text: Abigail Doan
The glare of September’s fashion month might now have officially faded away, but the forecast for material design collaborations looks exceptionally bright for the season to come. The recent SS15 ready-to-wear presentations ran the gamut from a revival of paleolithic fringe skirts and hippie vests to Marni’s referencing traditional Bhutanese school uniforms to the futuristic appeal of laser cut surfaces and magnetically charged, 3D-printed casings.
Signature handwork – particularly the strategic partnering of visionary artists and designers was, for me, one of the most striking indicators that contemporary fashion can continue inspire us to journey deeper and farther afield when new ideas are reinforced by the experience of artisan hands and traditions that demonstrate the value of staying the course, both aesthetically and technically. The intrigue of handmade solutions and interwoven expressions continues to redefine the possibilities for ‘luxurious’ offerings that also ground us. Runway shows presented on hand-tufted terrain brought Dries van Noten’s models to a complete standstill at Paris Fashion Week – quite literally as they lounged on a carpeted catwalk made by an artisan atelier in Buenos Aires.
Even if we collectively abhor the senseless calendar and waste generated by the global fashion community, a new injection of one-of-a-kind, slow fashion material collaborations with architects, ceramicists, natural dye experts, and guild weavers, just might be the cure for what has seasonally ailed us. The language of textile art alone continues to be a territory that is helping designers to create regional depth as well as more genuine cultural exchange. The prevalence of digital print narratives and the blind pillaging of ethnic motifs in some collections, should not at all distract us from the role of thoughtful embellishment and even ritualistic fabrication methods as a fortified ancient/future design language. These details are making the beauty of local collaborations a thing of lasting beauty.
Cynthia Alberto of Weaving Hand gallery and studio in Brooklyn has collaborated with EDUN and Tara St. James of Study NY for uniquely woven fabrics featured in both design labels’ fashion week collections. Cynthia described a bit about why this process was ‘good’ for both the advancement of sustainable practices as well as fostering an appreciation of textile arts, near and far:
“I think designers working with local businesses like Weaving Hand (WH) helps to create a truly sustainable community. During my time working with Tara (of Study NY), there was an immediate connection with her – no middle man and the creative studio process itself was very exciting. Tara had the ability to make a design decision right away, and (in response) we could make the appropriate alternations with the fabrics. This timeline turnaround is faster than the norm and can also be more cost effective. I like that we can also help designers to create their fabrics, practically, right in front of them … In the case of our collaborations with EDUN, we learned a lot about deliveries and deadlines; how the fashion industry works; specific requirements that need to be fulfilled, for example the size of panels of fabric etc. It was a learning curve, but I now know now how it all works. The EDUN team was just so great to work with that things always went very smoothly. We are always invited to their fashion shows, so for us, it is such an exhilarating feeling to see the fabrics turned into actual clothes for a new collection … I would like to see WH to explore more (collaborative) opportunities with new designers, artists, and businesses. I am thankful that we are able to provide a place to create woven fabrics, made locally and under our own roof in Brooklyn, New York.”
Perhaps a fashion landscape that is now even more about ‘that little something extra’ just might link us more genuinely to richer crafting dialogues and playful elements that connect us as humans and also and root us to place. The good news is that the more we dig in, the less likely it is that a universal language of ‘must-haves’ emerges, and this is, perhaps, was the prevailing message of a SS15 line up where diversity trumped trends. Audience appreciation, post-fashion month, might now include the very fact that clients and buyers will be looking to the historic model of the guild as a source for future style tips and state-of-the-art designs to covet.