Sunday, December 1, 2013

Amended import quotas in 2005 allowed China to export massive quantities of cashmere, encouraging High Street stores to produce affordable cashmere garments. Woefully constructed of fibers rejected by the likes of Johnstons of Elgin, these cashmere products are just as ephemeral as other clothing manufactured for the moment. 

As fashion becomes ruled by short term seasons (think Best Dressed Lists updated daily, "look de la semana" and it's only a matter of time before updates occur hourly, by the minute etc.) it poses a dilemma for the eco conscious consumer. Developing a personal sense of style and hand knitting continue to offer an alternative.
Jaggy Nettle scarf & Harris tweed jacket; scarf is printed not intarsia photo: Ruth Cameron

Scottish fashion and cashmere is a large component of of the Scottish textile economy, employing 22,000 workers, primarily concentrated in the Scottish Borders region. Johnstons of Elgin has a mill in Hawick, the epicenter of knitwear and industry in the Borders which employes approximately 4,000 individuals. As Scotland relies on the export of fashion and luxury cashmere, creative alternatives to purchasing the raw material from free range sources are being explored. It's been estimated that if all British based brands produced 10% of their production in the UK, it could contribute to creating sustainable manufacturing base. Jenny Lister, V & A fashion curator has pointed out that,"Scottish fashion is so interesting because of the dichotomy between rural crafts and edgy contemporary fashion. Lister cites DC Dalgliesh, as a company that has combined traditional techniques with current technology. Founded in the late 1940's because Dixon Colton Dalgliesh was unable to find the quality of traditional tartan fabric, the company has created a niche, noted for tartans for kilts that are worn by Queen Elizabeth among others. To continue evolving various cashmere companies are working with designers, for example the London design team, Clements Ribeiro has been working with Barrie.
Jaggy Nettle skirt/leggings?

Jaggy Nettle, an upstart in the world of fashion, has created innovative techniques such as printing directly on cashmere at their facility in Hawick. The process is described on their blog, "Our method of printing cashmere is unique to us and something which we have developed over the last 15 years.  Its an unforgiving task with absolutely no margin for error, from the development of recipes, steam times, pulls, washing, weighing, screen prep....the list goes on...  Our print is indiscernible in touch to the rest of the garment and becomes integral to the knit as opposed to prints which lie on the surface of fabric.  Many people assume on first look that the decorative adornments are intarsia - a method of knitting designs into garments - and are often visibly shaken when they are told "get your hands of my printed cashmere".  Its a beautiful thing, a rare, difficult and rather expensive thing to achieve with absolutely minimal room for error and that is why we love it.  "

Discovered this Brazian design team, love their garments and the photographs! If you are wondering what this has to do with knitting in Scotland, you would be correct if you responded nothing. Garments hand knit with roving, have incredible sculptural quality...
Brazilian designers Graziella Cavalcanti and Julia Guglielmetti working with photographer Aaron Kawai

Designers: Graziella Cavalcanti and Julia Guglielmetti 
Photography: Aaron Kawai
Styling: Mariana Queiroz
Make Up: Bel Lüscher
Model: Jordana Zimmermann (VZM)

Friday, November 8, 2013

of course we do LOVE cashmere...

There is more to cashmere than a pashmina shawl, originally woven by goat herders during the long frigid winters. While the superabundance of cashmere fiber fomented design advances, it has been the diffusion of the fiber in High Street clothing that has had the greatest impact. Of course ecomodista endorses open access to fashion, however it is the disposable quality of big box clothing that has overwhelmed our environmental resources. 

Sadly nomadic herders may be affected if the cashmere market shrinks, and numerous workers, designers and fabricators in Scotland rely the cashmere industry. Scotland's historical and cultural heritage is interwoven with cashmere, beginning with their late 18th century goal to replicate the fineness of cashmere fiber spun in France. 
not cashmere, design Sibling, S/S 2013, fiber, wool. Sibling was selected as Woolmark finalists this year photo credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images Europe 

For hand knitters, modern or traditional working with Scottish cashmere yarns surely  transcends any other experience. Driving the knitting revival is the wide availability of these yarns and Scottish designers who feature cashmere knits in their collections. Learning to knit as a child, designer Clare Waight-Keller has always worked with knitwear and her goal for Pringle is, “To embrace the traditional artisan practice of craftsmanship and quality and re-interpret classic knitwear proportions and scale for today.” 

Designer, Stephanie Laird’s cashmere knitwear for Hillary Rohde embodies superlative quality in design and hand knit fabrication. In India and Pakistan, scientists devote countless hours to ameliorate global climate change, especially after the loss of approximately 25,000 Pashmina goats during a winter storm on the Cangthang plateau due to snow and ice covering their fodder. Their successful research resulted in a clone of the Pasmina goat, Noori. No doubt the fiber from this clone will be termed Noori. Now how environmentally friendly is that?

 Cristopher Kane A/W 2011 collection w/Johnston's one of Scotland's preëminant cashmere manufacturers

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

massimo nicosia & pringle s/s2014

Replacing Clare Waight Keller, former designer at Pringle of Scotland is a difficult agenda. Massimo Nicosia has made a credible stab at it. Of course knitwear and Pringle are virtually synonymous so naturally it is a major feature of Nicosia's S/S 2014 collection. His designs are a subtle hommage to the company's history. Fashion reporter Afsun Qureshi quotes Nicosia, "I feel I am as much an archivist of Pringle as designer. I have to preserve the past. But also I have to move forward by developing fabric technology, and create something very light out of something quite heavy. I have to create structure out of knit that is known for its very lack of structure."

Monday, September 23, 2013

iron age bateau neckline or how i learned to love global warming

Lendbreen Glacier 

A fascinating discovery was made several years ago  in a hunting area on Lendbreen glacier, 6,500 feet above sea level in Norway a tunic that may have been the precursor to sweaters. This Iron Age find was woven from wool and in a diamond twill pattern, which similar to cables, would produce tiny pockets of air that insure greater insulation. With global temperatures rising Norwegian archeologists now have access to regions previously unexplored.  As additional prehistoric artifacts are discovered, a detailed portrait of the Iron Age emerges. 

Iron Age woven tunic with bateau neckline incorrectly described as a sweater in various news accounts

Dating from 230 - 390 AD this recent find is one of the few tunics that exists from this period. Two different textiles (one for patching wear & tear) were used and positively identified as  wool.


Friday, August 23, 2013

just say no: cashmere

Recent reports of the environmental impact of increasing goat herds on wildlife due to over grazing and and diminishing ecosystems that sustain such wonderful creatures as snow leopards certainly cause ecomodista to consider other fibers. In 2006 the consequences of cashmere were reported by treehugger. Goats producing cashmere have devastated grasslands from over grazing, turning complex ecosystems into desert.

More recently, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Snow Leopard Trust conducted a study documenting ever increasing sizes of goat herds' impact. In Mongolia alone in 1990 five (5) million heads expanded due to the demands of fashion to 14 million goats. see:

Given that lambs wool, wool grown on the Faroe Islands (think Gudrun og Gudrun when they were still indy), and mohairs are equally soft, or alpaca mixed with silk. Designers and knitters do have alternatives, and for ecomodsta's part, she will henceforward eschew cashmere unless it is recycled.

Hopefully lux design wear will acknowledge this premise, Belstaff as usual has gorgeous knits in the A/W 2013 collection, but where does this leave some Scottish knitwear companies? Over 3,000 tons of cashmere are collected annually. One suggestion has been to raise goats in barns, but by their very nature, they browse and wander, so is this the ethical response? Fiber2Fashion reports consumers ethical concerns are forcing companies to reëxamine their "backstory." 

The Autumn/Winter 2013 collections seem to have less emphasis on knitwear, except for designers who arise from this discipline. As always, Rodarte has wonderfully inventive knits, this collection inspired by Santa Cruz boardwalk.

the real Rodarte A/W2013 see not cashmere but alpaca fiber

Check out this DYI rodarte, believe me after seeing the Vogue US cover with their VLA (very large knitstitch) mohair dress in 2008 (could be incorrect date) I was certainly tempted to get out the no.17 needles and get to work.

Monday, March 4, 2013

raf simon's dior

A remarkable talent, Simons has moved into new territory for him, having explored (and perfectly integrating quintessential Jil Sander) the concept of the uniform, reflecting both his working class background, his exquisite sense of tailoring, color, and the luxury of cashmeres and other lush fibers.

In an interview with Simons emphasized that Christian Dior was originally involved in the art world, representing Dali and Giacometti, and how this unleashed his own exploration of Warhol graphics as pattern. "For me, Warhol made so much sense. I was interested in the delicacy and sensitivity in the early work...I was drawn to that graphic style and the notion of hand work and personal signature."

Of course what is most exciting to ecomodista is a new direction for knitting/crochet with large needle knits overlapping houndstooth checks.

Dior RTW A/W 2013/2014 photograph: Nicole Pollard 

Is this the best or what? Although the hem on the houndstooth could be more definitive, seems to be out of accord, but the concept is brilliant. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

knitting feat

Knit shoes? Various designers have experimented with this concept, from Bless to Nike (ok, it's termed knit but actually an industrial textile process), from Pia Wallen's adorable felt slippers (ok ok, so originally felt would have been hand knit then felted...) to Misonni's textile shoes based on their own knitwear stitch patterns, often  bargello, the geometric needlepoint technique. Andrea Kranzlin's (She often designs costumes for Belgian avant garde director, Jan Fabre) shoe cover, fitting over high heels with only the heel protruding, perfect for slipping on at home instead of slippers or damtoffla; center image: Missoni shoes, not quite knit but certainly inspired by their knitwear.

photograph: carla breeze of Andrea Kranzlin's shoe cover

photograph: carla breeze of Andrea Kranzlin's cardigan

Above, Pollini cable oxfords; brown Dior shoe covers

Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss or Bless collaborate on various projects, fashion only one of their "products." Working in Berlin and Paris they produce not only accessories, shoes, and home furnishings, but exhibit conceptual projects at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, the Berlin Biennale, and the Kunsthalle in Basel among other venues. See: BLESS

Mark Fast knit shoes, 2012
Rosy Nicholas and Fred Butler collaborated on shoes created using French knitted tubes. Butler graduated from the University of Brighton in 2003. Since then her work has been worn by Bjork, Lady Gaga, Beth Ditto and others. See: Fred Butler via Filep Motwar

Nike's Flyknit shoes are lightweight runners that look like a wraparound blanket for your feet. Nike refers to these shoes as a "second skin." The minimalist design reduces weight via the single-layer uppers. A size 9 shoe weighs a mere 5.6 oz (160 g) producing a shoe, the Flyknit, that is 19 % lighter than its Zoom Streak 3, a shoe worn by the first, second and third place finishers in the 2011 World Championships men's marathon.

See also Spanish knit conversion of Van's, Antiatoms