Publisher’s Notes: Tonight we are rolling out the start of another piece of my big fiber-filled dream. With this post, begins a series of posts by the amazing Nicole Constantin of Rose Nectar Fibre Couture focused on fashion and fiber arts. Nicole, formally educated in fashion design, is taking her fiber artistry and career to incredible levels. I’m sure you are going to enjoy learning more from Nicole as she shares her insights in this series. In this first installment, Nicole introduces us to her overall viewpoint of the merging of fiber arts and fashion. Take it away, Nicole!
Fiber Arts and Fashion
by: Nicole Constantin (Rose Nectar Fibre Couture)
High Fashion and the Fiber Arts…
The Fiber Arts and High Fashion…do the two go hand-in-hand? Yes. I think so.
High fashion, the stuff you see coming down the runway, in magazines like Vogue, WWD, and Harper’s Bazaar, and on the red carpets, but rarely ever see in real life, is the ‘ultimate’ expression in fashion. These couture originals are the pure art form of clothing design and dressmaking. Where do the fiber arts fit into this picture?…on the fringe?…in the accessories department?…in your granny’s knitting basket?
Lately, I have been feeling that high fashion is getting ”tired”. Everything has been played out…even that ultra-modern futuristic stuff is now old. This is one reason that the fiber arts excite me so much! There is simply so much more that can be done in fashion if designers would find themselves with a fleece in front of them instead of a flat piece of fabric. Imagine a pile of wool in one hand and a yard of fabric in the other — I have been down both roads, and while I love traditional French couture dressmaking methods, as well as the newer and less conventional design and sewing techniques, the possibilities for dimension and texture are far greater when you start with the raw fiber, than when you design from a flat piece of fabric. Dimension and texture equal excitement! They lend themselves greatly to deeper expression.
There is one label that is doing some very nice things with texture and dimension, through fiber, by using distressed looking novelty yarns to make up sweaters, dresses, and even tights in web knit. Rodarte is a team of sisters from California who are UC Berkley graduates whom have made a global name for themselves, in fashion, after starting with just a 10 piece collection. I was struck when I saw their knits on the cover of Vogue. I was somewhat new to knitting at the time and instantly realized that the vast difference between this kind of high fashion knitwear and ‘your grandma’s knitting’ was all in the yarn! I started spinning shortly thereafter. Rodarte, as a team, also contributed to most of the costume design in the movie, The Black Swan, with Natalie Portman. They are very special designers and I think they are super cutting edge, especially for knitwear. Here are some of their works that look very much like what many of us are doing with our handspun yarns!
I originally went into the fashion industry because I was in love with designing and making clothing by hand; the philosophy and culture behind dress; and the art, craft and expression that has gone into the making of clothing and costume throughout time and across cultures. I promptly left the fashion industry because 99% of the jobs are now in mass-produced and computer generated production, which is all done by machine. Humans just push the buttons and tell the machines what to do, from the computer in the design room in the U.S. to the assembly line of machines in Asia and back again. I knew that I would do something in fashion, but I would need to find it on my own terms. The fiber arts are a large part of that new path.
High fashion is a strange passion for me because it is very at odds with most of my core values. Notoriously materialistic and wasteful, vain and sexist, traditional fashion actually offends me on many levels. So, it has been a welcome challenge, for me, to find a new way of going about this path as my chosen form of expression. In combination with my passion for sustainability, handmade, and local, I am able to feed my instinctual love of making by hand and my addiction to beauty, in design of wearables, through the fiber arts. My love of high fashion is more in line with my values and hopes for the future when I buy my fiber (which is 98% natural and renewable because it is wool) locally and make things by hand, with love and intention, to sell, barter or trade, at least somewhat locally.
This reminds me of what most cultures have done, with clothing, from the beginning of man until it abruptly ended with the industrial revolution. Our dependence on machinery and cheap oil has brought oodles of clothing from all over the world to your nearest big box store for everyone to afford the latest trends…but many things were lost. And this production is not only unsustainable but is it empty in so many ways.
I believe that grand things are in store for the fiber arts. I would almost call it a movement. People are attracted to the love and soul they see in our work. It is a natural progression as we are starved for culture, locality, love and expression, and the spontaneous beauty of something of which there is only ONE. The closest thing we have ever had to this kind of movement was the secondhand, thrift store fashion movement. People have loved getting things second hand and making this clothing their own by altering them or just putting them together in unique ways. This is a great start.
I am so excited for the future of the fiber arts, and their ability to bring more human connection and spirit back into fashion. I believe that the fiber arts have their previous place of importance to reclaim, from the past, but also a new and exciting place to carve out into the future. Thanks to all of the new, innovative and more expressive spins on these traditional arts, we are catching the attention of more and more, in our generations, without whom these arts may have faded farther and farther into the past.
The new wave of more expressive and freeform twists on the traditional fiber arts is so full of possibility that the spinning wheel, the spindle, the loom, the needles and hooks are not just relics of a past when people made their wearables by hand out of necessity. These tools are now the artist’s paints and canvas, for many, a soothing Zen experience for others, and a place of love and connection to the past for all to rediscover. When you take something, like fashion, and elevate it to the level of the arts, this is what we would consider high fashion.
And the fiber arts, I believe, are the future, just as they are the past, of high fashion.
Thanks so much, Nicole! Readers, Nicole will be back with her next installment in a couple of weeks where she will starting getting into some of the techniques as to how to apply high fashion design techniques to fiber arts. I confess that I’ve seen some of the content already and it is just so exciting to be able to share it with you!!
But, wait, there’s more…in a couple of days, I will be back to announce the reader’s choice for the projects from Secret Stash Game, Round 3, reveal the artists’ identities and share a very special video from one of the artists. Until then, my fibery best, Arlene