September 20, 2021

France -The Souleiado Museum in Tarascon

At the cause of the pandemic, last year I've discovered the south of France and, most importantly, I've discovered I like it. Also last year, I've discovered an YouTube channel called The Chateau Diaries where the owner of a castle in France started vlogging about life at the castle and about her passions, one of them being old fabrics such as Toile de Jouy and this Souleiado.

I remember briefly that last year on our visit to Tarascon, I've passed by the museum, but did not bother to enter as I knew Souleiado being a luxury brand I find interesting, but not interesting enough to spend my money on. 

But, after seeing Stephanie's vlog at the museum, convinced me that it is actually in line with my passion for the history of textiles. Arriving there I also found out that they allow dogs in the museum and that was the final click that proved it was the right thing to visit. 

So a bit about Souleiado and the printed cotton in Provence, France.

Tarascon is located close to Marseille, a big port, where all the printed fabrics would arrive from India and Turkey, the locals naming the fabrics "indienne". The local craftsmen saw the beauty of those fabrics and started producing their own in most cases employing Armenian craftsmen. Quickly they became more affordable than the embroidered silk produced in Lyon that was in fashion at that time in France. As well they were introduced into the French Royal Court and soon they started replacing the silk. The silk manufacturers complained to the king which was Louis the XIV and he gave an edict banning the wearing, the production and the sale of printed cottons. So the producers in Marseille were forced to either go to England, Switzerland or Alsace, which was in Germany at that time or to go to Avignon, which was under the property of the Pope and not the King. Seeing that his edict did not stop the Provencal printed fabrics, the king gave three years later a second edict, ordering the destruction of everything related to the printing of cotton. The producers, having huge quantities of white cotton,  specialised in quilting, a technique which is called "boutis" and it is to be found even in Romania on the blouses of Banat region. Only in Banat, it met the Balcanic influence and the embroidery is not made with white thread, but with metallic thread, the technique being somewhat similar. 

Two kings later, Marie Antoinette was queen and she loved all the things inspired by the peasant life and she reintroduced printed cottons to the court in Versailles. From then on they were called Provencal fabrics and the women from the region introduced them into their traditional dress. 

In 1806 the first textile factory was open in the convent in Tarascon by Jean Jourdan, it passed from generation to generation and from money crises to money crises until 1916 when it was the last "indienne" (cotton printed as in India) maker in Provence. A chemist, Charles Henri Demery decided to save the factory, bought it and under his influence the factory flourished. His nephew inherited the factory with only 10 employees and made it what we see today. It changed ownership in 2009, but the current owners only continue what was put in place then. All the history is here.

Today, Souleiado is what I would call a luxury brand, its popularity increased when Princess Diana wore a bag produced by Souleiado at a horse race or something and you can find their stores all over the south of France, the closest one to Luxembourg being the one in Paris. 

Souleiado started its textile production with handkerchiefs, ribbons and scarfs like the ones you can see women wearing around their neck and tight around the waist. 

In France as in Romania, children clothes rarely survived, so when you see an every-day dress in a museum look closely and appreciate it. 

I love the delicacy of the everyday clothes

In the museum, besides mannequins dressed in Souleiado fabrics there are a dining area and a bedroom also decorated with printed cotton.

Even the floor is something that I would include in my house today

This is what I was saying above. When the king Louis the XIV gave the edict banning the production of printed cotton, the craftsmen found themselves with a lot of white cotton. So they perfected the trapunto quilting technique from Italy, but called "boutis".  The embroidery from Banat region in Romania is first of all an embroidery technique and not a quilting one, but the result is similar to what you can see in the embroidery loop, just that instead of sewing white fabric over white fabric, you put cotton or wool on the design and cover it with metallic thread. To me it looks similar, to a trained person this could be a lot of rubbish. 

Even the bathrooms in Souleiado Museum are worth a visit

There are a few cases with pottery from the region and it is all lovely, but I've liked this jug the most.

Inside one of the interior courtyards.

There are, of course, the more contemporary Souleiado creations. This one I think I saw on the Chateau Diaries

I love the skirts, but I haven't seen them on their store and I doubt I could let myself buy one as they are expensive, to me.

Come on, tell me this is not something you would wear today?

Finally, Princess Diana's bag in a Souleiado store in Arles, I think.
The museum also has a shop which, to my husband's relief, I forgot to visit :)

I hoped you found this post somewhat interesting. I intend to write such posts from time to time, not only related to textiles, but next will be one on jewellery, another on a very contemporary trend and a love of mine, stripes :), so posts about things that I find interesting, that are not necessarily related to us living in Luxembourg, but the connection is there, always.

This being said, I hope you like reading the post as much as I've enjoyed putting it together. I hope to see you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu 

No comments: