Craft is back in a big way. And we don’t just mean getting creative with crochet, or trying your hand at sewing. After years of celebrity designers with no formal training, fashion is moving back towards celebrating the craft and skill that goes into creating clothes.
Just take the respect and renewed love for Savile Row in Britain. Men the world over still think of the Row as the only place to get a quality suit made – and with a hundred years or so of history behind its name, and an emphasis on the importance of training to become a tailor, it’s easy to see why. Then there’s respected hat makers like Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy – renowned for their whimsical designs, but also their skill in millinery. And Claire Waight Keller – the woman who transformed Pringle of Scotland from a fusty fashion house, famous for golf jumpers, to a highly desirable label – by using traditional knitting skills and techniques in completely modern ways.
And in the shoe world, one of fashion’s brightest stars is known for his emphasis on the craft and skill behind shoemaking. Training at Cordwainers College in London, Rupert Sanderson believes that the highly specialist techniques he learnt here should be handed down through generations. During a summer trip to visit as many shoe factories, tanneries and last-makers as possible, Rupert honed his craft working with the Italian shoe-making community – and the result are well-made, highly desirable shoes worn by women the world over.
Many of these designers are from the UK – perhaps it’s the very British sensibility of longing to preserve tradition and heritage. But designers from around the world are getting in on the act too. Their Spring/Summer collection featured swathes of Italian lace – inspired by the traditional techniques used to make garments in a Sicilian wedding trousseau (a skill handed down through generations).
Many of our recent designer discoveries have been all about craft and traditional techniques too. Here are a few of our favourites:
The designer behind Blind Spot has had more than an eclectic past. Born in Budapst, Hungary in 1976, his first career was in animal breeding and ethnography – spending his years working with peasants in the fields of Eastern Europe. After a spell in England as a farm worker and cheese maker, he started to make jewelry to “express myself” when the language barrier became too much. Settling in Italy in a small mountain in the hills of Genoa, he decided jewelry was his calling, and set up a studio. The process behind his forged iron jewels is fascinating. Starting with simple, geometric sketches, he makes cuts on metal with a hacksaw, and then uses heat to bend, twist and stretch the material into beautiful pieces.
One day, a trio of young designers from Italy – Ilaria, Veronica, and Matteo – came into possession of an old wooden hat block shaper. Becoming charmed by the history behind this object, harking back to an older generation of traditional craftsmanship, they decided to learn how to use the hat block themselves. Inspired by the glamour of the Roaring Twenties, mobsters and film noirs, each piece from the SuperDuper range is hand made on the wooden hat block from raw materials, with each designers playing with shapes and volumes to achieve the final result.
This Venice born designer started off selling handmade copper rings and bracelets on the city streets, before attending classes to learn everything from copper engraving to leather-work. After opening a studio selling macramé and leather, he moved to London to learn blacksmithing and metalwork. Then back to Venice, to read up on jewel construction and create the Venetian Goldsmith Association. Settling in the village of Pennabilli, he went on to learn yet more skills, opened a few more shops, taught classes in bone coasting and gold-smithing…and now he brings all those years of experience together to create original jewelry. Using chasing, carving, casting and forging (all traditional techniques), Pennabilli pieces are all made from raw materials – metals and wood.
A unique kind of jewelry designer, Naomi uses the skills she learnt as an architect At Central St Martins to create pieces that relate to the anatomy of the body. Thinking of the body as a landscape, Naomi makes her jewelry flexible so that it can move and define spaces around the body, creating unusual shapes and textures. The result? Some surreal sculptural pieces that are guaranteed to make a statement.