When markets were opened up by globalization, the more traditional sectors of the European economy, such as textiles, were plunged deep into crisis. Entire regions saw their industries and skills disappear, and with them a social fabric that was in some cases centuries old.
However, the last few years have brought a resurrection of traditional skills and a new expansion of industrial and artisanal manufacturing. This upturn is clearly apparent in garment production, interior decoration, architecture and the transport industry (on land, air and sea). So old production tools and skills that might have seemed a burden just a few decades ago now increasingly appear as the drivers of a revival.
The opportunity this represents has been only recently understood and places the various actors in a relationship to time and heritage that goes beyond simple issues of production costs. The contributions of three very different individuals engaged in contemporary textile creation in the field of the decorative arts enable us to demonstrate here that heritage is key to the creative process. Marie-Hélène Dali-Bersani, Production Director of the Mobilier national (Manufactures nationales des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de Savonnerie et des dentelles du Puy et d’Alençon) clearly shows how the tradition of weaving, a process unchanged since the establishment of the Garde-Meuble in the 17th century, can serve contemporary artists. Sophie Mallebranche uses period production tools to create new textures in woven metal. Meanwhile Pierre Frey, Communications Director at Maison Pierre Frey and grandson of the founder, explains that designers adapt more effectively to changing fashions in decorative fabrics when they can draw on the heritage of the firm. So heritage is about far more than simply managing the legacy of the past; it has become the driver of modernity and renewal.
In their relationship to time (in terms of both manufacture and heritage) textiles are no longer regarded solely as material to cover or dress an object. Their traditional or innovative esthetic characteristics give them greater legitimacy. They are not simply industrial products, but can be elements in an art of living or components of social distinction. This development notably occurs through a new importance given to their historic dimension, known as “storytelling” in marketing circles, in which a particular product is intertwined with history. So it is that time and history seamlessly combine and work together in the service of contemporary design.