All the Pretty Horses

Horsehair, a traditional and noble fiber 

Durable and silky le crin, otherwise known as horsehair, was la mode during the Napoleonic era. Apart from being a practical fly swatter (and still is to date) for our equine friends, le crin was used for upholstery in coaches and trains, elegant furnishings in salons, distinguished military uniforms, and feminine crinolines for "les belles personnes et la noblesse." With the advent of synthetic materials like viscose and polyester, the use of horsehair fell out of favor among interior and fashion designers. However, since the mid-1990s, the use of it has made a galloping comeback in home furnishings, clothing, and other fashion accessories.

Since 1814, Le Crin, has produced hand woven fabrics made with horsehair. This one-of-a-kind workshop, located in Challes—about 62 miles outside of Paris—uses fourteen 19th century jacquard looms. Sixteen weavers who perform different tasks take turns using the looms to produce on average 3.28 yards by 27.56 inches width of fabric. This width is limited to the horsehair's length.

The hair comes directly from horses in Mongolia. There, herds run free in an open range where there are no trees or fencing that could snag and damage the hair. After the horsehair is snipped from the tail, the labor intensive process begins. Each strand of hair is sorted individually to be cleaned, and once the cleaning is completed, weavers hand prepare the loom, which involves the interlacing of two sets of fiber threads at right angles to each other: the warp (cotton, linen or sisal and the weft (the horsehair). The warp are held taut and in parallel order as they pass through heddles on two or more harnesses. The warp threads are moved up or down by the harnesses creating a space called the shed – into which the horse hair is placed.

In addition to its upholstery fabric, Le Crin also weaves window sheers from the horse's mane. The technique called guipage allows for the horsehair to be spun and made into a continuous yarn from the mane's shorter hair strands. The weavers at Le Crin can weave casements up to 59 inches wide. Other fibers combined in the various draperies, sheers, scrims, and canopies include linen, cotton, wool, or simply the horsehair itself.

Le Crin—now a luxury brand of Créations Metaphores, and subsidiary of the Holding Textiles Hermès (HTH) since 1996—consists of two collections. The Classic Collection includes upholstery designs that date back to the 18th century and derive their motif inspiration from the Moblier National archives. The Contemporary Collection includes a wider color range, and jacquard patterns of wefted horsehair of variegated colors that imitate snakeskin, among other designs. Other product extensions using horsehair include leather and braided horsehair accessories used for clothes, leather goods, shoes, and luggage.

Le Crin furniture installations can be found in various prestigious institutions and retailers including the French Senate and National Assembly, the Hotel Scribe in Paris, The Mark Hotel in New York. Cartier stores in Paris. Numerous historic chateaus including Fountainebleau, Rambouillet, Malmaison. The Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the White House (the library and dining room seats).

To learn more about of Créations Metaphores and Le Crin, please visit www.creations-metaphores.com.

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