Eric Charles-Donatien is a plumassier - the last one in Paris. The colourful world of haute couture is his home. Each of his feather creations - hotly coveted in Hollywood and on the world's runways - is, above all else, an attempt to find his lost wings.
What’s a plumassier?
“A plumassier is a person who works with feathers. It’s a very simple job. The only thing we need to do it is a few old sewing machines, and that’s it. Everything else is handmade. Every piece is unique. You never come into contact with the same thing twice. The material – feathers – is as transitory as ideas themselves, and obeys in unexpected ways. That’s very hard to understand today with all the computers and machines”.
Eric’s imagination wanders backwards in time in front of us. A true artist. One can’t pull away from him. “Feathers are among the oldest materials worn by human beings. In order to warm themselves, to impress. But look in any historical museum – feathers were mostly used in order to make oneself look nice”.
„We are only interested in the experience itself. That, which our feathers make come alive, the smell, the touch, the smell…"
The loft-like studio is located on the ground level in the inner courtyard of an old, weathered Art Nouveau apartment building buried deep in the quartier. It’s functionally decorated. Dozens of lamps turn the grey, rainy day into a sunny one. A workshop in the best sense. No glamour, and without any concession to potential clients. Eric’s world is colourful, and his face speaks volumes. He could work anywhere if he had to – even without windows, in some basement. He would light up the room with his own brightness.
„I’m an angel, wanting to find his wings again.“
You only make fashion for women?
“I look for the woman in the man, the man in the woman – a very time-consuming search…“ Would he wear this feather jewellery himself? I point to an androgynous, faceless Styrofoam head wearing a small, shaggy piece of feather jewellery. “Of course”, he says, fast as a bullet. I ask him to come outside into the rain with me.
Or would that be a problem for the feathers?
He smiles at me defiantly and puts on the headpiece. “I’m working on a new collection, for men. One day I will succeed. Look at the American Indians. What the men there wear on their heads, when they’re going to war…”
Read the whole story in Falke footprints
Eric Charles-Donatiens favorite spots in Paris are: