The elevation of craft is the antidote to fast fashion we need

From patchwork at Dior to quilting at Coach, from crochet at Tory Burch to local label Macgraw enlisting the Country Women's Association to help knit their collections: craft has been trending.

But your wonky macrame and lumpy macaroni necklace from HomeEc this is not.

Though it has had a renaissance in recent seasons, craft in fashion is actually an important tradition, and it is something that many luxury fashion houses are making a conscious effort to retain.

Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele, who has long been a weathervane for how people are dressing, uses embroidery for his fantastical creations. “I love taking prints, embroidery, appliques — precious things that seem to be from another time — and using them to create a contemporary, new story,” he once said.

In 2020, Chanel will open a workshop space on the outskirts of Paris to house its artisanal craftspeople, who specialise in everything from buttons to feathers. Every year since 2002, Chanel has hosted its Metiers d'Art show in locations around the world to pay tribute to the fine craftsmanship of its artisan partners.

It is all part of fashion's renewed focus on showcasing of the talented people who usually toil for hours behind the scenes (and the seams).

This can be seen in designer of the moment Pierpaolo Piccioli, artistic director of Valentino, who has been earning standing ovations (and tears from Canadian crooner Celine Dion sitting in the front row) at his dreamy haute couture shows. Piccioli often thanks his seamstresses by name on his Instagram account.

Meanwhile a recent Netflix documentary, 7 Days Out, gave unprecedented access to the Chanel atelier (the studio of unflappable seamstresses, cutters and other makers who bring the designer’s creations to life) as they prepared for Chanel’s Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2018 show.

Hermes CEO Axel Dumas told the Financial Times last month that at the French luxury house, founded in 1837, craftspeople were its most important staff members.

“For me, the first employee in Hermes is the craftsman,” he said. “Then the second is sales associate and then there are the people like me in the office. In other companies you will see the marketing department being first … The concept I try to have for the company is to remain a craft shop.”

Next week, luxury Italian brand Tod’s will send one of its artisans to set up shop in the brand’s new Australian boutique in Melbourne's Chadstone from May 1 to May 5 (and later its Sydney store from May 9 to May 12) to demonstrate how its"D-Styling" bags (an update on the iconic D bag named after, and worn by, Princess Diana) are made. This follows Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta’s Masters of Craft exhibition at Melbourne's Australian Centre for Contemporary Art last year. There, guests could see live demonstrations of its Milanese artisans making the brand’s unmistakable bags with their intrecciato weaving technique.

As we reach the tail-end of Fashion Revolution Week, an event that aims to bring a focus on buying less and buying better, this appreciation seems particularly apt. Just as the arts and crafts movement first gathered momentum in the late 19th century as people questioned the way products were being made, so too are consumers now questioning the pace of fast fashion, its impact on the world and its people, and stopping to ask: well, who made my clothes?

For Jonathan Anderson, creative director of Spanish luxury brand Loewe, which was founded by leather artisans in the 1840s, preserving craft and craftsmanship is essential.

Anderson started the Loewe Foundation Craft prize three years ago. It is a global prize that celebrates the work of craftspeople each year. The winner of the 2019 prize will be announced in Japan in July. According to Wallpaper magazine, this year there were more than 2500 submissions from more than 100 countries (a year-on-year increase of 44 per cent).

Last year’s winner was ceramicist Jennifer Lee, whose piece Pale, Shadowed Speckled Traces, Fading Eclipse, Bronze Specks, Tilted Shelf, was a reflection on time and timelessness. It’s a theme in keeping with what Anderson, a long-time collector, once told The Guardian: that craft is "an antidote to digital media".

You could also say that it is also a welcome antidote to fast fashion, carelessness and dropped stitches.

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