The history of an iconic brand
The history of an iconic brand
From the beginning of the 19th century firstly Calais then Caudry became the two principal areas of production of the exceptional Leavers lace. These two towns in the North of France, which are 170 kilometres apart, have made the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region famous worldwide for this unique craft.
Calais-The first tulle looms were brought by boat from Nottingham (UK) to the coastal town of Saint-Pierre lès Calais, now part of Calais, in the Pas-de-Calais region. Having been growing constantly the town reached a peak in around 1905 with over 500 mills, 3000 machines and 40,000 workers at the height of the Belle Epoque period.
Nowadays half a dozen lace-makers supply the top international lingerie and corsetry brands, some of them also supplying Haute Couture and women’s Ready-to-Wear designers.
Caudry-Situated in the heart of the Cambrésis area, well known in the middle ages for its linen weaving, the city of Caudry enjoyed exceptional growth due to the tulle and lace making industries. Since 1995 it has been recognized as a french ’Ville et métiers d’art’ (the Arts & Crafts City label given to towns that are notable for their cultural wealth and diversity of arts and crafts).
Around ten companies work mainly for all the top Haute Couture and luxury Ready-to-Wear designers, and to a lesser extent for lingerie corsetry.
Using their unique heritage both towns have developed cultural centres to allow the public to discover the craft of Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® produced in their factories.
In Calais there is the Cité Internationale de la Dentelle et de la Mode (International City of Lace and Fashion), and in Caudry the Musée des Dentelles et Broderies (Museum of Lace and Embroidery). Both are installed in former factories which have been completely restored and show the Leavers machines in action, as well as historical collections and contemporary exhibitions. They also support and promote experimental projects with young designers and position themselves as creative research laboratories.
The first mechanical looms were developed in England right at the beginning of the 19th century by John Heathcoat, then improved on by John Leavers. These machines with their brand new technology were smuggled from Nottingham over to the north coast of France in 1816, by the englishmen Webster, Clarke and Bonnington. This was the beginning of Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® as we now know it.
In 1837 the Jacquard system again improved the Leavers looms. It became possible to decorate the plain tulle with motifs, enabling lace to be produced that was identical to the handmade version. This major invention, coupled with other technological advances and the use of steam motors, marked the beginning of a prosperous industry.
For 200 years, this weaving technique has remained unsurpassed. France now possesses 80 percent of Leavers looms worldwide and they are all concentrated in Calais and Caudry.
In 1958, the label Dentelle de Calais® was created to avoid confusion between the woven lace and an inferior quality version which had just appeared knitted using the mesh method.
In 2015, the label Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® replaced Dentelle de Calais®. The new trademark in no way changing the definition of the label but bringing geographic precision and reinforcing its cultural heritage. This exceptional fabric is produced in Calais and Caudry and nowhere else.
The label Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® is a guarantee of the excellence of a product made in France, respecting the traditional skills on which it has founded its reputation.
It guarantees that this rare and precious fabric is made on Leavers looms, according to an original and unique method of thread intertwining derived from a 200-year-old tradition. The label allows people to differentiate between lace produced in Calais and Caudry and knitted mesh lace which is much more widespread.
The Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® trademark is the property of the Fédération Francaise des Dentelles et Broderies which controls its use. Only Leavers lace made by affiliated producers in Calais and Caudry may benefit from its use.
Many brands choose to put the Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® swing ticket on their products. With their individual serial numbers the labels clearly show the consumer exactly how and where the lace was produced.
The Dentelle de Calais-Caudry® label is exclusively reserved for Leavers lace woven in Calais or Caudry by lace makers affiliated to the Fédération Francaise des Dentelles et Broderies.