French silk manufacturing reached its apogee in the eighteenth century, offering a dazzling and constantly evolving range of textiles made from the most exotic and costly combination of fibres for both domestic and international markets. In this competitive business and artistic environment some designers and manufacturers acquired substantial wealth and quasi mythical status, while others eked out a modest and largely anonymous existence. Drawing on a wide range of newly discovered archival and material evidence, this book offers a series of portraits of both the famous and the 'faceless' as a vehicle for evaluating the nature and status of the trade and the conditions under which its key participant flourished or failed. The life stories of seven men reveal the particularities and concerns of a society in transition, grounded in traditional guild organisation yet happy to exploit new commercial openings. The biographies afford insights into social hierarchies through investigation of the relationship between art and manufacturing, local and national networks, and reveal the 'culture' of commerce through an analysis of their 'enlightened' commercial education and continued interest in learning. They also demonstrate the vagaries of a freelance career in design, through analysis of the attractions, disappointments and rewards of industrial espionage and the mechanics of technological and aesthetic transfer. Combining elements of cultural, artistic and commercial history, this book provides a fascinating insight into one of the defining products of ancien regime France, and its contribution to eighteenth century society, trade and consumption.