Tuesday, February 9, 2016

upheaval in knitwear industry

Wool and the Gang hat for Giles Deacon A/W 2014 http://www.woolandthegang.com

No, hand knitters are not being replaced by machines, that was accomplished during the Elizabethan period by British clergyman William Lee. Hybrid business models are appearing from Wool and the Gang to Unmade. And certainly the most luxurious knits will continue to be produced by hand, Hillary Rohde, Thistle and Broom and Eribe in Scotland and various knitwear companies in Norway and Denmark, where knitters work from home. A new generation of  knitters has been drafted whether working in spare time while studying at university or employed in another sector. Nothing compares to a hand knit garment or accessory. ecomodista won't dwell on the wretched spinoffs of Fair Isle impelled by Dolce & Gabbana's diffusion line DG in 2010 (like cardigans with the pattern rows woefully mismatched...)

Tech start-up and low tech cottage industry, Wool and the Gang (WATG) was founded by Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper, creating a business model incorporating DIY and hand knit production. One may order the kit to knit oneself, or order the item already knit. Located in Dalston east London studio, a WATG culture has emerged which provides a community of over 2,000 "Gang Makers" who work in home production for the company and "whom they can call on at any time, in whatever numbers they need, to make anything from a single bespoke item to bulk order - like 250 hats [produced for Giles Deacon runway presentation A/W 2014]. In an instant they can scale their production up or down according to demand." as Tamsin Blanchard reported.

Wool and the Gang http://www.woolandthegang.com

Other hybrid knitwear companies may be found at Makerversity, situated in the partially abandoned lower floors of the 300 year old cultural centre and former palace, Somerset House, on the banks of the river Thames. Creating a workspace for 60+ entrepreneurial ventures, and where Unmade is located various business models are being created to combat stereotypes. Using coding to transform knitting machines to respond in the manner of 3D printers, Unmade essentially "prints" clothing to order, reconfiguring the process of clothing manufacturing. This process insures Unmade will not produce clothing no one wants. "It is estimated that 10% of all the clothes made in the world go straight to landfill, which, says Alun-Jones [of Unmade] is 'insane'. We seem to have lost something in mass production where you are making things for everyone, but everything is made for no one.”  This is a shocking indictment of the clothing industry, and analogous to food waste, which is being currently legislated  in the UK to redistribute food to those in need.

Monday, February 8, 2016

upheaval in fashion

Burberry ad campaign 2011 S/S
When Christopher Bailey announced an entirely new paradigm for runway presentations, other companies began to follow suit. Seasons will no longer apply, no Autumn/Winter 2017, instead the clothing will be adaptable to any season, Northern or Southern Hemisphere, for example the sleeveless trench coat. Secondly, consumers will be able to purchase the clothing displayed on runway immediately following the presentation, allowing Burberry to utilise the hype surrounding these presentations.

"We still travel around the world attending men’s, women’s and haute couture collections for months on end. We embrace social media and the internet, but the timing of this communication is out of sync with the availability of collections, which arrive many months after the consumer has seen them. We try to respond to the customer’s need for newness, but in doing so, we have created an over-proliferation of products that don’t have enough time to sell before the next collection drops, leading to waste. In doing so, we are constraining the creativity of our designers, exhausting the buyers and press, and overwhelming the consumer."  http://www.businessoffashion.com/

This opening paragraph in today's BoF Letter from the Editor (Imran Amed)  clearly addresses the environmental and economic issues confronting the fashion industry. There was an interesting study cited by BoF (different article) regarding teenagers spending on clothing, which has dropped from much higher levels 10 years ago. Of course it has, many teenagers now purchase their clothing on eBay and Etsy, primarily reusing clothing that owners no longer need. ecomodista has endorsed recycling, reusing, and reducing consumption, yet it seems much of the fashion industry does not recognize the importance of environmental and social justice issues to the post-millennial generation. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

chic holiday wear--the aran

It's official, Vogue UK has proclaimed the jumper of choice for this holiday season--the Aran. Featuring Altuzarra's pale blue Aran, among other designers it's possible to ignore in the flood of hype, he has worked with knitwear including Argyle in prior collections, such as is A/W 2011. Clearly a major talent, informed by his intelligence, Altuzarra's knits are an inspiration. 



 Altuzarra A/W 2011



 Altuzarra A/W 2011

Even the Financial Times considers the sweater of choice, illuminating various issues: "There are no trade restrictions attached to Aran as  there are with Champagne and and Parmigiano Reggiano, which makes it slightly confusing, says Tarlach de Blácam, chief executive of Aran company Inis Meáin (named after the Aran island on which the business is based. If we had the regulation they do in France it would be different..." The original Aran sweaters were much simpler in design. "A small cottg industry developed at the end of the 19th century as one of [British prime minister] Gladsone's employment schemes for the west of Irelands," says de Blácam, who moved to Inis Meáin 40 years ago. "They started making these white decorated sweaters for merchants and tourists visiting the islands, but if you look at old photographs and talk to the local people about what they used to wear out fishing, they all wore something much more restrained and simple which we like to call Aran workwear."

see: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/601d4b3a-6849-11e5-a57f-21b88f7d973f.html

Sunday, December 6, 2015

cool wool warm wool

Long a devotee and  supporter of all things local, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, realised the UK's wool industry could benefit from greater visibility and marketing. The resulting Campaign for Wool has, since 2010, promoted the environmental benefits of wool not to mention the benefits of regional sourcing. The program raises awareness amongst consumers about the unique, natural and sustainable benefits offered by wool via featuring various designers, such as knitwear design group Sibling, which is still recovering from the sad loss of 3rd Sibling, Joe Bates who died in August of this year.

Sibling catwalk S/S 2016 photo credit:Indigital

Encouraging collaboration among the international community of woolgrowers,designers, retailers, manufacturers and artisans the Campaign has been instrumental in educating consumers about the versatility of wool, and reconnecting them with its myriad uses – From luxurious fine merino knitwear to fire-retardant insulation for the home. 

However, a similar but much earlier campaign to promote the modernity of wool was initiated in 1936, when Australian woolgrowers voted to impose a 6 pence levy on each bale they produced to be used to promote their product globally. Incredibly prescient, this program, initially known as the International Wool Secretariat, used a fashion design award to attract public attention to a material that is exemplified by practical considerations including incredible durability, rich retention of dye, insulation and beauty. 

The Company of Merchants of the Staple is one of the oldest mercantile corporations in England. It is unique in being of England and not bounded by any city or municipality. It may trace its ancestry back as far as 1282 or even further. Begun initially by a group of 26 wool merchants, currently the company runs a charitable trust awarding scholarships and funding projects in wool, textile, and agriculture. Their support includes knitwear group, Unmade. 
see: www.merchantsofthestapleofengland.co.uk 

Unmade was founded in 2013 by Ben Alun-Jones, Hal Watts, and Kirsty Emery, at the Royal College of Art who studied industrial design (Watts and Alun-Jones) and knitwear (Emery) Unmade combines new technologies and traditional knitting practices to promote more conscious or conscientious fashion consumption. Focusing on a concept that seems to have become less visible in the past 3 or 4 years, the designers work with bespoke software and Stoll flat knitting machines to create unique custom knitwear. Essentially, their pop up locations this autumn allow customers to play with the interface, adjust designs and ultimately take home their knit on the same day. 

photo credit: Unmade

Jocelyn Picard, founder of LYN was taught to crochet by his mother during his adolescence. Ultimately, Picard developed his own unique technique and began selling winter accessories in a thrift shop in his hometown of Sherbrooke, Quebec. Recognition rapidly ensued and he continued to develop his work as a designer. For his first professional collaboration with renowned Canadian designer Denis Gagnon's A/W 2011, Picard produced crochet bracelets from zippers. A year later, young designers UNTTLD commissioned two pieces from Jocelyn for their A/W 2012 collection. A fashion film based on this collectionby Dominique Loubier was featured on the Italian Vogue website. 

photo credit: Jocelyn Picard


Nanna van Blaaderen, 

Another Woolmark participant, the Dutch Nanna van Blaaderen designs with the intent of "contributing to more respect for or environment." van Blaaderen studied at the Willem de Kooning Academy in the Netherlands and continued to specialise in knitwear  design, working for Maison Martin Margiela fashion house before founding her own label in 2011. Awarded the Woolmark Europe Women's Wear prize this year van Blaaderen's work was cited for her unique point of view and innovative use of wool. see:  http://www.nannavanblaaderen.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

fast fashion

Das Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MG&K in Hamburg Germany) has staged an extremely well thought, well documented, well explained exhibition portraying the horrors perpetrated by fast fashion (in case one is not a devoté this includes Zara, H & M, Target, among other purveyors of clothing that is designed to last no more than one season). The environmental and personal costs of producing fast fashion are myriad, from disappearing lakes where water is diverted to cotton production to women (often considered sexual prey by management) who must work long hours without benefit of unions, a living wage, or child care. see: fast fashion exhibition 


The exhibition design reflects the issues, bales of used clothing for couches--much of fast fashion is destined for landfill, although some is recycled. The greater issue is that the despoiled environment stemming from textile and clothing production negatively impacts our climate, air quality, and human lives devastated by harsh working conditions, few health or safety regulations, and lack of physical and intellectual freedoms.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

riga unaravelled

Winter setting in on the Baltic is cozy, damp cold ameliorated by the innumerable cafes and new boutiques dedicated to consumption with a lighter carbon footprint have opened.  We flew into Riga from Hamburg to work with the stylist Deniss Schevelove who had just spent an enormous amount of time working with designers during Riga's Fashion Week, which regretfully we missed. Riga is incredibly modern and new construction abounds. ecomodista fears the fate of some of the wooden buildings at the edge of the Art Nouveau district, which we trawled when not working on knit wear. Initially we stayed at the Albert Hotel, and yes, it is dedicated to Albert Einstein, with clever allusions sprinkled throughout the building, including a clock for relative time. see:http://www.alberthotel.lv

The Albert has become a techie hub, just around the corner are corporate offices of groups such as Ask.lv an uncensored forum for teens and recently sold to Ask.com and Tinderbox owners.
Dress ELETTO, sunglasses by FENDI, shoes Lella Baldi  makeup Jekaterina Hlopova, hair Oksana Kirilenko

After considering several art nouveau buildings for the shoot, we decided that the Garden Palace Hotel would be divine. Built by a shipping magnate in the 18th century, it was empty and in disrepair after Latvia regained it's independence achieved after the Berlin Wall brought a crashing end to the Soviet regime. The current owner ultimately restored the building painfully dissecting layers and layers  of paint, to find the original colors, matching marbles and woods. Hotel Garden Palace is furnished with French antiques and Persian rugs, the bar embellished with art deco furnishings. The  incredibly lavish suites and hotel rooms and comfortable guest spaces exemplify a unique contribution to historic preservation.see:  http://www.hotelgardenpalace.lv

Deniss Schevelove, stylist, adjusts the model's shoes, photo credit Wayne Decker


 Knit coat TDaniell, dress ELETTO, model, Anelija-Niko, makeup Jekaterina Hlopova, hair Oksana Kirilenko

Latvian knitwear company, ELETTO,, first appeared in Riga Fashion Week in autumn 2011. ELETTO produces beautifully designed garments using natural materials - cashmere, cashmere with silk, alpaca, among other fibers.

Sweater Gareth Pugh, model Ekaterina Stafetskis, makeup Jekaterina Hlopova, hair Oksana Kirilenko






Thursday, October 9, 2014

transparent fashion




ecomodista considered angora a viable incredibly cozy fiber--until Liz Smith of the Daily Mail (I know I know I'm a Guardian girl) revealed the horrors of angora production. Ever since meeting and photographing Kristen Olsson's work (she was also THE model for Bohus knitwear) angora has seemed alluring. It has a loft that retains body heat quite effectively, absorbs dyes exceptionally well, and such tiny creatures may be raised on farms or crofts. Naturally, the National Angora Rabbit Breeders provides information on harvesting this fur without pain or angst for the rabbit, but large breeders seem less than concerned with animal rights. Of course being a shorn sheep isn't much fun either. 

One woman, Isobel Davies, is crusading for transparency of the fashion industry's fiber acquisition. In an interview with an editor at Womanology, Davies discussed how she founded Izzy Lane, after being a successful musician and the originator of farm to fork food networking. "Through Farmaround, I became immersed in the ethos of organic agriculture and in particular to preserve wildlife habitats. Whilst visiting organic farms I became aware that farmers were burning their wool in protest at the low prices they were being paid. What they received didn’t even cover the shearing costs. This horrified me since I had always loved wool as a fibre." As she researched this issue she "also discovered that there was no traceability whatsoever of animal fibre for [clothing]. Everyone wanted to know where the meat on their plate was from and how the animal had lived and died, but the same questions were not asked of wool or leather, yet the origin is the same." 


Izzy Lane's A/W 2012/2013 collection promotes ethical luxury by promoting animal welfare.

500 rare breed sheep which have been rescued from slaughter provide the wool used in Izzy Lane's collections. Their flock of Wensleydale and Shetland sheep is comprised of animals that would have been sent to slaughter for being too male, missing a pregnancy, being lame, too small, too old or other imperfections--white fleece marred by a black spot. Now these protected sheep live at Izzy Lane's  sanctuary in North Yorkshire while their wool is used in knitwear and wovens.