Promoted Chevalier de la légion d'honneur, Interview with Catherine COUSIN
On the 1st January 2021, your name appeared in the Offical Journal, What was your first reaction ?
Catherine COUSIN : It took me a week to take it in.
I am well aware of the meaning and importance of this honour, which is why I was so astonished when I heard the news.
I am being awarded the "Légion d'Honneur" because I took part in the fight against CoronaVirus by converting our workshop which normally produces nets into a workshop to make masks and this was as early as Mid-March 2020. We just could not be content to do nothing.
Very quickly, we produced one of our first masks which was approved for 50 washes. But wishing to be faithful to our "Made in France" philosophy, we wanted to make a high quality mask providing high levels of protection, and above all by choosing local partners : The fabric comes from Haut de France and it is cut out by our colleague's workshop in Ifs. The0 elastic is produced in Flers (60), the labels are woven in the Rhone-Alpes area, the masks are entirely made in our workshop in Mondeville, the instruction sheet is printed in Caen and the packaging is made in a sheltered workshop in Colombelles.
Great solidarity has grown up between all of the participants in the textile industry. We have increased our team of 25 by taking on 10 additional employees. At the present moment, we have manufactured and sold slightly over 100.000 masks. The workshop was like a beehive but we always took the necessary protective measures.
My first thought was for my husband, with whom I manage the Filt company and with whom I have been working in the textile industry for 25 years. We form a true partnership at the head of our business. At first I felt awkward for him but very quickly he told me how proud he was of me and how proud that his wife had been awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, nominated by the Department of Industry, at only 45 years of age.
My next thought was for the team. I sincerely hold this honour on their behalf. Every morning, my husband and I get up with the aim of highlighting manual work, manual intelligence and French textile know-how. The men and women who have worked for Filt since 1860 are our engine; it is thanks to them that we still exist today and can be proud of our work. I think with affection of our team of seamstresses, bursting with impatience to come and sew masks during the first lockdown, in order to help protect the French population from this virus.
Manual work has finally taken on its fullest meaning. Finally, the "little hands" have had their moment of glory. It has finally been recognized that Industrial sewing, which has been demeaned for so long, is essential and of great value.
How do you feel about being awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur ?
CC: Wow ! What an acknowledgement ! I am proud and honoured to be awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the Department of Industry. There are too few women in management in French industry. I am a women, I am 45 years old, and with my husband I manage French industrial textile production company and I am a Chevalier de la légion d'Honneur. I am proud of ma career. I have always remained true to my education and my values.
Will receiving this honour lead to any changes for you or for Filt1860 ?
CC: On a personal level, my day to day life has not changed. Receiving this honour is a huge acknowledgement of the work of the entire team. I'am proud of our team.
This" mask adventure" has brought us all together. We had just moved to our new factory and all this excitement about the designing and production of masks which were to help protect our citizens has enabled us to continue writing Filt's history which is already so rich. We must not forget that Filt lived throught two world wars and was reduced to ashes during the allied bombing in 44. But there again, it was thanks to a team effort, guided by the unfaltering management of the time, that the factory was rebuilt. Not forgetting that it was the women whose husbands has gone to the front who ran the factory and produced the nets !
So it was our duty to do something to help fight the coronavirus. If Filt survived the allied bombing, then we will survive and be stronger once this crisis is over.
This honour symbolizes the courage and conviction of each member of the Filt1860 team.
So why did you choose to hold your first interview on the subject on Filt premises ?
CC: There are 2 expressions that the members of our team repeat often, jokingly : "it's made in Filt" and also "Filt today, Filt Forever"
So, for my first interview on the subject I wanted it to take place in Filt ! It enabled me not to be overcome by emotions (palpable), not to forget anything and to make sure nothing was censored. I wanted to express myself using my own words, words come from the heart, because Filt today, Filt forever !
Communication service Filt1860.