Lesley Miller will deliver a Françoise and Georges Selz Lecture on Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture on Tuesday, April 25 at 6 pm. Her talk is entitled “From Design Studio to Marketplace: Products, Agents, and Methods of Distribution in the Lyons Silk Manufactures, 1660–1789.”


Lesley Miller is Acting Keeper of Furniture in the Textiles and Fashion Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Professor of Dress and Textile History at the University of Glasgow. She was a lecturer in design, textile, and fashion history at UK universities for twenty years before becoming Senior Curator of Textiles and Fashion (before 1800) at the V&A in 2005. Most recently she was seconded to lead the curatorial and interpretation team responsible for delivering the narrative for the Europe 1600–1815 Galleries at the V&A (2010–15). She is an authority on silk manufacturing in eighteenth-century Lyons and has written extensively on this subject, her most recent book being Selling Silks: A French Merchant’s Sample Book of 1764 (V&A, 2014). She is currently working with the curatorial team preparing the exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the V&A, for which she has revised and extended her book on the Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga (forthcoming 2017).

By the late seventeenth century, the French city of Lyons had become the most innovative centre of silk manufacturing in Europe and it continued to excite envy and emulation among its European competitors right up until–and beyond–the French Revolution. Seasonal designs for fashion silks were produced by highly regarded silk designers, woven up by highly skilled weavers, and sold on by travelling salesmen who touted Lyonnais goods across Europe and to European colonies overseas. This lecture draws attention to how different types of products in Lyons determined courses of action within the manufacturing and commercial sphere, courses of action that informed technological experimentation and created opportunities for the practitioners of the increasingly important trades of designer and salesman. The cultural background of the practitioners of these new trades is particularly illuminating. After a brief overview of the existing literature on fashion and Lyonnais silks, the focus shifts to an analysis of the role of design and designers in the manufactures, and from there to the role of sales and salesmen.