Horses for courses, as the saying goes, and lace rhymes with race. And not just any old horse racing event, but the race: Royal Ascot. Earlier this week, the Duchess of Cambridge caused a stir in her white Alexander McQueen lace dress on the opening day of this must-see event for both racegoers and fashionistas.
I love lace. And I love the fact that it is back on the runways. Because, you see, genuine, handmade lace is today akin to an endangered species.
Earlier this spring, in the heat of yet another race – this time the Presidential one in France – The New York Times ran a story of a dying town of Noyon in the northern Calais region that once derived its fame and prosperity from exquisite lace making.
The reason is simple: not enough people these days appreciate delicate French dentelle and the painstaking workmanship that goes into it.
The fate of Russia’s northern region of Vologda is not much different from that of Calais. Known for its intricate lace making since the late 18th century, Vologda has seen this handicraft gradually decline as industrialization and mass production took hold.
Today, Vologda’s lace making is on the brink of extinction, according to Tatiana Sokolova, a teacher who runs a local handicraft centre for children and youth.
To help preserve this valuable know-how and associated cultural traditions, the region is eyeing Russia’s up-and-coming fashion designers, like Ulyana Sergeenko. Sergeenko’s eponymous brand, steeped in Slavic traditions and folklore, is the best ambassador Russian lace could hope for. Earlier this week, the designer presented her lace-laden creations at the Vita Lace festival in Vologda, whence she sources lace for her collections.
Sergeenko compares lace to jewellery making; indeed, both crafts are among the most laborious and time-consuming. Yet unlike unwavering interest in artisanal jewellery, without a concerted effort to preserve and promote it, the historic art of lace making may soon become history itself.