Piles, wracks, clotheslines rife with feathers. Master artisans work diligently over jigs and sewing-machines to arrange them into elegant cascades of color and texture. All the while, a muffling hum fills the room: tumblers that dry freshly dyed plumes. It's orderly chaos, the kind that only the best are capable of managing.
Mazzanti Piume is indeed the best. Founded in Florence over 80 years ago, Mazzanti is one of the last remaining ateliers specialized in feather embellishments and accessories. The craft used to be much more popular, especially in the days when women commonly adorned their hats with feathers. With changing trends, though, women laid their hats aside and the demand for artisans specialized in this art drastically decreased. Some chose to industrialize at the expense of quality. Others, like Mazzanti Piume, chose to shift their focus exclusively on commissions for their more prestigious clients.
Today, the atelier is run by Duccio (pictured below). Thanks to his foresight, the family name has become inextricably tied to the magical world of high fashion. In fact, his workshop is a common destination for discerning creative directors of the most prestigious maisons that comb the world in search of craftsmen capable of transforming their vision into reality. Duccio and his team have yet to let them down.
You would be hard pressed to find a haute couture garment with feathers on it that hasn't passed through this workshop: Dolce & Gabbana (pic 1), Oscar della Renta (pic 2), Chanel (pic 3), Gucci (pic 4). The list goes on...
I recently visited Duccio in the family workshop and had the opportunity to see him and his artisans at work. I had seen the finished product countless times on runways and in the window displays that line Fifth Avenue. But, I never could have imagined the intense manual labor and pain-staking attention to detail that goes into affixing a single feather to a dress... Not to mention several hundred for an entire collection!!
My visit to Mazzanti's workshop was a snapshot glimpse into the complex world behind luxury runway curtains. It was truly a privilege to see Duccio working alongside his artisans. I witnessed a magical world where elegance and quality are top priorities. They are foremost on a Creative Director's mind when designing a collection, just as they are the first consideration of Duccio and his artisans when deciding how, and where to place every single feather.