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Austria: Edelweiss

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Embroidery is the stuff of which the most valuable fashion dreams are made. Wars have been fought over embroidery, women kidnapped and men seduced. Embroidery is the only textile technique whose products are the result of an artistic destruction process. Scissors, needles and thread followed the embroideries from China along the Silk Road to Babylon. Monks then brought the secrets of embroidery to the monasteries and the imperial courts of Europe, where its practitioners soon acquired special rights. Empress Maria Theresia also granted these rights to the embroiderers of the Bregenz Woods, whose hand-made embroidery created the basis for this centre of Vorarlberg embroidery in the 18th century. For decades, it has been a key element of the Austrian export trade.

Vorarlberg embroiders for the world. Its customers can be found in 180 countries on all five continents. Comparable to the mesh used in guipure, the queen of embroideries, the Vorarlberg embroiderers have developed a network of markets that inseparably combine innovation and quality. Thousands of patterns in the embroidery companies' archives testify to their diligence, skill and ever-new ideas. Fashion has always told stories that can be worn. They can now stuck on postcards, envelopes, in an album, on the skin or in a wallet. The smallest work of embroidery art now decorates a stamp. The dress has been designed by Haemmerle & Vogel from Lustenau, a long-standing family business and embroiderers to the avant-garde. It is here that the most outrageous desires of the fashion kings are turned into reality. And it is here that a stamp has been created that can be worn. The leitmotif of this unusual creation is the edelweiss, queen of alpine flowers. So real you could pick it, the petals and the pollen are in relief against the thick base of threads. The serrated edge of the stamp is as indestructible as the myth of the edelweiss. Embroidery is an art, plastic, valuable and timeless. And art comes from the artisan, the skilled worker. The art is what one has the skill to do.

The dress on the stamp is a festive Austrian dress. It will bear the date of first issue, but never go out of fashion. It will travel around the world and tell a new and unusual story, the story of the stamp that wears an embroidered dress. In 2005 it is a commemorative stamp from Austria, born in Lustenau, the metropolis of the Vorarlberg embroidery industry.

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