Ribbon is an indispensable fashion accessory, but also of great use. It is by definition a narrow textile, varying in width from a few millimeters to up to thirty centimeters across, characterized by though selvedges that give it the sense of being a finished object in its own right– this sometimes accounts for most of its ornamentation. All of the standard silk-weaving techniques can be used for the body of the ribbon, while the selvedges require a special set of methods that provide the ribbon with strength and decorative flair (it may be beaded, wired, rat’s teeth, picot, etc. The field of narrow textile also includes passementeries, galloons, chenilles, braids, rickracks and other braided laces.
In Saint-Étienne, in the Rhône-Alpes of France, there is a museum dedicated to ribbon. Indeed, the Museum of Art and Industry boasts the finest and most comprehensive collection of ribbon in the world!
This collection is rooted in the Museum of Fabrication founded by the large regional manufacturers in the 19th century, as a means of professional exchange: artisans could show their aesthetic and technical models, allowing for education and inspiration.
Scale models, embroidery samples, weaves and prints, Lyonnaise and Japanese silks, tapestries and needlepainting masterpieces are among the precious artifacts. Passmentier workshops, textile machines and furnishings illustrate the manufacture process, sketches, mappings, fashion plates, sample books and bundles are among the objects preserved.
In this way, the Saint-Étienne Museum of Art and Industry demonstrates the excellence of traditional savoir-faire constantly renewed since the 16th century- a true tech industry.
Between the delicacy of the ribbons and the impressive silhouette of the looms (of a height of about 6 meters), the visitor enjoys a dramatic contrast. Here they can revel in authentic woven greyscale images; elsewhere they can discover the magic of colorful weaving shuttles (available for purchase in the museum shop). According to the season, a visitor will have the pleasure of discovering a small-scale silkfarm or some treasures from the collection of couture dresses created with ribbon from such houses as Chanel, Maurizio Galante, Givenchy, Maison Martin Margiela…
But above all, the visitor will feel their heart pulse along the repetitive echos of the loom workers of the past.