Category Archives: Textiles

Designer Spotlight – Daniela D’Amico

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One of I.F.’s prime objectives is to spread the word about amazing, innovative, and creatively unique designers from around the world, and share their individual stories with the fashion community as they start to gain ground in the  industry.

The designers featured by I.F. have passed a series of requirements including (but not limited to) the use of fair labor practices and a knack for unique and awe-inspiring design that we believe set them apart from their peers and that will undoubtedly give them the ability to lay claim to a successful career in fashion design as they begin their journey in building their brand.

This week, I.F. is featuring Daniela D’Amico, a London-based designer whose Autumn/Winter 2014 collection is inspired by the picturesque scenery and architecture of her ancestral home, Lake Como, Italy. I.F. sat down with the up-and-coming designer who divulged all about her career journey and the story behind her brand. She also kindly gave us some exclusive photos of her Autumn/Winter 2014 Collection to share with the I.F. audience!

Daniela’s fashion journey started at a young age. Daniela was always interested in textiles and fashion in school and often spent her free time trying to create new textiles and using her home sewing machine to sew lustrous fabrics like silks and satins, “I loved to make interesting finishes using a princess pleater, this was my favourite tool for coming up with innovative creations,” says the young designer. Daniela went on to study Art Foundation at The London College of Fashion and from there went on to Chelsea College of Art where she received her BA in Textile Design. It was here that the designer discovered specialized design techniques including how to convey traditional techniques in a modern way, as well as how to use digital print and fabric manipulation – a complex technique which has become the designer’s trademark. When she graduated, Daniela went on to work in womenswear as Head of the Design Studio for Selina Blow. This year, Daniela decided it was time to pursue her dream of starting her own brand.

Daniela finds inspiration in her surroundings, “If I am in London it may be a part of architecture, an art show, color, or nature. It could be a different city that I may be in. Wherever I go, I will always carry my note book and jot down anything that I feel inspires me, or inspirational thoughts I have. I am usually inspired by a certain place, artist or movement – it can be a combination of them all. For this season I was also inspired by the work of Peter Doig who captured timeless moments of perfect tranquillity.”

peter doig

Peter Doig’s “Concrete Cabin” 1994, oil on canvas

Daniela’s strong dedication to her craft is more than admirable – it is inspiring. She works tirelessly from sketch to production in order to construct absolutely original, top-of-the-line designs, “All of the images are taken myself. I have manipulated the images and almost played with them like they are a piece of collage, working with each image on top of a sketch of one of my garment designs. I then work out which part of the print would work where and go from there.”

When it comes to materials and production, Daniela uses only the best, “I use a selection of cottons, satins, silks and velvets. All of my fabrics are either sourced from England or Italy. I like to mix textiles, you will see a mixture of soft satins on one piece with a fierce structured collar made in cotton velvet to finish. I use a small factory in London, it has a very nice, friendly and relaxed atmosphere and they are great to work with considering I am always challenging them with my printed textiles and luxurious, expensive fabrics!”

Isola Bella

The Lake Como-inspired A/W ’14 collection is the result of the designers textile design expertise combined with her eye for photography and knack for originality. The collection has an androgynous gestalt, achieved by a harmonious combination of intricate tailoring and romantic prints. Each and every piece is given special attention to proportion and design positioning ensuring an ultra-flattering silhouette.

Cernobbio

Emma Watson, Alexa Chung and Sienna Miller were some of the names the designer mentioned when asked about her dream customer, “a modern, laid back, strong woman who enjoys colour and bringing tailoring to life.”

Daniela has marked plans for the future, planning “to one day take the brand internationally, and show the collection to as many people as I possibly can. One of the most interesting parts in the job is meeting the people who want to wear my clothes and hearing their story, this inspires me to design.”

Though still in the stages of putting her on-line store, www.danieladamico.com,  together, be sure to check out her Facebook for updates on her collection and an inside look to her creative process.

Thank you, Daniela, for sharing your passion with us – we are looking forward to getting our hands on a few pieces from your collection!

Como

 

Tremezzo

 

Montagna

 

DA

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Textile Traditions – The Hmong Tribe and Kantha Quilts

Native, traditional, Eastern, or often times called, “fixed” dress, that of the indigenous peoples of East-Asian territories, may seem to be the antithesis of the current Western standard of the sartorial etiquette which relies on constant fashion change and the unwavering push for newness. However, these precious, contextually and sentimentally loaded, incredibly detailed traditional textiles are finding their way into the hands of Western designers and customers. Either sold as the authentic pieces of culture they are, straight from the indigenous hands who made them, or upcycled/recycled into fashionable accessories, traditional textiles from the Akha Hill tribes of East Asia are popping up in the homes and closets of savvy, socially conscious consumers around the world, particularly in the UK and US.

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Photo from Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures: Promoting Heritage

For some of these tribes, like the Hmong who live in the hills of Laos, Thailand and China, the dissemination of these handmade textiles (which they have every part in making from growing the hemp for making the fiber to sewing the end product into garments) is one of the few tangible ways of preserving and sharing their cultural heritage. As Western influence and inexpensive materials make their way to the remote areas of this purely oral-tradition tribe (meaning they have no written language), the skillful art of the traditional Hmong embroidery technique becomes threatened.

For others, such as the Bengali women of India, opportunities to create handmade kantha quilts in their home to sell abroad provides them with financial freedoms otherwise denied women residing in such areas. With a salary they can afford to put their children through school, combatting the sex-trafficking epidemic that is so prevalent in this area, affording independence and stability for at-risk women.

kantha quilts

Kantha Quilts

No matter how they reached the Western markets, the story behind these intricate pieces of textile art, and that of those who made and wore them, need to be preserved. H. Leedom Lefferts Jr., a Lao cultural expert, says in his article promoting the importance of the conservation of Lao material culture, that “Textiles weave indigenous cultures together; they thus provide strands of meaning and action which can be picked up by observers to understand cultures and assist them in coping with the pressures of modern life.” Designers are taking note of the customer craving authenticity and history in their adornments, and what better way to satisfy that need than highly intricate, handmade traditional and ceremonial textiles from age-old tribe techniques.

Sometimes classified as “vintage” fabric, these recycled textiles can be found in mainstream stores such as in the furniture upholstery of Anthropologie, West Elm, and Sundance Catalog. They are also often upcycled into fashionable accessories such as bags, shoes, and garments as in the case of Elliot Mann and Sophia Costas, and the Etsy sites Dazzling Lana and Fairlyworn, to name a few.

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Everyone’s a Fashion Writer

Fashion and style blogs are a dime a dozen and everyone’s a critic. When “fashion writers” try to describe, contextualize, and critique collections, sometimes their sartorial lexicon falls short and clothing jargon gets, literaly, lost in translation.

Here are just a few terms whose meanings have become muddled as of late, often taking on a more macro-meaning than originally intended.

Appliqué: An additive process of attaching design components in layers onto the surface of an object, such as quilts or garments.

Brocade: Commonly used to describe many types of patterned fabrics, however, the term actually denotes a specific type of textile weave. A brocade is a fabric in which woven design is created with supplementary pattern wefts that are discontinuous (the pattern wefts do not pass across the whole width of the woven cloth).

Brocade

Brocade

Chambray:  A smooth, light fabric of cotton, linen, etc, of a plain weave with a colored warp (usually blue) and white weft, appearing like denim. Usually used in warm weather attire because of it’s light weight.

Gaberdine: A woven, warp-faced steep or regular twill fabric with a prominent diagonal rib on the face and smooth surface on the back. Garbardine always has many more warp than weft yarns. Usually made of wool and used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments.

Gabardine

Gauze: Popularly known as any sheer, lightweight fabric, however true gauze is a weave structure in which individual warp yarns across over adjacent warp yarns and then cross back into their original positions, held in place by weft yarns. The areas of crossed warps result in small, visible openings in the cloth, and these openings form the design areas.

Ikat: A resist-dyeing technique in which yarns are tie-dyed before they are woven into cloth. The term derives from Indonesian mengikat, meaning, “to tie”.

Ikat

Ikat

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The Better Cotton Initiative

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The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) aims to make global production of cotton more sustainable not only for the environment, but for the future and for the people who produce it, from farmers to textile mills to retailers. Working with a “diverse range” of members along the entire cotton supply chain, BCI collaborates with and provides solutions for better cotton production practices, promoting improvements for the environment, farming communities and the economies of cotton-producing areas.

“Cotton is one of the world’s most important natural fibres. It’s used by nearly everyone on Earth every day, and supports 300 million people’s livelihoods. It’s a renewable natural resource, but only if we manage it responsibly. In 2005, a group of visionary organisations came together to figure out what could be done to safeguard the future of cotton. ‘There has to be a better way’, they said. It turns out there is. It’s called Better Cotton.” (www.bettercotton.org)

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Fashion companies associated with this initiative include Adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, Inditex (Zara), Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and VF Corp. (Parent company of 7 for all mankind, Nautica, Jansport, The North Face, Wrangler, Timberland, Vans). The Better Cotton website explains why so many big names have become members of BCI,

“One of the reasons that leading retailers and brands support the Better Cotton Initiative is that they realise that if famers do not earn enough money growing cotton, they will switch to some other crop, and this could eventually lead to increased costs for the brands or other supply scarcity issues. It is very much in the brands’ own best interest that farmers benefit from any margin improvement their efforts result in.”  (www.bettercotton.org)

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What is particularly commending about this not-for-profit organization is it’s inclusive attitude towards varying farming methods. It does not push an organic-agenda on farmers, rather, BCI collaborates with farmers to create a more sustainable system for whatever production methodology is being used.

Working together for positive change – I.F. commends the brands who are members of this admirable initiative (momentarily setting aside some of these companies not-so-commendable business practices in other areas).

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*All photos from the Better Cotton website: http://www.bettercotton.org

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A Salute to Sword & Plough – A Visionary Made in USA Brand Bridging Humanitarianism with Fashion

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Sword & Plough is a visionary and philanthropic brand that up-cycles military materials that would otherwise be thrown away, into fashionable, sophisticated, unisex bags and totes; all the while employing U.S. veterans as they assimilate back into civilian life and after.

The brand is run by sisters Emily and Betsy Nunez, who were born into a military family. Understanding the plight of military members relating to their fellow civilian comrades, the sisters felt they needed to do, or create, something that would remind civilians, in a positive and beautiful way, about the challenges all servicemen and women face, and that everyone can do their part to help.

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As they discuss on their site, “Most individuals use a bag of some form throughout their day. By recycling and repurposing military gear with a fashionable touch, and working with veterans, we create sturdy and sophisticated products, whose sale will empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen civil-military understanding. In this way, our bags are rugged, refined and relevant.”

The beautiful combination of olive and forest green hues, gorgeous leather detailing and heavy gold hardware creates a fashionable, unassuming statement piece that is highly functional and highly androgynous. For a bag that clearly has the quality (MADE IN USA!) and fashionability to last, the price seems none too steep (~$250).

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Black Friday Fury

Black-Friday-Phone-Deals

As the majority of Americans desperately search for the best post-Thanksgiving bargain, trampling fellow frugal fiends to be the first to grab branded merchandise at offensively discounted prices like 80% off, the UK celebrates “Buy Nothing Day.” This anti-spending movement combats the gluttony spill over from Thursday’s calorie intake to Friday’s credit card limits that has become “tradition” in so many American households. While in reality this is not expected to take hold in the US, at least there is the gaining movement of Small Business Saturday, encouraging consumers to support their local community if they are going to participate in Black Friday douchebaggery, I mean, debauchery.

Despite these efforts, the fact remains that consumer demand for cheap is causing mass destruction. The current Black Friday Death Count reports 7 deaths and 90 injuries to date, including instances of people being trampled to death, stabbed, and even shot. Devastating…disgusting…dismal, but it doesn’t even breach the surface of the monumental devastation that is derived from this insane demand. As retailers are forced to keep up with competitors, slashing prices to accommodate the insatiable consumer drive for cheap and available goods, the true cost is in the livelihood of the workers who actually make the products.

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“The downward spiral of cheap clothing has led to a situation where the people who make our clothes are paid starvation wages and can’t afford to eat or to feed their children. This has to end.” said Anna McMullen, author of “Shop ‘Til They Drop,” a report studying the widespread factory faintings that have been plaguing the Cambodian factory industry in recent years. The report is an in-depth study of the factors contributing to these widespread faintings (up to 300 workers collapsing at one time on factory floors), with findings reporting extreme malnutrition of workers and an analysis as to why this is so. It’s no surprise the variety of factors triggering these faintings include poor working conditions such as overheating, exhaustion from working overtime with no breaks, no access to water, chemical exposure, etc., but the underlying nutritional deficit was the fundamental cause.

Cambodia

The report gathered data that showed Cambodian factory workers consume less than half the recommended amount for a diet suitable for their 10 hour day of industrial work. The reason why lies in the incredibly low wages they are forced to accept as payment for their tireless work:

 basic needs

You aren’t doing it directly, but if you play into the buy-cheap-buy-more milieu, you are just as bad as the unremorseful woman who stabbed innocent strangers for the last Xbox. Every time you decide to buy a cheap trend from a chain retailer, you are showing that a cheap find is more important than a human’s well being, like these Cambodian garment workers.

Don’t let the %off sale signs blindside you, be cognizant of your actions – if a price seems “too good to be true,” it most likely is. Don’t buy superfluous objects just to fill a stocking, make something from the heart or go downtown and support your local artists. Don’t buy into the Black Friday Fury.

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On The Brink of American Made Matters® Day – Nov 19th

AMM_Logo

Why does buying “American Made” products matter?

Let’s take a look at some stats:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 5.1 million fewer American manufacturing jobs now than at the start of 2001
  • According to ABC News, if consumers spent 1% more on American made products, it would create 200,000 additional jobs, 5% it would create 1,000,000 jobs
  • According to the Manufacturing Institute, manufacturing supports an estimated 12 million jobs in the US. This number was more than 19 million in 1978.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times, every factory job added creates three additional jobs. Other estimates are as high as five additional jobs. This is more powerful than any other segment of our economy.
These are just a few of the many facts provided by the American Made Matters® (AMM) website, www.AmericanMadeMatters.com, an organization dedicated to educating consumers on the importance of buying Made In USA products.
With a current Facebook fan base of over 19,000 and a collection of well over 100 Made in USA brands as members, AMM is a leading pioneer in the Made In American Movement. In an effort to expand their cause, they created American Made Matters® day, encouraging consumers through social media avenues to dedicate that day to buying American,
On November 19th, 2013 we’re encouraging consumers to buy at least one American Made product…Our hope is that consumers will see how easy it is to buy made in USA and begin checking tags and looking for the American Made Matters logo when shopping this holiday season and throughout the year. Share your American made finds by tagging American Made Matters or using hashtag #AMMDay2013.  (AMMD Facebook page)

As a fashion theorist/journalist and style writer dedicated ethical production practices, I am a huge proponent of American Made fashion brands – and am sympathetic to their agony over finding manufacturing solutions on American soil. This particular Tedx talk tugs on the heart strings, and gives a real life example of the tough struggle presented to those who try to keep their garment production in the US:

During 2012, America exported $22.6 billion in textiles and apparel and imported $100.93 billion (according to the U.S. International Trade Administration), it’s time for this to change. I talk a lot about supporting the American Fashion industry, see my article about the decline of the NYC garment district in this months issue of NYC magazine Inside Hell’s Kitchen here: page 12, bottom left. There are a few initiatives set in place to revamp the American garment manufacturing industry, planning to upgrade the current factories in the NYC garment district and providing scholarships for emerging designers to use some studios in the area for workrooms and showrooms, but that isn’t enough.

#AMMDay2013 has inspired me to turn up the volume on my voice against offshore apparel manufacturing. I want to get in the faces of “American” brands like Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Nordstrom and Lands’ End who use large Chinese factories for most of their production. I want the CFDA (the Council of Fashion Designers of America) to do MORE than just give out lifetime achievement awards, I want them to care about the American Fashion industry, I want them to help emerging designers, even those who aren’t in the hot areas of NY or LA – I want the American Dream back.

american_made2So, for American Made Matters Day, I plan to dedicate the day to speaking out, exposing those “American” fashion brands we know so well for their unAmerican business practices, as well as showcasing and thanking the revolutionary pioneers dedicated to keeping their brand exclusively Made In USA.

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