroidery was primarily a male business although history does not deny the fact that their wives and daughters could also take a significant part in the work. Gold embroidery was a painstaking and time-consuming craft. It took long hours to create the pieces. Gold embroiderers who were called zarduz were organised in guilds. Only those who had undergone long and hard training and had been allowed to work independently could become their members.

Today, gold embroidery is a key symbol of Bukhara’s culture that we can see worldwide. It was developed and combined with many forms of art including high fashion (haute couture).

Bukhara’s embroidery was called ‘the sun craft’: the embroiderers often used the metallic gold thread able to catch the light.

Today, gold embroidery is widely used by many of the world-class designers. It is an element of the innovative contemporary high fashion, which highlights the freedom and boldness of a model’s self-expression. In her presentation, Pick Keobandith showed the works by the designers inspiring her.

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Embroidery took a spotlight in the Dior haute couture fall-winter 2021-2022 show. It should be mentioned that the French fashion designer Christian Dior himself always paid special attention to such decoration elements. For example, Princess Margaret wore a Dior dress with gold embroidery for her 21st birthday.

The designer Eva Jospin created a textile piece of art with floor-to-ceiling embroidery. She was inspired by her visit to the Palazzo Colonna in Rome where he saw the Salle aux Broderies gold embroidery for the first time. The embroidered fabric from India that used gold and silk thread is a landmark art object of that place. It belongs to a style, which is very challenging to replicate.

The Algerian-born famous designer Yves Saint Laurent also drew inspiration from French haute couture and subsequently left his own trace in its development. His collections include interesting designs that replicate the fashion of the Palace of Versailles in the 17th century.

Coco Chanel, French fashion designer and entrepreneur, was inspired by embroidery during her relationship with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia who showered her with fabulous luxurious gifts with gold embroidery and pearls. That is how the designer’s collections were gradually expanded with embroidered blouses, jackets and coats decorated with passementerie, and evening chemises studded with bugle beads and pearls. Oftentimes, the patterns were copied from Chinese vases, Coptic weaves, Oriental rugs, Indian jewellery, and Persian miniatures.

The Dominican fashion designer Oscar de la Renta who acquired international recognition in the 1960s was partially inspired by Bukhara’s embroidery. He decorated his evening gowns with jewels and pearls and also used metallic threads. Oscar de la Renta’s modern intricate designs also contain the use of golden thread.

The British fashion designer, couturier, and chief designer at Givenchy named Alexander McQueen used original and quite unusual materials in his works. For example, in addition to jewels, he used natural elements (razor clam shells and feathers) in his embroidered designs.

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The use of natural materials in embroidery has become not only an interesting creative solution but also a new phase in the development of embroidery.

Embroidery is also a key element of the works by the Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei. She was inspired by the extravagant gowns worn by women in the final years of the Qing dynasty. The designer’s works are interesting thanks to their innovative approaches to creating very intricate embroidery called ‘slow couture’. It takes thousands of dollars and countless hours to create the pieces of that handmade art.

Guo Pei is considered China’s first couturier. She created a gown for the singer Rihanna and Met Gala 2015. It took over 2 years to make it. Today, the exhibition of Guo Pei’s works takes place in in the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. The exhibition features her iconic gold embroidered dresses.

The works by the contemporary Haute couture designer from the Netherlands named Iris van Herpen are another interesting example of using embroidery in haute couture. She uses newest technologies and materials (for example, 3D printing) for creating her futuristic pieces of art. The fashion designer is characterized by her thinking outside the box. Her avant-garde pieces are unique in their detalisation and meticulous workmanship. The author strives to create one-of-a-kind pieces where each thread is placed precisely according to her plan.

The development of gold embroidery in haute couture is a wonderful example of how new approaches, trends, and creative visions harmoniously supplement centuries-old traditions.

The world is rich and beautiful in its diversity. Every culture with no exception has amazing examples of inspiring and exciting art. The fact that people from different countries adopt the best experience from one another is particularly valuable. Thus, they, make the world even more interesting, rich, and beautiful.

Photos by Pavel Ivanov, Lindy Joubert, Vincent Garnier

Text by Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency

Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov


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