Jean Melkonian

Premier d’Atelier (Head Tailor), Ready-to-wear
Christian Dior Couture

My Métier d’Excellence 

I’m the  Premier d’Atelier, or Head Tailor, for ready-to-wear at Christian Dior Couture, which means I supervise the making of the clothes in the workshop. My task begins when I receive the studio sketches for the runway show, annotated by Maria Grazia Chiuri, our Artistic Director. I next get together with my teams and begin by distributing the sketches to the pattern makers. Then I check their work and make adjustments if needed to make sure everything is exactly the way Maria Grazia wants it. We continue until we have a finished garment with the actual fabric, perfectly crafted and ready for the runway show.  

My background

I grew up in this milieu since my mother had a ready-to-wear workshop. I learned a huge amount from her. She passed on her know-how to me. I went to a school to learn about leatherworking for three years, and then furs. I actually began my  career working in leather and fur before joining Maison Yves Saint-Laurent, where I worked both in ready-to-wear and haute couture. After many years at Saint-Laurent, I joined Azzedine Alaïa, and finally I went to Christian Dior in 2007, as Premier d’Atelier for ready-to-wear, my current position.  

What I love most about my métier 

The challenge of each new collection and the need to have everything ready and completed on time. In fact I’m the one who sets challenges for myself, that’s what really gives my work an extra spark, always striving to create the absolutely best possible quality. Since I’m passionate about couture, this lets me keep progressing, always trying to surpass myself to achieve excellence.  

My advice for someone starting out in this profession

You have to be passionate about this métier, you can’t count the hours you spend and you have to be all in, because this is a métier you can only learn by practicing it. The only way to progress and master the savoir-faire involved is to work. Perseverance is also essential, you can never just give up. And in the same vein, I’d add curiosity and a thirst for learning by observing everything that’s going on outside the atelier, looking at magazines, visiting stores. I truly enjoy sharing the things I’ve learned with apprentices who have these qualities, because there’s a real exchange between us.  

An anecdote?

There was a moment that made me feel tremendously proud when I first joined Dior. John Galliano had designed a collection around origami, with incredibly complex pieces. And it was even more difficult because I hadn’t seen how he’d made the haute couture pieces. So I did my own research, watched the videos of the runway show again and again until I was able to really understand the collection and imagine how to make the ready-to-wear pieces. It was a great accomplishment for me since I had just arrived at the Maison.