In a few weeks, the mythical cabaret on the Champs-Elysées will host its latest feathered revue and say goodbye to its “Bluebell girls” to become a musical performance hall, as desired by its buyer, the hotel group Accor, with 157 jobs at stake. removed out of 184.
“It’s a shock: the Lido was not a client, it was a second family: it paid my rent but it was more than that. And I feel very sorry for all those who will be made redundant”, Mr de Roo, 73, whose family business, RD Plumes, has worked for the Lido for two generations, told AFP.
In his shop-workshop on the Sentier, young stylists come, with bright eyes, to buy ostrich, goose, rooster or pheasant feathers in coral red or emerald green, while Emilie, Emilienne, Camille and Lison, trainees aged 19 to 23, patiently cut feathers for the petticoats of cabaret dancers.
“The Champs-Elysées without the Lido won’t be quite the same,” he says. “There is still French cancan at the Paradis Latin and the Moulin Rouge, but it is disappearing… Las Vegas, which does a lot of beautiful feathered reviews, is beating us. I have been contacted by people from there but at my age…maybe Sujan will go”.
In 2020, as the house celebrates its 150th anniversary, the health crisis pushes him to “stop everything”. “And then… Sujan came along,” he said.
Coming from Nepal at the age of 20, in March 2019, to attend the SHG hotel school in Lyon, Sujan Gurung found himself idle a year later, when the covid-19 pandemic paralyzed the restaurant business.
He then met Dominique de Roo, who showed him his studio. “Watching us work, he told me it doesn’t look complicated. I answered Try…, and he created a show structure in pink and white: a pure marvel”.
– “Call” of the pen –
Creative, Sujan continues with brooches, paintings, and joins the Lido workshop, which repairs dancers’ costumes.
“To work with it, you have to like feathers: there are a lot of techniques to learn and it’s a very rare profession: it’s interesting to continue that”, he says, adding: “in Nepal, we have a lot birds but we don’t know how to use the feathers”.
Jean-Paul Gaultier’s plumassier, Dominique Pillard, trained him in dyeing: he immediately obtained subtle nuances. “He has a gift,” says Mr. de Roo, whose grandmother, Elisa Didier de Nil, started writing in 1870, in Bruges.
A friend of Jeanne Lanvin, she worked for milliners and hatters with local pheasant and rooster feathers, before buying an ostrich farm in South Africa. Among her famous clients: Josephine Baker, who sports a pose of hips or “false ass” in silver pheasant feathers dyed in black.
From the age of six, Dominique de Roo learned to cut feathers and steam them. At 16, he left to produce shows, but returned at 25: “It was like the call of the sea for sailors,” he says. He joined his mother, Delphina de Nil, a “shadow worker” who rubbed shoulders with designers Cristobal Balenciaga and Hubert de Givenchy.
Once dyed, the feathers are “frimated”, “twisted”, “curled”, glued, sewn… to integrate costumes for musicals (Priscilla Folle du désert), cinema (Valerian by Luc Besson, La favorite de Maïwenn), TV series (The Serpent Queen)… or dressing a life-size deer or dachshunds for the windows of the luxury group Hermès.
The house “works with respect for the animal”, says Mr. de Roo, using either “molting” feathers, or “recovered from farm animals slaughtered for consumption” or, for ostriches, cut every 9 months, “like shearing a sheep”.