Q notes 7: Black in Fashion

If you can spare the time, Michel Pastoureau’s Black: The History of a Color will take us from the beginning of recorded history through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and on into modern times. He argues quite credibly, that up until Sir Isaac Newton’s experiments in optics in the 17th Century, proved that colours were made by “breaking up” white light, and that black wasn’t even on the spectrum, people DID think of black as a colour.

It’s a fascinating and accessible read, with lots of lovely images from various types of Art through the ages – I never thought it would be so interesting to find out about how artists and artisans mixed black, or worked to dye cloth a deep black, and how the meanings that Europeans attached to black would swing back and forth.

Funnily enough Pastoureau’s book took me back to a Coursera course I just completed: Magic in the Middle Ages. Not just the connection between Black, the devil and witches, but also how Islamic magic contributed to European/Western rediscovery of Greek science writing, which inspired Newton and as a result modern science.

Other links:

Blogger Manrepeller talks about black as a fashion uniform,

Dazed has a brief history of the shade in fashion,

Bourncreativ discusses several modern meanings  of black as a colour; and

This Jungian Life Podcast goes deeper and explains the psychological meanings associated with one particular type of black, Nigredo

Interweave’s Ten Tips for working with dark yarn.

Stay safe and healthy.

Q Notes 6: Binge watching the future

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Believe it or not, I’ve had very little time for binging shows. It’s family viewing until the kids withdraw.

As I’ve posted here, I watched Love is Blind, but I’ve also caught Netflix’ Next in Fashion and am now watching Amazon’s Making the Cut.
There’s less drama than Project Runway, there’s more design (even though sewing is still necessary) and more behind the scenes of how the fashion business works, from idea to finished garment in shops or runways.
I also like to watch episode reviews and see what other people are saying about these shows. What shocks me is how little people know about fashion history and often conflate their personal taste with the idea that their way of dressing is the only way and any deviation is wrong. Shoutout to HauteLeMode and SpillitBoytv on Youtube for their analyses. They know their fashion history.

What I’ve learned: Black is a non-color as well as a philosophy in fashion. Museum Galliera has even showed Balenciaga’s work in black. So, a designer who only makes garments in black is a statement. I even found Making the Startup podcast, where my fellow countrywoman Esther Perbandt talks about her experiences on the show (there are no spoilers, though). I’m now looking through her previous collections on Vogue.de.

Thanks to the Internet, we can look up a Betsey Johnson or Japanese street fashion  to learn and understand the aesthetic of contestant Martha. Or we could look up Comme des Garçons or the  Antwerp Six,  to find out why Sander is sending a donut dress (which totally reminded me of Janelle Monae’s Pynk pants) down the runway. It’s great to see him learning in real time, to find the balance between avant-garde and accessibility. Which is basically the question: will this sell?

The fact that Amazon is using the show to attempt to
jumpstart its Fashion category is not surprising given the literally captive audience in lockdown. As a logistics giant, it certainly won’t hurt their bottom line, if they present themselves as good partners for small and emerging designers like those in the competition. For the record though, we have to keep in mind that Amazon has had a muddy track record protecting partners from counterfeits, fakes and copies. Remember Birkenstock?
It’s fitting, now that so many in-person fashion and sustainability conferences and trade fairs have been cancelled or postponed, that we consumers have another way to mull over how this worldwide crisis is going to change fashion.

Tamsin Blanchard also looks at how this might cause the fashion industry players to recalibrate their thinking. Li Edelkoort, my favorite trend forecaster (and the closest we have to a Deplhic Oracle), talks about a quarantine of consumption.

“It seems we are massively entering a quarantine of consumption where we will learn how to be happy just with a simple dress, rediscovering old favourites we own, reading a forgotten book and cooking up a storm to make life beautiful.”

– Li Edelkoort in Dezeen magazine

We’re looking at what young/small designers can create (hopefully sustainable, green and fair), and we are asking ourselves what do we really want and need. Interestingly enough, I’ve been seeing more online ads for loungewear, blouses (we only need waist-up for teleconferencing, I guess) and sportswear.

Edelkoort also describes what will come next, post-virus, as the Age of the Amateur (which she explains in greater depth on the BoF Podcast). She sees arts and crafts, artisanal production and DIY as a survival mechanism. And that’s where hobby makers firmly sit. So let’s keep on making.

Stay healthy and stay safe.

Q notes 4: Online inspiration

Puttering around the website of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, I learned that multimedia collage artist, Wangechi Mutu was commissioned to create sculptures for the Museum facade. She explains the inspiration behind her 4 pieces, titled The New Ones, will free us in her artist interview.

They have a regal, ethereal, otherworldly beauty that reminds me of the Watchers/ Monitors from comic books, who observe humanity.

The texture of these modern caryatids‘ tunics remind me not only of ribbing, but of brioche, which has been on my to do list for YEARS. As Dana of Yards of Happiness recently said, now is the time to learn it. Because we have the time now.

 

Ribbed Cowlet by Shannon Charles
Ribbed Capelet by StevenBe
Horizontal Ribbed Cowl by Maxine Levinson

Very Pink Knits‘ brioche tutorial.
Felicia from Sweet Georgia yarn has a very soothing, well-shot and clear video on how to do 2 color brioche.

Links to online content @ Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Coco Chanel: Romanticism
Christian Dior‘s The New Look
The Millicent Rogers Collection of Schiaparelli at the Brooklyn Museum
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between
Charles James Muslins
At the Tate Britain: Re.Create with Tate Britain: Fashion

More links to virtual museum offerings.

And CreativeLive is offering free health and wellness courses.

Stay well.

Bookfair plus

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If you find yourself in Frankfurt for the Bookfair this year (Norway is the Guest country!), you may want to check out the Hannah Ryggen exhibition at the Frankfurt Schirn Kunsthalle. The exhibition runs til January 2020.

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Ryggen in her studio, around 1964. source: Adresseavisen, Trondheim.

The Swedish-Norwegian artist Ryggen (1894-1970) lived on a self-sustaining farm in Norway, spun and dyed her own wool and taught herself to make huge collage-like tapestries. How cool is that?

 

Did I mention the Book Fair (October 16-20)? Yes, there’s books, calendars, cookbooks, posters, and just about everything book-related. Yes, there’s cosplay and cooking demos and giveaways and book prizes, but in addition to all that, folks, NORWAY.

27B95109-6542-4C33-80B9-9D2E5BEC3419 As we all know, Norway isn’t just about fantastic nature and fjords, but also great writers – we love those crime thriller authors, Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, Åsne Seierstad and the polarizing Karl Ove Knausgård.

There’s plenty for knitters too: According to the programme, designer Wenche Roald, and Annemor Sundbø, the godmother of norwegian knitting will be in attendance, and there may even be a workshop on knitting selbu mittens.

 

What, you ask, is selbu? It’s an eight-petalled flower design (often called the Selbu rose), used in traditional Norwegian stranded knitting. It’s actually older than Norway itself, according to The Atlantic, but has come to be associated with Selbu, a municipality in Northern Norway.

Fotos: Todd Gocken’s Norwegian Snowflake Scarf and Monica Værholm’s Eggwarmers. Source: Ravelry.com

Fashion for Future

 

Last week, while a bunch of people went to the Fridays for Future Climate Strike in their nearest city, a friend and I took part in a Future Fashion tour in Stuttgart.

A complaint I often hear, especially living out in the countryside, is that people would support fair and sustainable designers or clothing lines, but they have absolutely no clue where to get it. It’s hard to find. It’s loads easier to grab that fast fashion, because it’s right there. It’s everywhere. Plus it takes a bit of work to find organic, sustainable, or fair clothing and accessory makers unless someone tells you where to look.

And that’s what this tour did. While thrift and vintage was also a part of the tour, we also learned which new recycle bins (see “Fair-Wertung” pic above) we should use. I was also pleasantly surprised by how many new young designers are sustainable, organic, vegan, and fair (or a combination of these – there still isn’t one perfect solution yet). Each consumer has to invest the time to think about which values are most important and worthy of support.

There’s a whole new world out there, of people making good things: so if you happen to be passing through Germany, check out the Fair Fashion Network for interesting small boutiques and makers near you.

It’s all part of each person’s developing a personal future fashion strategy:

  • making
  • upcycling
  • mending
  • thrifting/vintage
  • leasing
  • new purchases

 

I even learned a new tip on airing clothes between wears in order to cut down on water usage and microplastics in the water. I’m no expert, and it’ll take a while to add to the routine, but it’s worth a shot.

More tips on how to remove odors from Brooklyn Fashion Accelerator.

 

In other news: Pierre Cardin exhibition at the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf until January 5, 2020. Exhibition trailer here.

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Back to School: Bauhaus

Anker’s Summer Shirt
Anker‘s Summer Shirt

Fiber season is upon us again, as September has started and temperatures cool down. What a summer! I’m pretty sure it’s the hottest summer on record in Germany. Even hotter than last year. Not so good for the forests – the forester has been into the woods near us to remove some of the sun-damaged

At the moment, I have Petite Knit‘s Anker‘s Summer Shirt on the needles. I love the clear lines on this pullover, but I‘ve taken a break to ask the Internet what the pattern means with Marker stitches. I‘ll add an update when I figure it out.

I originally thought of pairing this fairly easy knit with easy-on-the-eye binge-watching, but as the German saying goes: things always go a little differently as planned. I cannot tear my eyes away from the screen to keep track of my needles. I‘ll have to work on that.

I‘m watching „Die Neue Zeit,“ (Bauhaus: A New Era) about the start of the Bauhaus movement. Yes, Bauhaus-Autumn has started, with a six part series. It’s got more content than the film „Lotte am Bauhaus“ (English: Bauhaus), which was ‚inspired‘ by the experiences of Bauhaus designer Alma Siedhof-Buscher.

I am absolutely thrilled that these stories are being told from the perspective of female characters. That’s one way in which the #MeToo movement has affected Germany.

Already, I‘m one episode in (5 to go), and they get straight to the point: how could a movement so committed to overturning the old order, continued repressing women.

Speaking of old order, it‘s amazing to see the fashions on the different characters, 1890s, 1910s and pre-1920s, which position the female characters exactly.

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The old guard /source: screenshot arte.tv

The Weimar old guard, in the form of old school artist Hans Gros painting the Baroness von Freytag-Loringhofen’s portrait painted on her lawn. There are gardners in the background clipping shrubs. Her guest and political co-conspirator is drinking lemonade (I hope!) from a gold-rimmed glass, while she poses in a sunhat on a striking rattan chair). Interesting the power she yields because of her wealth and engagement in Weimar art circles.

In terms of art, they want to defend the old way of doing things. They believe they know everything they need to know, and resist any new ways of seeing or doing art. In terms of fashion, it absolutely fits that she’s ten years out of fashion, holding on to the past. Reminds me of the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey.

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The new / source: screenshots arte.tv

Then we have these two young students who at the start couldn’t be more different: Dörte Helm, who is still wearing corsets and 1900s skirt-suits, trying to please her father and all the professors. Gunta Stölzl, who is wearing a knit jacket over free flowing clothes sans corset and who isn’t afraid to answer back to a professor.

We get a fairly good idea of what Weimar student life looked like, but also the little details of what it meant to be a woman in this time of transition. On the one hand, Dörte is escorted to school by her father, and seems to dread getting married. On the other, Gunta comes into the train compartment and proceeds to cut off her (wartime Red Cross nurse uniform) dress sleeves because she‘s hot. In front of several strangers. She’s not afraid to shock folks.

There‘s a scene where Gunta is doing some light evening weaving, and although they start talking about guys, the conversation shifts to crafts. Gunta asks Dörte if she knows how to do any handcrafts (knitting or weaving). Dörte shows her scarred hands and replies that she learned in her girls‘ school, where mistakes were punished. And I thought it was amazing how much was packed in there about class, wealth, women‘s education, handcrafts and even our ideas of creativity (pattern vs intuitive process).

So yes, passes the Bechdel test. I‘m looking forward to bingeing this at some point this month.

 

Why Beauty Matters

 

In a Nutshell- Why Beauty matters
Screenshot from “Why Beauty Matters” by In a Nutshell 

I was remiss in not including this exhibition at the MAK Frankfurt on my recent list for Summer ‘museuming’ here. Sagmeister and Walsh, a New York-based graphic design team have curated a very beautiful and yet convincing statement on why we have less Beauty in our everyday lives, and why it’s worth seeking it out.

The curators have basically shown that although Beauty as a value is crucial for or health and well-being, we as a global society seem to place the least attractive forms (brown buildings) in our landscapes. I had to laugh out loud at the installation piece comparing the Moscow and Munich subway systems. The former is beautiful while the latter is dreadfully functional.

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Neon definition of Beauty  /MAK Frankfurt 

It explains why we are drawn to Beauty, and why there’s such a disconnect between modern art, architecture and even fashion and regular people these days. It turns out our sense of Beauty evolved with us as a species. So when someone says “I don’t know about art, but I know what I like,” she’s got it right. We do know, on a profound level.”

Sagmeister & Walsh are showing that we can improve our lives by adding beauty on a community, design or even a personal  level.

The interactive exhibition also encouraged visitors to take pictures of objects from the MAK Frankfurt’s permanent collection, that they personally found beautiful. Here are my top three:

 

 

There were however so many beautiful objects there. So here’s some more.

 

 

Which of course got me to thinking about knitting and crochet and crafting, and wondering if this explains the resurgence of interest in crafting even though we can buy a machine-knit garment, the Beauty of the handcrafted cannot be denied. I’ll post on that once I’ve thought it through a little more.

The only thing I didn’t like were the loud speakers piping down audio explanations at several points in the room got to be quite a cacophony.

The exhibition will run until the end of September (2019).

 

Finally summer

We’ve had a wet summer here, and I’ve been grinding away on my Prayer Shawl.

I’ve been wondering, how to keep my knitting Momentum going during the warmer months. And coincidentally, I came across an older article in the Oprah Magazine Archives about Tiffany Haddish, the American comedian and actress.

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Tiffany Haddish Sept 2018 Glamour

She’s a knitter – even going into adventurous territory of knitted Lingerie. So here I am, with my interest piqued…

My first question was why?

Well, firstly, you might want to see if it were at all possible. Or, you might want to try out vintage patterns, when hand-knit Lingerie – perhaps of the stocking, sock, or Camisole Variety. You might like the look and feel of handmade Lingerie, or perhaps you have that one skein of luscious yarn that you can’t bear to knit into socks, but isn’t quite enough for a Sweater.

lingerie_mcgowanmichael1Joan McGowan-Michael, says that “… hand-knitted Lingerie is hardly a revolutionary idea; it is simply one that is being revived.”

In her book ‘Knitting Lingerie Style’, she answers my second question: surely not wool?! She suggests “luxurious silks, linen blends, or easy care cottons… [chosen for] stretch and recovery, their shine, crispness, or simply their indulgent softness against the skin.”

This book is 12 years old, but some of the pieces are really timeless. The bra set, the slip and this Teddy on the cover are my favourites. I was pleasantly surpised that most of these pieces call for a 4.5mm/US 7 needles and DK yarn Held double with something sillky or soft.

A Lingerie knitter could go finer, with fingering or light fingering yarns as with

 

 

Images: Ravelry.com

Anne Hanssen’s She must be dreaming set, Amanda William’s Hush Chemise,  and Charlotte Kirkholt’s Louise set , which is at once modern, while harking back to sets like the vintage 2 piece Tailored Hand-Knitted Lingerie from Evelyn C. Palmer. Funfact: The neckline variation shown in the background, is called the ‘opera top,’ to be worn under slinky evening gowns.

 

 

I don’t always like her humour, but I respect the knitter in her, who went hardcore knitting that lingerie in wool, and I’m looking forward to when her film The Kitchen hits cinemas over here.

100 Years Bauhaus

 

Leiden by  Natalie Selles in the summer stripes issue of PomPom Quarterly and the crochet Coco Boxy Sweater by Cecilia Losada bring the Bauhaus to mind, with their clear lines, use of bright colour, contrast and graphic shapes.

 

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Bauhaus Sweater by Irina Poludnenko / source: ravelry.com

Irina Poludnenko’s Bauhaus Sweater brings to mind the work of Anni Albers and Gunda Stölzl, two talented artists who basically got shunted over to the weaving department. Although this move was motivated by the Bauhaus director‘s desire to reserve the ‚hard‘ disciplines for men, this restriction inspired a blossoming of creativity in both production and philosophy as evidenced in Albers‘ seminal works On Designing and On Weaving. Both works are highly recommended not just for weavers, but textile artists in general.

If you happen to be in Germany later this year (2019), I hope you won’t  miss the Bauhaus centennial celebrations. The  design school founded in Weimar in 1919, shortly after the first World War, has had an amazing and far-reaching influence on design worldwide from architecture to fashion, product design and graphic design.

I will be revisiting Bauhaus but here are a few links to whet your appetite::

The Art Newspaper article on Anni Albers

Tours through Southwest Germany to look at Bauhaus architecture

UHF video on the German Weimar Republic, the era 1918-1933 when the Bauhaus was founded.

The permanent collection of the new Bauhaus Museum in Weimar is definitely worth a look-see. I hope they put up an English website soon. But not to worry, 100 Years of Bauhaus as an extensive English website of everything Bauhaus and -related for this year.

 

Camp:When “too much” is just right

(All photos: huffingtonpost/Getty images)

Lady Gaga at the 2019 Met Gala in Brandon Maxwell

 

Of course Lady Gaga won the Met Gala. She had to. She could do no less, because she’s been serving camp as industry leader since 2008. But now she has some steep competition from Billy Porter.

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Billy Porter at Met Gala 2019 in The Blonds

And that’s fine, because we love the spectacle. Still, I have to give credit, where it’s due. The men brought it this year. And that pleasantly surprised me. Menswear on the red carpet hasn’t always been known for glamour. But they impressed. Maybe because the bar is so low for them, and so high for women.

This was more than drag (the divine Mr Porter nonwithstanding) or a coloured tuxedo jacket. It’s always interesting to see who tries to hit the theme (a try is better than a fail in my book), just as much as who hits it out of the park. Although it is performance, it says a lot about the celebrity, how they want to be seen, and how seriously they take it all.

 

It seemed that quite a few men (and not just the younguns like Ezra Miller) decided to get in on the fun.

I’m not quite sure what carrying a spare head is about, but it does answer the question “Is this too much?” in the affirmative. And Hamish Bowles’ purple tux and fabulous feather fringed coat checks every box on the list.

Ezra Miller’s extra set of eyes behind his face flips the script and makes the observed the observer, but Jordan Roth’s custom couture cloak from Iris van Herpen deserves a second look.

Closed, it looks like a classic red stage curtain, but when he raises his arms, you see that it opens to reveal not the stage, but the audience seats. So who’s performing and who’s observing. A nice bit of table turning there.

Well done, lads!