Tuesday, February 22, 2011

yves saint laurent: can you knit?

In an iconic image, French designer Yves. St. Laurent is flanked by his two muses, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise outside his London boutique, 1969. Directed by David Teboul, Yves St. Laurent: His Life and Times includes an interview with style icon, the glamorous and amusing Loulou de la Falaise, photo below. see: http://movies.netflix.com/WiPlayer?movieid=60034519&trkid=1999134

Discussing her multidimensional relationship including muse with St. Laurent she describes their trip to Moscow in the mid 1980's, when Gorbachev was still in office. there was a press conference at which Russian women asked him how to dress. Falaise, St. Laurent, et al thought they had come to advise Mrs. Gorbachev. Given their limited resources and clothes in Russia, women asked how they could dress. "My advise is this, when your husband buys a camel coat, you try it on too. Can you knit? Then knit a black turtleneck, knit yourself a skirt, and so on. You have wonderful traditional clothes. The Russian blouse is marvellous, so wear that. Take your belts and you can hammer nails in for decoration." Falaise thought St. Laurent's DIY ethic wonderfully original.

Claire Coleman, journalist for the Daily Mail in the UK, Ooh La la! Designer loulou de la falaise's parisian home oozes Parisian bohemian style, details Falaise's interior design style, including baskets of bangles scattered around her Parisian apartment, above. see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1003862/Ooh-La-la-Designer-loulou-la-falaises-parisian-home-oozes-bohemian-style.html.
The black turtleneck continues to be a classic, as Claire Waight Keller proves in her fall 2010 RTW collection, below.

A photo from this same period in the film shows St. Laurent wearing a hand crocheted granny square vest with a geometric circle in the middle over a floral shirt. St. Laurent's advice is as pertinent now as it was then.

Monday, February 21, 2011

latvia: anna led, girl/boy + traditional knitting

1st image: Boy on location styling knit; 2nd image Girl on location 
lower left: Anna LED F/W 2010; upper right: Latvian mittens; lower right: Dzintra Ozoles, designer, detail of pullover

Latvian folk culture revers Laima, the goddess who protects women at childbirth, often unbraiding her hair to ease parturition. Women traditionally made offerings of mittens, gloves or a garter of colored wool to Laima prior to childbirth or upon birth and her cult coexisted with Christianity for centuries. A bride is admonished to give gifts, “no matter if it’s dear” to ease the pain of future childbirth.
Today, knitwear in Latvia transcends the mittens ecomodista traditionally associated with this region. Anna Ledskalnina, a brilliant designer whose eponymous boutique is located in a lux Riga neighborhood experiments with knits each season. She derives inspiration from Latvian culture, hand knit lace shawls, and the medieval Vecriga or old city of Riga, empathizing with the archaic, worn and corroded. Ledskalnina studied at the St. Petersberg Academy of Textile and Design, before forming her company in 2000. Incorporating hand knit lace, normally associated with elderly ladies, into her sophisticated vocabulary, she created new shapes for her F/W 2009 collection, embodying 21st century design. see: http://www.annaled.com/ Technically, her garments are exquisitely tailored and are carefully produced.  ecomodista definitely coveted Led jackets and dresses, usually worn by Latvian intelligencia and state department officials.
Thanks to the professionalism of stylists Deniss Ševeļovs  and his partner Maija, the models, and make up stylist, our Riga shoot was fabulous. We used the romantic buildings in the old city and the dramatic new bridge over the Daugava River as backdrops. Deniss and Maija also translated Russian and Latvian for us. ecomodista is totally hyped by Riga, not only by the quality of design, models, and support, but where else can one leave her Jil Sander handbag in a taxi and retrieve it intact an hour later?
Deniss and Maija's blog http://stuff-n-style.blogspot.com/ tracks fashion in Riga. Girl/Maija and Boy/Deniss comment on catwalks during Riga's Fashion Week, parties, the arts, and product launches. Their upbeat blog flogs the best of Latvian design. Their critiques are especially important, promoting sustainability, by encouraging large conglomerates such as Stockman's (a department store chain in the Baltic states) to feature local designers and products. Mikhail Plishti a Russian who grew up during the Soviet era, has pointed out that Riga was a culturally sophisticated city where tourists from Eastern Europe and Russia could find the most au courant fashion. In this context, it's not surprising that so many Latvian designers continue to be utterly unique instead of taking their cues from Milan and Paris. How refreshing!

carla breeze copyright 2011

knitting, designers, slow travel

Trekking around the EU, primarily by train, ecomodista photographs extraordinary knitwear, in the process interviewing exciting designers who often use sustainable practices and materials. Fashion knitters in European countries, east and west may produce one offs or use local knitters for production, but none are sending production abroad. Designers are fascinating creatures. Not all have been trained at fashion institutes, the designer for Hillary Rohde, Stephanie Laird, was a classical ballerina before becoming a designer. A few are intellectuals, or even linguists, who simply "find" themselves desiging and knitting. Designers often subvert traditional knit stitches or patterns, so ecomodista explores historical knitting, from examples in museums to family heirlooms.
wd-40 films us as we chat about how a concept for a design transpires, whether the 16 year old Finnish yarn bomber deplores current urban design, and any other topics related to knitting, so we'll post clips occasionally. ecomodista peeks into wool shops, scouting  locally produced yarns, and determining what type of clothing people are knitting with these fibers. wd-40 captures behind the scenes on fashion shoots of knits, one of the most difficult types of clothing to photograph...but at the end of the day, if we can nestle into a cafe, order local apéritifs, and even knit a few rows before tumbling into bed at a sleek minimalist hotel, such as the Pure in Frankfurt, see: http://www.the-pure.de/ below or 25 Hours in Hamburg, above with pink door. see:http://www.25hours-hotels.com/hamburg/