Hatter, millist and formier, Sébastien Tessier becomes one of the eight new Masters of Art appointed for the class of 2022, almost thirty years after having been a student. Portrait.
« Even here in my village, they say: “we’re going to have to call you master!” His reputation catches up with Sébastien Tessier, who will become, this Tuesday, January 24, the trainer of one of the eight pairs of the new promotion of the Masters of Art-Students Program and one of the 149 Masters of Art in France. This title, awarded for life, makes it possible to put a spotlight on an unknown profession: that of formier, a rare know-how consisting in sculpting wooden forms on which to create hats. « Fashion is a world made up of little links and if only one link is missing, the chain no longer holds. The recognition of this profession by a state agency is not nothing, it is what makes us exist in the eyes of others even if we remain in the shadows. This title has status and gives confidence to clients who might come to see us. »
Double training as a millist and trainer
The entry into this program recalls another, that of the class of 1995 which Sébastien Tessier was part of as a Student. He then just graduated from a CAP as a milliner that he spent alternating with his «godfather», Tino Ré, a trainer by trade, in order to try, at the time, to work in the world of the show and to make costumes and sets for the theatre. « With a training in wood to make shapes and my diploma, I told myself that I would have facilities to repiquer on the circuit of the show. And finally I was caught up in a world I didn’t know, I discovered a new universe. And then, if I look at childhood photos, you see that I still have a hat and I like to modify them. »
After his time at Tino Ré, which is more focused on the training profession, he completes his luggage by working simultaneously at Maison Michel, a workshop specialized in hat making that works with haute couture brands. The director at the time, Pierre Debard, suggested that Sébastien Tessier join the transmission program. « It was a rather rich time since I was at Tino to make the shapes and it happened to me to leave home with the shapes in the bag and to hire the next day at the Maison Michel where we waited impatiently for these shapes to work on. So I found myself working on what I was making. Looking back, I realize that these experiences were an advantage. »
After several years with these two employers, the milliner and trainer decided to try a new experiment with the manufacture of the Montecristi panama, the “hat of princes and the prince of hats”, which fascinated him. « It’s the finest and finest panamas. I’ve learned to work with a really different straw to tame. It is not a very easy subject, it is solid with fragilities, we do not do what we want. But I was able to sell exceptional hats around the world. » He then returned to work for a while at the Maison Michel before leaving Paris for Brittany. Starting from scratch, he worked for a time at the Rennes station, thus taking on the dual role of … hat-worker! “ I had made fleece inserts in our caps for the winter, put the initials on the visors and I gave tips to cap a hat to female colleagues who still had a bibi. »
Purpose: create a collection
In 2020, he crossed paths with Yann Marchand, who came knocking at his door in his hat shop. “ He made shapes and wanted advice. We had a good laugh because we couldn’t make a hat about what he had done but I noticed it was well executed. » Yann indeed has a solid training as a carpenter obtained from the Compagnons du Devoir. For ten years, during his Tour de France, he worked on restoration sites for historic monuments. « A very enriching journey during which I could go through prestigious companies and for example participate in the manufacture of a wooden monastery. »
But this enthusiast is also a hat lover. So he decides to branch off and then contacts a milliner in Finistère to do an internship and learn the trade. « As I walked into his workshop, I stopped on the shelves with the shapes on them and wondered what it was. When I was told, I thought it was great. » But as professionals in this field were scarce, Yann struggled to find a trainer, until the day he came across an article about Sébastien Tessier in a local newspaper. « I took my car and went to see him. »
Recognition of this profession is what makes us exist in the eyes of others even if we remain in the shadows
Since then, the tandem has come a long way. The two men have created l'Atelier du formier and offer their forms to hat professionals in France and abroad. They work on linden wood, with multiple virtues: firm and tender at the same time, easy to work, with homogeneous veining that facilitates the polishing, it reacts well to the humidity and can therefore withstand the laying of the felt gorged with steam. The pair is perfectly complete: one has experience and technique, the other has fresh eyes and creativity. Their collaboration took a new turn with the entry into this transmission program and the objective of conducting a non-production work with the creation of a collection. « I have automatisms while he is completely virgin so when he makes a shape, I let him do it and I try not to interfere too much because I try to preserve this new vision. We are moving towards learning that will make him independent. »
Less than 15 formiers in Europe
Twenty-eight years after entering the program as a student, Sébastien Tessier is getting ready to wear a new cap, that of the Master of Art. « When we did the application, I have the impression that it stirred a lot of things because we are looking at our journey. I thought of Tino who did not have this recognition and who left me this know-how, this heritage that I share today. » For three years, he will strive to transmit an extremely rare know-how: fewer than fifteen professionals still work the forms in Europe and there is no specific diploma. Keeping the profession alive is therefore essential since its disappearance would have consequences on the professions of hatter, millist and the world of haute couture. « Working with professionals who need these shapes makes sense to me, pursues Yann Marchand. They need us, but also several formiers to have different styles and it comforts me in the idea of doing this job. » The passage of witness between the two men is still far away but the transmission and sustainability of the profession, it begins today.