Moirés by Maire & Fils

Free, traced, musical, mirror, beaten, French, Egyptian, antique…these are just some of the terms used to describe moiré fabrics and their beautiful rippling effects.
Moiré is an artisanal product created by interrupting and crushing the grain of a fabric in order to produce a given motif. The surface modifications effect the way that light diffuses from the material. As the angle of viewing changes, moiré comes alive. Its vibration, contrasting waves, changing reflections and shimmering patterns are without parallel.
01_Maire et Fils__moire__c_Sylvie_MarotMaire & Fils samples
Since 1873 the family of Maire & Fils has been devoted to making moiré. Located in the 6th arrondissement of Lyon, near Golden Head Park, they are without a doubt the last remaining atelier doing such fabric finishing. Moiré has its roots in Antiquity and won its pedigree thanks to Lyonnaise silk. For five generations the business has preserved the savoir-faire needed to create antique moiré (with long waves), free moiré and French moiré (traces with toothed wooden rulers).
The ways of working and the tools used have changed over time and so some techniques have been lost, which others have transformed. As for the reign of silk, it gave way to other materials both natural and synthetic. All weaving, except for satin and voile, allow for moiré – it is easy, then, to see the infinite possibilities.
06_Maire et Fils__moire__regle a dents__c_Sylvie_MarotMaire & Fils rulers with teeth
Among the most beautiful, so-called musical moiré is now a part of our past as its production ended in the early 1950s. Its effects were obtained through weaving rather than crushing, via cylinders with motifs and combs with moveable teeth. But without manufacturers for these tools, these moirés are simply irreproducible. Registries conserve some precious samples in perpetuity.
At Maire & Fils, moiré techniques are considered house secrets transmitted from father to son, and their acquisition entails a long apprenticeship. It is a human craft, sometimes quite physical. Its very manual nature leaves very little room for mechanization. Two people per loom are required. The eye and the hand work in tandem. If the eye is not pleased, the hand must start again until a sample can be validated and then produced. The steps succeed one another tirelessly: dressage, tracing, moiré-making, conditioning. It takes approximately two hours to produce 100 meters of such fabric.
02_Maire et Fils__moire__c_Sylvie_MarotMaire & Fils samples
Originally, the step most strictly the act of moiré-making – the pressing portion – was performed cold with a stone mass weighing 35 tons. This imposing object did not break until 1901, when it was replaced by cylinders providing the same pressure and aided by heat.
This manner of working requires a certain discretion. The spread in France and abroad of this “art of making” can only be achieved by production destined for couture, luxury furnishing and historical restoration. The limits of moiré are only based on the desires of its commissioners. And whether reproducing or innovating new designers, it is always an exceptional undertaking. WIthout a doubt, in this wholly unique and masterful craft, research and development are crucial. The task is to transmit knowledge and history while responding to contemporary needs.
How can we be anything but moved by the fragility of this small enterprise? To fight against its extinction, we are left with the wildness of imagination!
Cover Photo: Maire & Fils moiré known as “musical”, cylinders and combs with moveable teeth
Photo Credits: Sylvie Marot