The Feather Master
A closer look at the exquisite designs of Eric Charles-Donatien, whose feather-craft transforms dresses into works of art.
Paris-based plumassier Eric Charles-Donatien has never abided by the birds of a feather philosophy. While his colleagues at fashion school were daydreaming of becoming the next Coco Chanel, he was focusing on the fabrics and textures they could use to get there. “For me, having my own brand and doing things for my name was a dead end,” the designer says. “It was more challenging and interesting to put all you know into something that will not go in your direction.”
After interning at Hermès, he secured an entry level position at renowned featherwork brand Maison Lemarié, a Paris institution for plumed filagree since 1880. It was during his fourteen-year tenure there that Charles-Donatien discovered feathers’ malleability, helping to bring the historic company into the 21st century. “What we were doing was still from an old time—very madame, very chic. I thought about what I had to provide to this craft, and decided that I’m from mixed origins,”—though French-born, his parents are from Martinique—“let’s mix. Let’s take feathers and make new textures…What about making feathers look like fox? What about doing tiger in feathers? What about making them look like leather? Or wood?”
In 2010, he started his own studio in Paris, allowing him to stretch his creative wings further. He’s since collaborated with the leading fashion houses, which come to him—often just days before a show—to transform a dress from mundane to ethereal. Looking back, he understands why feathers were a perfect fit. “As a kid I thought I was an angel who had lost his wings, and my whole life’s aim has been to find them again. So I’ve always been in love with things that give you freedom—with traveling and being in the air. I even worked at an airport!”
Here, Charles-Donatien shares several of his most beloved pieces, including an installation at the reopened Hôtel de Crillon.