Prix ​​des Artisanes 2022: Cécile Gray, the fairy who transforms metal into aerial mesh

Published on November 24, 2022 at 10:00 p.m.

The Prix des Artisanes, organized by ELLE, has unveiled its winners. Winner of the Fashion professions category, Cécile Gray transforms metal into aerial mesh. Portrait of an alchemist.

They excel in their know-how, perpetuate it, pass it on… In France, about 20% of artisans are craftswomen. Handmade virtuosos that the magazines ELLE, ELLE Décoration and ELLE à Table have decided to highlight by creating, in 2021, the Prix des Artisanes, with the support of the LVMH group. A real ode to excellence, aiming to reward young talents in the fashion, design, wine and preservation of French heritage. This year, the winner of this award, in the Fashion Professions category, is Cécile Gray. Finally, is called

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An incredible technique

This pseudonym, which uses the letters of her real name (Gayraud), is a nod to two icons of female creation: Madame Grès (1903-1993), eminent sculptor of haute couture draperies, and Eileen Gray (1878 -1976), a pioneer of design and a lover of fine craftsmanship. “I adopted this name at a time when I was an architect, explains Cécile. In parallel with my construction sites, I kept a blog on textiles and I wanted my two activities to remain perfectly separated. Because, like many artisans, Cécile Gray first had another life. From her eight years in an architectural firm, she retains a sense of volume and proportion, an obsession with structure, mathematical rigor… The somewhat frustrating memory, too, of spending her days in front of a computer screen. computer rather than having their hands in the material. In 2017, she took a few months off to train in textile design at the Atelier Chardon Savard in Paris. Her explorations are inspired by what she knows best: wood, concrete and metal, materials whose potential seems almost unlimited to her. Over the weeks, she developed a knitting technique that resembles jewelry: she crisscrosses hundreds of cabled wires of incredible finesse and holds them together with the help of small metal parts evoking a setting. Cécile Gray speaks of “weaving by crimping”. A method that requires infinite meticulousness and patience: everything is done by hand, with pliers, at the cost of long, very long hours of concentration.

Transmit know-how

After having designed a first mini-collection of ready-to-wear (a mixture of dark clothes and metal pieces, called “Why do architects dress in black?”), she was selected, in 2018, in the Accessories category of the Hyères International Festival. It stands out thanks to seven metal mesh jewels that hug the body with the delicacy of a breath. Clothing-jewelry, so to speak. Through the interplay of changes of scale, earrings stretch over a dizzying length, a necklace becomes a kind of levitating breastplate, a bracelet turns into a sleeve full of poetry… In fine, the adornment covers the whole body. This is the People’s Choice Award.

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© Jean-Philippe Lebee

From now on, Cécile Gray passes on her know-how. In her Parisian workshop, she trains apprentices from various backgrounds: art embroiderers, fashion designers, designers… For her part, she has also learned to work with leather and ceramics. “I like the idea of ​​bringing together people whose approach is fundamentally different, that’s what makes it possible to combine expertise, to further enrich techniques,” she says. Today, more and more big houses call on her, some for the creation of unique metal mesh pieces, others for her charmingly unusual transversal approach to ornamentation. “The metal mesh as I propose it offers in itself a lot of possibilities,” she continues. And we are constantly exploring new avenues, new ways of approaching it… Ultimately, the goal is to become a textile design workshop specializing in metal work. At a time of metaverse, online fashion shows and immersive digital boutiques, Cécile Gray attaches more value than ever to manual work and concrete dialogue with matter. “What attracts me the most in luxury, what touches me, is the craftsmanship, the excellence, the patience, the long time… It seems to me that this is where really emotion. It’s a beautiful image, I think, to see the hand of the craftsman as the intermediary of this emotion…”

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