Thursday, November 17, 2011

yarn bombing helsinki, tallinn, and points beyond

upper right Sara Palojärvi, a young knitwear artist involved with yarn installations in addition to designing knitwear; center, scarf designed by Palojärvi, knit with Finnish sheep wool; upper left, a clear winter day in Helsinki

Sara Palojärvi's installations on the ferry between Helsinki & Tallinn

Palojärvi has trekked around the EU in search of sites for her installations; how amusing to decorate the ferry rail. The easiest method of traveling to Tallinn is simply to take the ferry from Helsinki. Tallinn and Riga are not yet served by international high speed trains, due to the differing Soviet track size, and while the rail systems are being upgraded, ferries, planes, and buses are the best option. It's common for stag and hen parties to take the ferry to Tallinn for the weekend, prices are considerably less there, but knitters also make this pilgrimage. Estonia is known for its yarns, Kauni and eVilla Art Yarn. Ruth Sørensen has designed exquisite patterns for these yarns, color patterns that capitalize on the color gradations, which run in longer streams in the eVilla. see: it is ecomodista's fervent hope to one day knit one of her designs. 

If you are on a tenuous budget, there's a great hostel in Helsinki, Eurohostel on Katajanokka Island, well one can't really discern that it's an island, and the tram is just outside the door. Replete with all the mod cons, during the winter one often has a room without share. The bathrooms have been upgraded and one of ecomodista's favs about Finland are the toilets, no there aren't bidets, however, all public toilet stalls have small sinks with nozzeled hoses for sanitation. If you  would rather stay in a more upscale hotel, the Scandic Grand Marina is nearby, and all Scandic hotels are environmentally aware, providing toiletries in large refillable containers instead of these maddening tiny plastic bottles that seem endemic these days, nothing could be further from sustainable.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

hommage to de la falaise

detail of vintage Kenzo Cossack style pullover a la YSL

note to self: photograph this cossack style sweater on model. How sad to loose Loulou de la Falaise, so vibrant and such a distinct style. see Cathy Horyn's tribute:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

arne & carlos knit--christmas ornaments, pullovers, dickeys

Arne & Carlos cardigan and is this a dickey?

A dickey? ecomodista resorted to wikipedia for the definition of this one, a detachable shirt front and in the 20th century, false turtle neck sweaters. of course, being eternally cold, ecomodista doesn't really understand why one wouldn't want the rest of the turtleneck--sleeves and body. This is just the sort of ersatz dressing that is so discouraging, although it's possibly semi-functional, keeping one's neck warm, but then why not wear a scarf. Anyway, the concept seems to have caught on, Juan  Cocco, student in Madrid sports one.

The nordic duo, Arne & Carlos create sensational designs whether for Comme des Garcons or traditional knit Christmas ornaments. Jason Dike reports on The Gentleman's Corner, "The Norwegian company, named after their owners Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison, started out as a womenswear collection in 2002 [located in Valdres]." Garnering  positive responses to their knitwear, ultimately resulted in their total commitment to knits and at the same time, Arne & Carlos initiated a men's collection, introduced Fall/Winter 2008 Paris. 

In an interview with selectism, the team was asked how they became so wildly popular. "We started out as a women's wear brand and mainly did wovens, but also some knitwear. After a few years in the business, it turned out we were getting the best feedback on our knitwear, and we started getting noticed for that. After thinking about it for a while we decided to stop doing wovens and focus 100% on our knitwear...So when we showed our first knitwear collection for men suddenly we started to sell to all these high-end fashion stores [Liberty and Dover Street Market in London, which led to their high profile collaboration with Comme des Garcons]... at the time we managed to edit our collections in a much better way, once we got rid of everything else except the knitwear. 

Their book, 55 Christmas Balls to Knit, has been translated into English as is available at Amazon and numerous yarn shops in the US and Canada. It has been pointed out that the color patterns are easily adaptable to sweaters or even dickeys!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

wall street protest & knitting

Hat designed by Kerttu Karppinen, hand spun and dyed Utuna yarn; model wearing sweater designed by Tuulia Lampinen, another wonderful Finnish designer.

ecomodista can hardly ignore the protest that has sparked similar protests globally. What does knitting have to do with the issues of corporate controlled political entities and  the concentration of great wealth in a small percentage of people in the process eroding the middle class? Actually the DIY movement is not only a manifestation of this discontent, but the logical response--eliminating reliance on big box retailers. Knitting one's clothing is inherently more ethical, since much of the clothing industry relies on either child or captive labor in Asia and Africa. 

Furthermore, knitters may choose yarns that are spun from heritage sheep, or other locally grown products. Finns are committed to sustainable practices and hand knitting yarn is no exception. Finnish designer Kerttu Karppinen represents such an effort, relying on  wool from an endangered sheep breed, Kainuu Grey also known as Grey Finnsheep. ecomodista has been knitting mitts from Utuna wool, and it is so lovely to work with, really special. See:   

Purchasing the wool from a local farmer who is breeding the Finnsheep, encourages preservation by creating a market for the product. As Karppinen’s production increases, she hopes other farmers will become interested in raising this breed, which were once indigenous. In the course of creating a market for yarn, Karppinen designs clothing and accessories using Utuna wool. Her jackets, hats, and mittens are influenced by folkwear, specifically Toini-Inkeri Kaukonen’s study, Suomalaiset kansanpuvut ja kansallispuvut/Finnish Folk Costumes and Present-Day use of National Dresses.  Karppinen's designs include historical techniques such as rya in a totally new context, see her mittens on the Utuna site. She has even created a tutorial for knitters to learn this technique.

Monday, October 24, 2011

ingrid tait

Ingrid Tate's cashmere cap, from Tait & Style in Kirkwall, the Orkneys; sweater designed by  Tuulia Lampinen, the innovative Finnish knitwear designer. see:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

knitting in the orkneys

detail of Elizabeth Lovick design

Crowded by oil industry types and beefy oil riggers, the flight from Amsterdam to Aberdeen is brief. A taxi cue outside the airport huddles under shelter from the rain, and when we finally arrive at the Central Rail Station we have only an hour to wait for our train to Inverness.  Located in the city centre, Central Station opens onto a recently constructed mall which includes a boutique hotel--Jurys Inn--cafes, and the usual high street stores. Ferry access, where one may catch the Northlink Ferry to the Orkneys and Shetland Islands is nearby.  First Scotrail to Inverness meanders through green countryside, windows streaked by rain that continues all day. We disembark in Inverness to change trains. Located across from Inverness station is a charming Victorian shopping arcade where ecomodista browsed briefly and found a parts shop for bagpipes. 

Kirkwall Harbor 

btw, Earlier this month, Inverness hosted the Ganseyfest, an international seminar, which included designers such as Di Gilpin and Elizabeth Lovick, who is also an historian and written various books on ganseys, Fair Isle, and Shetland Lace.

St. Margarets Hope, Orkneys

A fascinating individual, Liz had recently restored The Old Harbor Master's House in St. Margaret's Hope in the Orkney's. She conducts meticulous research related to the history of various types of traditional knitting in addition to designing patterns for Fair Isle, lace, and other styles of knitting. Her site, Northern Lace, is extremely interesting and a wonderful resource. Lovick offers hand dyed North Ronaldsay yarns in her Etsy shop when available and has written an excellent book of patterns just for this very special yarn. see: Her book with patterns for ganseys features her research in local museums and collections. Surprisingly, Lovick points out that  ganseys knit by early 20th century gutters, girls who gutted herring then packed them in barrels of salt, were pastel colors, and generally 3/4 sleeves, as opposed to those knit by or for sailors which are generally dark blue or black. 

Traditional gansey motifs  include anchors, ropes, herringbone, and similar imagery related to fishing. Densely knit, these patterned garments served seamen well, providing insulation from the harsh conditions in the North Sea. Recently an article from 1975 was posted online that includes a few traditional stitch patterns, probably inspired by the Moray Firth (the bay on the North Sea near Inverness) Gansey Project. Locating and documenting ganseys from families in this district, organizing exhibitions and events such as the Ganseyfest, the Moray Firth project has inspired a resurgence of gansey knitting. See:

At Inverness, we changed to a much smaller rail line, apparently narrow gauge, that travels north to Scabster/Thurso, crawling along the Moray Firth. This scenic route hugs the coastline, detouring through wild Highlands landscape and acres of Scotch distilleries, row after row of stone warehouses where the whiskey is aged. After spending the night in Thurso, we took the ferry from Scabster to Stromness,  the second largest town on the mainland of Orkney, known during the Viking period as Hamnavoe or safe harbor. 

George Mackay Brown, the brilliant Scottish novelist and playwright has written eloquently spare novels and plays about the Orkneys, especially  Magnus, one of the outstanding books of the 20th century. 

Focusing on the medieval Earls of Orkney and Saint Magnus and brilliantly juxtaposing the saint's death with a scene from Auschwitz. Mackay Brown evokes an eerie perception that human nature has changed little since the Orkneys were ruled by Norway. Mackay Brown's novel about daily life on these islands,  Greenvoe, is a poignant account of the impact  of  late 20th century economy and culture in the Orkneys. 

From Stromness one takes public transit, a tiny bus, to Kirkwall. Fortunately, the station is near the central business district, and hotels. ecomodista and husband stayed at the Albert Hotel, and despite the fact we were the only guests (it was October) service was perfect and the room extremely pleasant.

lighthouse in Scabster

Two well known knitwear designers live in the Orkneys, Elizabeth Lovick and Ingrid Tait of Tait & Style. ecomodista stumbled upon Ingrid's boutique although already familiar with her work which has been featured in various department stores, such as Barneys in NYC. see

Liz Lovick, after obtaining her doctorate in biochemistry, worked as a medical researcher and educator. Later, she morphed into a well respected knitwear designer. History and tradition animate Lovick who discusses her background. "I learned to knit from my Cornish grandmother, at an early age, and later bought my own clothes from the income I derived designing and knitting sweaters for friends. When ill health forced me to stop teaching, I did what my forebears would have done--I turned to knitting."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Swedish Bohus sweater yoke with sample of motif in blues, courtesy Kerstin Olsson.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

not denmark

ecomodista has been wondering how the Tohuku earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear meltdown (well perhaps not literally) are affecting the European knitwear industry, especially Scottish cashmere. Perhaps not in the least if one extrapolates information from a recent Cushman & Wakefield study of the world's largest shopping centers. According to Christian Dubois, Partner at Cushman & Wakefield France, "Eight-one percent of the 278 locations analyzed in 63 countries have shown either growth or consistency in their rental values, versus 66% in 2010." While NYC's 5th Avenue continues to exert dominance, the Ginza district in Tokyo was third, following Hong Kong's Causeway bay, certainly a possible barometer of consumer spending. 

Japan may be the world's fourth largest importer of knitwear, but only a small percentage of that, 10 years ago 3.9%, is from the EU. However, Japanese consumers do account for 11% of global luxury sales. Hand knits are so coveted that women have a personal knitter rather than a tailor. Favoring Nordic designs, Japanese pattern books are devoted to Selbu   In 2001 the Scotland launched "Cashmere Made in Scotland" label in Japan, one of the major consumers of cashmere. Economists working with data from previous global disasters in fact predict imports to rise, but whether this includes luxury spending it's difficult to say until 2012. According to Le Tien Truong, Deputy General Director of Vinatex,the Vietnamese textile organization the imports will focus on affordable garments. Ironically, victims of the tsunami may need to acquire entire wardrobes given the loss of their homes.

above: Wild Apple yoke on small scale for sample and at actual size, designed by Kerstin Olsson

Kerstin Olsson was a major designer for Bohus knitwear in Gothenberg, Sweden, during the 1960's, responsible for the classic Wild Apple motif. Various Japanese knitters visit her studio annually, as Olsson is an icon of Swedish knitwear. ecomodista will post excerpts of an interview with her in the near future.

Knitwear is such a major component of fashion, Japan's response to H & M, Uniglo just launched their 100% Merino sweater campaign in London, Have You Seen Our Sheep? Using hash tags, consumers who spot stray sheep and tweet a photograph of themselves with sheep wandering in the city may be rewarded with a cashmere sweater!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

århus and beyond

Take the train from Copenhagen to Århus, and while there, track down Helga and and Marianne Isager's boutique. There are wonderful yarn shops too, Garnlageret Aarhus is at Rosenkrantzgade 31 . after browsing in the pedestrian High Street, from the Central Station to the cathedral, ecomodista trekked to her favorite bakery in Århus, Langenaes bagerie where Palle Sørensen once worked, not that it is any less wonderful since a new pastry chef has replaced him. In a chilling downpour the ambience of the cafe warmed us.

From Århus, it's feasible to take a direct one hour bus to Ebeltoft, known for its artist's community (where Ruth Sørensen lives and works) and the natural beauty of its beaches and surrounding forests and hills. Artists frequent the town, attracted by the Glassmuseet Ebeltoft, a stunning glass studio and museum. One of the few round churches, Thorsager Rundkirke, is nearby, in Rønde. Concerts are often presented in this venue, so do check their schedule.

upper left, Ebeltoft Dyeworks, lower left Balleby yarn shop; right, half timbered houses in the center of Ebeltoft. 

During an interview with Ruth Sørensen, she divulged how she obtains inspiration from nature. In her newly enlarged studio, she looks out upon a carpet of wildflowers with layers of colors, she captures these as she knits using the Kauni Effekt or other self striping or shading yarns from Estonia. Her patterns are so popular that Raverly knit alongs with everyone knitting the same design happen.

Balleby Art & Knitting, Adelgade 68, in Ebeltoft has a wonderful selection of Danish yarns and kits from designers such as Bente Geil, whose web site, also offers her specially spun yarns and designs. Do order color cards of the yarn since they are identified only by number on her site, although one could simply contact her and ask for a favored color. ecomodista intends o knit Running Time, a summer knit. Geil's designs cleverly incorporate historical references with a modern twist.

Geil and Sørensen's kits are also available at the Textilforum/Textile Forum Museum, Vestergade 20 in Herning a major center for machine loomed knitting and textile production located in the flatlands of Jutland. Textileforum is fascinating, exhibiting carding, spinning, and circular knitting equipment, and even providing the opportunity to work on the looms.

above, Herning Textile Forum, weaving equipment and vintage yarns on original wooden spools

Herning is surroundd by heaths, and during the 19th century was at the center of major reclamation project although subsistance farming forced rural landholders to supplement their incomes with cottage industries such as hand knitting. Later the textile industry was the regions primary economic activity. A company dating from the early 20th century, SNS Herning continues to produce hand loomed machine knits, each one signed by it's creator.

if you happen to find yourself in copenhagen...

Fabulous kits and yarns may be purchased at Uldstedet i City, Fiolstraede 13, which has a large selection of Isager, Garn Studio, and Gepard yarns plus kits from Hanne Falkenberg and Helga Isager. The shop also stocks prefab felted wool slippers with leather soles, a must have even if one does knit since street shoes and boots are not worn at home. Anyway, felted slippers with hand knit socks are so much warmer, and one uses less energy for heating. Sommerflyglen, located at Vandkunsten 3, stocks knitting, embroidery, and quilting materials, with yarns spun just for them.

above: Chrisiania district in Copenhagen where hand made is the dominant ethic
below: Ebeltoft pedestrian quarter where Balleby Garn & Strik is located

above: Bente Geil's gillet design 
below: Bente Geil's home

Christiania, the large counterculture community in the center of the city dates from the 1960's, where rioting color and handmade homes and gardens vie for attention. Amergatov Square is nearby, where knitters from the country once plied their wares. A small market in Christiania sometimes has hand knits, but made in Latin America rather than local, although there is a charming craft shop and gallery in Christiania.

Christiania even developed its own industry, production of specially designed bicycles with attached carts, and these are often seen on the streets of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Fashion week occurs annually in early February and August; knitwear is often a large component on the catwalks, and several designers, especially Iben Høj work only with knits. and see: 

After shopping at various independent boutiques, especially Sabine Poupinel on Kronprinsensgade who stocks Gudrun og Gudren among others, and Sjaler Tekstil Galleriet specializing in hand knit and woven scarves and shawls, essential to staying warm regardless of the season, try the smørrebrød or open face sandwiches at the cafe, Domhuskaeldernat at Nytorv 5.

The Kunstindustrimuseet/Industrial Arts Museum is a fabulous resource for antique laces where an entire room is devoted to this art. If you are interested in more recent vintage, check out Ca Roule Ma Moule on Silkegade frequently patronized by Lene Nystrøm, vocalist for the band Aqua. Atelier Decor on Rømersgade features 20th century fashion, and numerous antique shops have moved into Ravnsborgde in the Nørrebro district, the current "Latin Quarter." 

ecomodista is having problems with posted comments, so this one has been incormporated into the text:


I love this blog! I really enjoy reading about European Knitting and the cities, towns and villages from where it originates. I love how you have combined the idea of travel and knitting together. 

Have you ever thought of putting a trip together to some of these destinations - for other knitters? 


Posted by Anonymous to europe knitting at September 6, 2011 7:24 PM

Thursday, September 1, 2011

denmark still knitting

left, cardigan designed by Ruth Sørensen using Excel and Kauni Effekt yarn and inspired by the landscapes of Ebeltoft; right, detail of wall in Christiania, the counterculture squat in the center of Copenhagen.

Despite educational sløjd, not every Dane wants to knit. While Ruth Sørensen learned to knit from her mother and in school, she abandoned the craft by the time she was a student at Designskolen Kolding, where she trained as a textile designer and weaver. Charmingly blunt, Ruth explains knitting was included in the curriculum but was her least favorite class. “After textile design training, I was absorbed by weaving, and found the patterns and colors that could be produced with this technique exciting. I never found knitting to be especially challenging.” She, her husband, and children lived on a farm near Ebeltoft, north of Århus, surrounded by apple orchards but moved into town when the children were in secondary school. Ebeltoft is a former seaport and now has a lively arts scene, an internationally recognized glass museum, and is a resort in the summer. Historically, in the provinces, knitters worked with white wool then brought their finished garments to a dye-works such as Farvergården in Ebeltoft.

Ballerby Garn in Ebeltoft's historic center is stockist for Bente Geil's kits and Isager yarns.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

denmark knitting

above left: Christiania, the infamous squat in Copenhagen that became permanent housing for the counter culture, who even designed a special bicycle that is produced there; upper right: nattrøjer designed by Ruth Sørensen using Kauni effect yarn; the Textilforum in Herning is a museum inhabiting a former knitwear factory, where old equipment continues to demonstrate the processes, the museum shop stocks Bente Geil and Ruth Sørensen kits.

For expert knitters in Denmark there are various paths-- some design patterns that are sold as kits with yarn, such as Bente Geil's imaginative sleevlings and other designs, or Helga Issager see:, or separately as patterns sold on line which is Ruth Sørensen's current mode in addition to teaching workshops. Knits frequently embellish prêt à porter presentations during Copenhagen Fashion Week. Two powerful women, Gudrun og Gudrun in the Faroe Islands transform historical myths into chic modern knitwear.

The Faroe Islands produce particular motifs, one consisting of rows of squares, that Sørensen has revamped. Various designs identify specific regions in Denmark. If one's great-grandmother lived in the province of Zealand, she used the stranding technique, distinguishing her garment from a jersey knit in Jutland that relied on textured stitches. Regional variations developed into micro styles associated with each parish or village by mid-nineteenth century. These patterns also distinguished hand knits from those industrially produced with which cottage industry was competing. As the the twentieth century evolved, nattrøjer, a knit nightshirt morphed into cardigans. Patterns of varying knit and purl stitches typify this garment, which was relegated to folk costume until the current resurgence of innovative knitting in Denmark transformed this unique garment. 

Highly political, Danes' sweaters even express socio/political sentiments. While demonstrating against nuclear energy in the 1970's, Danish protesters wore hand knit sweaters reading “Atomic Power? No Thanks.” However, not every sweater conveys a message other than warmth. Although fishermen rely on wool sweaters in inclement weather, all Danes live in sweaters, mittens and hats virtually year round. Everyone conserves heat in the winter by wearing heavy cardigans, socks, and felt slippers at home. 

Alternating with the amazingly long days of summer in Denmark, are the abbreviated days of winter, drenched with rain and winds off the North Sea. It’s little wonder that the Vikings used a Neolithic technique, nålebinding, to create wool or fiber clothing and accessories, working frenetically to knit before another winter descended with its swirling snow, wet fogs, and leaden skies. 

Nålebinding, or single needle knitting, is a looping technique similar to knitting with two needles, but executed with an eyed needle. Wrapping the fiber around one’s thumb or needle allows the knitter to control tension, producing a mesh of interlocking loops. Garments are built up in spirals, similar to knitting with circular needles although difficult and tedious, but thicker and warmer. So difficult to produce, in Finland it was said that a man wearing knit mittens (rather than from nålbinding) had a wife who was inept.  Nålbinding continued to be used until the  innovation of working with two needles pervaded Denmark in the 16th century, although Danish fishermen were still making socks with this technique in the twentieth century. 

enough! suffice it to say, hand knitters abound in Denmark, and a new generation is having an impact on fashion. ecomodista will continue the denmark post soon, actually sooner that the sparse posting this summer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


above left, hand knit napkins at Anne & Peter's home in Copenhagen; center gilet designed by Bente Geil, and necklace knit from gold and stones by Zuzana Rudavska, well known Slovakian artist; upper right, Isager yarns

Denmark seethes with outstanding knitwear designers and knitters. One boutique, Sabine Poupinel located on Kronprinsensgade 12 in Copenhagen represents some of these designers, such as Barbara I Gongini, perfect for one's inner goth, and the incredible Gudrun og Gudrun. Faroese wool is unbelievably soft, and ecomodista regrets not purchasing one of their sweaters in the boutique. Viewing their enterprise as one link in the chain of sustainability, Gudrun og Gudrun's hand knits are created using wool from local sheep, and have an organic line which is pesticide and dye free. Known for their avant garde designs inspired by Norse myths, they also work with traditional motifs.

see Kamicha's


And of course, considering the knit in Denmark, Marianne Isager is an icon, designing stylish knits inspired by various cultures. Her daughter, Helga is an outstanding designer in her own right, being more involved in fashion than color work patterns, and one may see her latest collection at: 

Tutto, an importer in Santa Fe, New Mexico distributes the Isager's yarn. A wonderful yarn shop in Copenhagen, Sommerfuglen on Vandkunsten 3 is a great place to browse and see the Isager's patterns.

Next posting ecomodista will include Benet Geil and Ruth Sørensen's work.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

finland: tandem sweaters & ice breaking ships

right: Finnish designer Sirkka Könönen; left: detail of one of her sweaters

Walking over to Sirkka Könönen’s boutique in Helsinki, I was perplexed. I had the correct address, but couldn’t find it. Dropping into another boutique, I asked the owner where Sirkka was located, and she advised me it was a few doors back, and “It looks like an antique shop." Indeed, if one is looking for yarn in the window, or knitwear, forget it. Könönen’s Helsinki shop window is crowded with foliage, a bureau and mannikins from the 1930’s, although dressed in her inimitable knits and in fact she does have a license to sell antiques in addition to her designs. Stumbling inside, numb from the winter air, Sirkka warmly welcomed me, making coffee and setting out traditional Karelian pastries. We chatted about her career. Her knit designs are stuffed in between old cabinets, bird cages, other found objects, and knit cakes on a top shelf, large and sculptural. Her flea market collection in the boutique reflects her attitude towards compassion and protection, she buys items that may be forgotten or useless. “Sometimes I must clean more, I have so many things, it is better I put it so. The knit and crochet wedding cakes? I was tired of knitting, I wanted to work in something more free." 

upper right: detail of stranded pattern from 1960's; upper right:Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art designed by American firm, Steven Holl; lower right: detail of Könönen sweater; left: Helsinki in the winter

Könönen has essentially redefined stranded knitting in terms of motifs and colors. While still studying at the Institute for Industrial Arts in Helskinki, she opened her boutique and was selling her knit wear designs to magazines. Experimenting with various concepts, Könönen once designed a tandem sweater, to be worn simultaneously by 5 women. She is a fascinating colorist, and bright colors contrast with subdued grays, sages, and mauves. Her designs are so distinctive when I was walking through the university neighborhood on my way to see her, I recognized leg warmers worn by students which she had designed, and at Helsinki Airport, saw a man wearing her fox sweater. 

right: detail of rya wall hanging; left: Nation Museum, Helsinki

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

country style, germany

Well known character actor, Michael Altmann spends as much time as possible in his country home near the Mosel, where he and his brother, Ulrich Altmann have vineyards.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

germany: the knit without boundaries

above: Claudia Skoda metallic knit

Knits are a large component of the German fashion scene and have been for 25 years. A major innovator, Claudia Skoda, originally worked out of a loft in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Her studio, Fabrikneu or brand new, was shared by artists and friends, and her first runway presentation, 1977, featured a catwalk of photos made by Martin Kippenberger. Cohort of Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Skoda first captured the imagination of the punk art scene.
In an interview with ecomodista, Skoda discussed how her work evolved, experimenting with  any and all materials and techniques, especially technical innovations for machine knits. A member of the early punk pack that included David Bowie, Skoda experimented with knitwear.  She moved to America in the early 1980’s, she opened a boutique in SoHo, although production remained in Berlin. The dramatic political events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, compelled Skoda returned as Soviet domination and the DDR imploded. Subsequent unification of East and West Germany and the designation of Berlin as a unified Germany’s capitol once again, symbolized the the new Reichstag’s transparent dome designed by British architect Norman Foster, compelled numerous Germans to repatriate. These, the wealthy, and artists who were suddenly drawn to Berlin, patronized Skoda’s chic boutique on Ku’damm designed by Australian Marc Newson. 

An expanding German economy and a commitment to revitalizing the moribund former East Berlin, but which ecomodista found appealingly uncommercial, encouraged businesses to move to these neighborhoods. Skoda opened a boutique at Alte Schönhauser Straße 35 in Berlin’s Bezirk Mitte, near Alexanderplatz, once the heart of the DDR, now the neighborhood is filled with hip hotels like motel one, various designer’s boutiques and innumerable cafes where students and artists hang out. Vivienne Westwood, who spends a great deal of time in Berlin, Comme des Garçons and other designers also occupy this neighborhood.

Considered an essential accessory by numerous students, Skoda’s now classic slouchy beret even adorns Cate Blanchett and Milla Jovovich. The first knitwear designer to conceive of producing men’s trousers, Skoda’s concept captured the patronage of men who covet comfort. Using featherweight yarns, and an array of pale colors, these trousers are a perennial favorite.
In an interview with ecomodista, Skoda discusses her career, “I am interested in combining fabric with knit. I don’t remember how I learned, but I’m essentially self taught, learning by doing.” She muses, “Perhaps my occupation came out from a need to have some special clothes, one had so few choices then, unlike today, so i just knit. My grandfather and father were tailors, my grandfather had a business, bespoke suits--maybe it’s in the genes.” 
Sustainability is a serious issue in Germany, and the government supports major projects towards this goal. A major effort is underway to be independent of foreign oil and gas, and already almost one fifth of Germany’s energy is renewable. Wind turbines stalk the North Sea coastline, and surround major cities such as Hamburg and Lubeck and Germans are staunchly anti-nuclear, at least the populace, of course the industry is attempting to direct the political future of nuclear energy in that country. Resolutely chopping wood from renewed forests for energy efficient stoves, many families rely on layers of hand knits to stay warm. 

below: Marie Louise Vogt experiments with various sustainable techniques, from knitting with recycled textiles to this cape, a perfect concept for left over colors, although in this case, the design and colors were preconceived.

Minimalism, sustainable in and of itself, manifests this style in hotels, think The Pure in Frankfurt, 25 Hours in Hamburg, and the Motel Ones where the lobby’s dual function bar/cafe and reception, offers companionship or an internet hot spot. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

black swan & stripes

In addition to Calvin Klein, the US has produced Rodarte, the sister sister team so EU in their intellectual approach to design, no wonder, since Kate and Laura Mulleavy attended UC Berkeley Shockingly, Rodarte was not even nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for their wonderfully inventive costumes for Black Swan. Black Swan is definitely a knitters’s movie, in addition to exploring the murky depths of creative ambition and ambiguity.
Colleen Atwood’s designs for Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, scooped the award for costume design. ecomodista wasn't the only one who felt Rodarte's designs for Black Swan were brilliant and should have garnered an award. Interviewing the sisters for W Editor’s Blog, the Rodarte team discussed the concepts of stories and duality, “We looked at its [ballet’s] historical relevance and the socio-political developments of ballet and the female body over the years. Also, we really thought about how the subject of voyeurism would be explored in the film through the cinematography and story telling and thus wanted to focus on playing with viewership in the designs. We drew from an internal understanding and personal fascination with the idea of duality.” Unfortunately, there has been some disagreement regarding their contribution, although given the dominance of knitwear, the conflation of the feathers as a fringed scarf worn by the protagonist off stage and the graphite body paint, there is little doubt of their involvement. Apparently the Rodarte's agent did not negotiate proper credit rights. What could be easier for a knitter than stripes? Or what about Christopher Kane’s enlarged crochet granny square skirts and loose short sleeve sweaters? Stunningly designed and incorporating Rodarte trademarks, the Black Swan costumes  are exciting manifestations of the importance of knit on the fashion scene today. Having given additional thought to YSL, and having just finished knitting a turtleneck, ecomodista perused the trends of the moment, some of which are classics recycled, especially stripes. Miucia Prada, Dolce & Gabana, and designer for Moschino, Rossella Jardini  mix stripes with floral skirts.
below: Natalie Portman in Black Swan; photo Niko Tavernise