Traveling Threads

Designer Arnold Hass’s timeless accessories and the promise of its name

Arnold Hass’ design journey has taken him to Africa and Latin America where he has worked with traditional techniques in modern ways to create the Wubet Collection of fashion accessories. A globetrotter with an acute eye and a passion for the hand made, Arnold’s journey has explored, researched and collaborated with artisans to achieve new languages in oversized scarves that are handmade in limited editions.

Arnold’s fascination with textiles began by watching his mother, a busy and talented seamstress in Vienna, and studying at the Modeschule Wien im Schloss Hetzendorf. Eventually he became an internationally recognized fashion stylist and designer in New York.

In 2003 Arnold moved to Ethiopia and founded Wubet, meaning beauty in Amharic. He traveled the country and got to know the local textile traditions that were ready for some fresh air. He discovered hand-spun and hand-woven cottons and focused his research around netela, a scarf like cloth made of gauzy, delicate cotton, worn by all women in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian textiles are loomed by hand in the same way they have been made for centuries. In Ethiopia the textiles are woven exclusively by men using a horizontal structure with loom bars lashed to stares in the ground. Traditional technology required major adjustments in Hass’ designs. He needed to understand the the constrains (and opportunities) of the tradition he had chosen to work with in order to achieve his goal of adding value to the products already in production. His input with these traditional textiles had to do with proportion and color: he made oversized scarves and played with colored stripes in unexpected ways. Wubet took traditional techniques outside of the ethnic box and gave them a chance as high-end, designed pieces for a modern world, while retaining the weaving techniques that are the hallmark of netela.

The next stop in Hass’ textile journey is Chile, where Arnold currently lives and where Wubet has found new textures for the collection. Alpaca, woven by women on a traditional 2-pedal loom, is captivating Hass now. In Chile and Peru the workshops of the Aymara and Mapuche are situated miles away from big cities, and his work requires careful study of the capacities and skills of weavers and their looms. The remoteness of many Andean weaving communities has ensured the preservation of a tradition of high quality warp-patterned weaving which Arnold incorporates into modern scarves.

Through his amendments in color and proportion, Hass has given a competitive edge to traditionally produced textiles. Color is the base for every one of Arnold’s creations, and it plays an important role in creating dramatic combinations. It is not rare to find an unexpected yellow line on a pink color palette or a hidden navy blue coming from an ocean of purples. One could say his secret lies in mixing and matching colors and textures.

Sustainability is defined by Wubet as innovation: by creating new products, Arnold creates jobs and opens markets which in turn preserve crafts and invite younger generations to learn from their parents and continue the thread. Another take on sustainability is Wubet’s focus on scarves which means he can work around textures, materials and techniques that are not subject to any fashion trend and outside the disposable cycle of fashion.

Design celebrates diversity, the uniqueness of every individual and region of the world, and this is expressed in the character of the different fibers that Wubet reinterprets. Alpaca wool textiles from Chile are hand spun and coarser than the finely spun industrial yarn used in the Peruvian textiles; as a result you have fine, yet durable fabric. Cotton is native to Ethiopia and often used in the highlands. It’s rarely hand spun and its use is limited to particular types of weaving.

Arnold’s vision is that every invention, every creation of which humankind is capable, carries with it the capacity to enhance us individually and improve us collectively. He wants his designs to tell that story of oneness and infinite possibilities.

For more information on Arnold Hass’ work, see www.wubet.com or visit Wubet Store at 11 Praterstrasse in Vienna.

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