Brainchild of Jean-Jacques Guerlain, the Colbert Committee was established in 1954, uniting businesses and houses associated with French luxury.
A short history on its name explains its role and current causes. Colbert, who was one of Louis XIV’s most important ministers, encouraged, along with others, the development of commerce and industry, supporting the exportation of French products and favouring the excellence of craftsmanship, notably supporting the Mobilier National and the Manufacture des Gobelins.
The Colbert Committee, represents and promotes the values of French luxury items in France and around the world: it encourages its members to develop and defines itself as a place to reflect about luxury and its evolution, to study craftsmanship and its heritage and to celebrate the cultural influence which this sector has. The committee contained 14 houses when founded but now counts up to 75, each one meeting five strict criteria: international ambition and a unique character, quality, design, poetry of the object and ethics. Amongst these companies, twelve represent the fashion world: Bonpoint, Céline, Chanel, Chloé, Christian Dior Couture, Eres, Givenchy, Jeanne Lanvin, Lacoste, Leonard, Pierre Balmain and Yves Saint Laurent, whilst seven work in leather, including Hermès, Delvaux and John Lobb.
Particularly attached to the enhancement of craftsmanship, the Colbert Committee makes a point of promoting these trades in art and design schools and aims to inform the younger generation about these traditions. Artisans are able to accept the Ordre des Arts et Lettres and can be named Maîtres d’Art: the haute couture seamstress at Chanel, Martine Houdet, received this second honour in 2006, whilst Raffaele Llardo, an haute couture tailor at Christian Dior received in in 2008; Aïcha Neddaf, the pattern designer and head of the female prêt-à-porter department at Christian Dior, who began working at the company in 1979, was honoured with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2011.
Well aware of the crucial role of craftsmanship in the development of French fashion and haute couture, the Colbert Committee preserves and values these two fields, helping them to evolve whilst encouraging them to maintain the excellence that they’re known for.