Reminder to self

couwenberg
Engraving, H.W. Couwenberg, Rijksmuseum Holland

 

“If we can learn to trust our own fingers again, then ‘Made by Hand‘ may [be]come a label infinitely more chic than ‘Made in Italy’.

– Polly Leonard, founder of Selvedge Magazine

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Private Collection: summer shoes

 

 

from the exhibition flyer, Pfinzgaumuseum

 

I went to a local Heimatmuseum (most districts and cities in Germany have some form of Heimatmuseum or association,which has permanent exhibits about the history of the specific area), the Pfinzgaumuseum to take a look at a private collection of summer shoes, called ‘Bambus, Binsen, Birkenrinde’ (Bamboo, Birchbark) .

The private collector, Hildegund Brandenburg, an architect made these shoes while away with her family on holiday. According to the exhibition information, it all started more than 20 years ago during a holiday in Norway. She described how her children were bored out of their skulls. So, the idea was to get the kids out to gather natural materials to make a house. She ran into some tree bark and decided to make sandals for the kids.

“I imagine myself to be a woman from prehistoric times, who has to make shoes for every family member every day.”

She often uses glue, needle and thread, but mostly restricts herself to using her swiss army knife. Her ideal shoe is one that is made of only one material, and quick to make.

She further describes how, compared to architecture, where the timeframes can be very long (from idea to completion), making a shoe is almost like instant gratification. After a while, it seems, she would make only one shoe ( I guess as a souvenir, once her kids were grown), as she wasn’t interested in repeating the process.

 

 

One shoe, highlights the real challenge for her: getting to know the materials intimately (characteristics, life period and stability, static and dynamic limits, and compatibility with other materials), and solving the thorny problem of how to connect the various parts. Each shoe tells the story of the holiday – from the Mediterranean palms, cork from Corsica, tree bark from Northern Europe.

I had expected twenty shoes, quaintly displayed, and was pleasantly surprised to see over a hundred sandals spread out on shelves. The museum did attempt to provide some extra information about the various regional plants used. This exhibition belongs in a museum of applied arts or the shoe museum in Hauenstein, with more space and resources to show the shoes and their materials properly.  What would interest me, was how prehistoric people solved that summer shoe problem…

 

 

 

Switching from acrylics to natural fibres

A friend of mine recently asked for my opinion on the best way to start knitting with wool. She’s been knitting for quite a few years with acrylics and has started wondering what was the fuss about all these natural fibres.

1 What’s good for you?
My friend just wants to put her toe in the water to test things out. I, on the other hand, decided that I needed to go cold turkey on acrylics, especially when I started making garments rather than just scarves.

2 A little research
Research- Know Your Wools Deb Robson’s free class on Craftsy; knitfm has some great episodes on yarn, more yarn, and breed-specific wools.

3 Decisions
Decide what you want to make, which natural fibres are right for you. Allergies to wool?then look to other animal- or plant-based fibres. What is your Budget?

4 Test & Evaluate
Test- small projects.  Baby clothes, scarves, cowls, socks, wristwarmers are great small projects to get started. Nothing wrong with going with one ball, to get started. Make a large swatch, and see how it feels in your hands, against your skin, see how it drapes.  Record your experiences in a Journal.

5 Consequences
Get rid of the old stuff: donate, gift, use it up. Replace it with more natural fibres. Or you may consider blends.

Hope that helps! Happy knitting!

Who is Daniela Gregis?

It has taken me a while to milk the Internet to find Information about this unusually (by today’s standards) reserved designer. 

Daniela Gregis AW2018
Daniela Gregis A/W 2017-2018

Daniela Gregis was born in 1959 in Bergamo, Italy. She was a doctor’s daughter, who later trained as a herbalist. She started working in Fashion when she launched her first label Ok’am in 1987. She collaborated with Naj Oleari on various Projects, and since the 1990s has been working on textile research. She currently lives and works in the Bergamo region of Northern Italy.

She, too is a maker. In interviews, she has said that she had an aunt who crocheted, and taught her. She recalls that her first shawl was out of orange synthetic yarn. Her use of knits and crochet in her collections underline the connection with the artisanal, slow means of production.

At the end of her catwalk presentations, all her workers and tailors come out and take a bow with her. She honours and celebrates not just craftsmanship, and the handcrafts (she includes embroidery, handwoven baskets, knitting and crochet in her work), but also of materials (wool, linen, silks). At the same time, she doesn’t shun modern Technology, so she will show handpainted- beside laser printed silks.

Her passion is Japanese culture. These influences can be seen in her designs, which are often sold alongside Comme des Garcons, at IvoMilan and Dover Street Market.

 

Vertical: left column Looks from A/W2017-18; middle and right: Looks from S/S 2016

Her current collection, Triciclo, (italian for tricycle, but also has that idea of three cycles) starts with a model in head to toe black and evolves (in roughly three cycles) to a colourful bright red silk evening gown.

“In Fashion, avant garde … presumed forward thinking, artistry, unconventional designs, new forms, structures and an extraordinary touch that separates the ideas from the Mainstream.”
– Barbara I Gongini

We might be tempted to think ‘old woman clothes.’ They are actually quietly avant garde, in the sense that they are experimental, and still pushing the boundaries of form, construction, and how people think of or wear  clothes.

For makers, each collection provides a master class in how to incorporate handknits and crochets into a wardrobe: her hats, handbags, collars, mittens, muffs, scarves, Pullovers, necklaces, wraps and shawls are a shout out to makers everywhere.

 

Links:

Daniela Gregis’ website

Ivo Milan’s Radical Fashion blog

Tiinathestore’s interview

Selvedge Magazine profile

Profile on D-art.it

Agnautacouture’s 2016 blog post correcting another fashion Blogger

Designer Barbara I Gongini on avante garde

 

 

Making & Anti-fashion

Captain Fantastic

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I watched this film with my in-laws and kids recently. I was struck by how differently we viewed the content matter of the film. My kids loved that the children didn’t have to go to school, and hated that the mom had died. My in-laws loved how free-thinking and independent the kids became. I  was struck by the colourful knits and the idea of self-sufficiency woven through the film.

 

 

 

It wasn’t until I was explaining to my father-in-law that Viggo Mortenson’s T-shirt was from African American politician Jesse Jackson’s (and not the cowboy outlaw Jesse James’) failed presidential run, that it hit me: Almost all the clothes the family wore was thrifted.

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Whereas some of it might have been adjusted or embellished, the clothes were reduced to their original function: to cover and provide warmth. Seen that way, it’s absolutely irrelevant that the T-shirt was from 1988.

These days clothes mean so much to many, shaping and projecting their identities. Or the identities they would prefer to project. Never have we been freer to wear what we want, how we want it. So free, in fact, that a refusal to follow any types of  norms of society is also a clear message. Although it may be a message that the intended audience doesn’t, cannot or will not read correctly. This theme is played out constantly through the film: two value systems constantly clashing. Thesis and antithesis.

So what is this anti-fashion message? My guess is that clothes should be about us, and how they make us feel, rather than about labels. The mom wanted everyone to come to her funeral dressed in their brightest party clothes, to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death. How can anyone be sad in a bright red disco suit? Or Missoni lookalike hotpants? Or a killer whale onesie?

Do your clothes make you happy?

 

Link: The New York Times review and interview with the costume designer.

London: Fashion Crescendo

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It’s taken me a while to connect all the dots from my visit to London.

Busy city. Fashion metropole. Jam-packed city centre streets even on a drizzly sunday afternoon. The bustle. Of tourists on a monday. Constant.

 

Rising in crescendo in the Top Shop. Latest styles hot off the runways. Teen girls trying piles of clothes for the right thing. Twens popping in for a new blouse after work. Shoes piled high in the discount bin. Costume jewelry, handbags, all the things. But made where? And by whom?

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via Daily Prompt: Crescendo

Holiday impressions 2

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Evening Dress / Balenciaga 1963/ V&A museum

 

Still thinking about structure and control, which brings me to the Victoria &Albert Museum’s  Exhibition Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. It refers rather cleverly to the fact that Balenciaga was a designer who has had a lot of influence on other fashion designers (a designer’s designer, especially to those who are trying to be innovative within the field). It also refers to the fact that if you want to create 3-d shapes (ie garments) out of 2-d material, you jolly well need something to hold it up.

  1. You need structure. And Balenciaga was a master tailor and couturier, who knew how to manipulate the fabric toaccomplish the most remarkable things with fabric.

“This evening dress – displayed inside out – shows the attention to detail in constructing a couture gown. The net bodice, structured with steel boning… Fabric edges are bound with silk tulle and hard fastenings covered in velvet for comfort…”

-Victoria & Albert Museum

 

In short, a fascinating exhibition with garments not just by Cristóbal Balenciaga, but also from several designers who came after him, and cited him as mentor or Inspiration.

It’s amusing to see that the flared sleeves and pleats that are among this year’s hottest trends, look as if they’re borrowed straight from his sketchbook.

 

Top row: Tulip dress, Wool tweed Skirt suit by Balenciaga

Bottom row: Evening dress by Balenciaga, Ballons Dress by Sybilla (Spain), Cocktail dress by Roksanda Ilincic

Holiday impressions

Texture, stucture and pattern fascinate me 

 

Back from our family holiday in South England. I’m still ruminating on what I’ve seen and experienced over the last two weeks.

I visited the Balenciaga exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum (more on that later), had a look at quite a few touristy things, ate a lot of Full English Breakfasts, visited botanical gardens, great houses, drank an impressive amount of tea (with and without scones) and noticed things.

Living out of a suitcase is more or less test-driving a capsule wardrobe.

Women in the UK wear more skirts and dresses (in general) than women in Germany.

Fast fashion means picking up a new blouse or three is as easy as picking up a pack of precut vegetables ready to be made into a soup, on the way home from work in a large metropole.

British food is loads better than it’s reputation on the Continent.

How were your holidays?

Colour & Stash: Where Ideas come from

 

Now, I’ve been thinking about red a lot. It is, after all, a strong classic colour that often shows up in winter collections.

I knew I wanted to make another little Rustica purse from my stash.

 

My son comes in, takes one look and says, “Cool! All you need is a bit of blue and it’ll be just like Paddington Bear’s host mom’s sweater!”

And sure enough:

Paddington-bears-mums-sweater
Image source: hookedonhouses.net

It’s not just amazing how good this kid’s memory is, or the fact that I had no clue. Rather, it underlined how creativity works.