Sunday 14 April 2013

Meetings with Remarkable Women * Monique Lévi-Strauss Talks About Cashmere Shawls

Monique Lévi-Strauss (née Roman) is a textile researcher, well-known not only in France, but also internationally, having arranged textile exhibitions around the globe. She is the undisputed authority on the subject of 19th century French cashmere shawls. At that time there was in France (and also in a Britain) a great craze for these shawls which had come into the country via Egypt with the returning army of the defeated Napoleon. The reaction to them had been immediate and sales exploded. With supplies limited, it wasn't long before home production took off, helped by the technology of the Jacquard loom. You will hear in the interview below, how Monique came to put together an astonishing collection of shawls, a number of which are in the large collection of the Musée du Vieux Nîmes, in the South of France. She began collecting in Parisian flea-markets and bought the best she could at the lowest price, since she didn't have very much money. However, when she asked the sellers about provenance, no-one seemed to know. Astonished that the knowledge of cashmere production and the history of the shawls had largely been forgotten in just over 100 years. Monique set out to research these stunning textiles To date she has authored a number of books on the subject and the one below is perhaps my favourite, though they are all fabulous books. A good and economical source of the books is the Musée du Vieux Nîmes - they do have a shop. You might also be interested to know that Monique Lévi-Strauss was married to the great anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

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