Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ariel Clay Reports on the Awamaki Lab Season 2 Launch

Awamaki Lab 'Season 2' presentation at the Textile Arts Center in NYC
(photos by Ariel Clay)

Last Friday evening's launch of Awamaki Lab Season 2 at the Textile Arts Center in Manhattan's West Village was an exciting mid-winter's night out for New York's growing sustainable fashion and textile community.

Awamaki Lab Season 2 debuts in NYC

Awamaki is a non-profit focused on community development projects with artisans in and around Ollantaytambo, Cuzco, Peru. This region, also known as the Sacred Valley and the gateway to Machu Picchu, is well known for its strong tourism industry and intricately woven alpaca fabric. Awamaki seeks to create opportunities within the local Ollantaytambo weaving community by implementing programs in micro-enterprise craft cooperatives, health care initiatives, education, and sustainable tourism. 

The Awamaki Lab Season 2 collection was created by Parson's graduates and best friends, Andria Crescioni and Courtney Cedarholm. Both young designers spent over four months in Peru developing the collection with Awamaki artisans. The tailoring of Season 2's clothing was inspired by vintage expedition wear, similar to that worn by Hiram Bingham III when he "discovered" Machu Picchu in the early 1900's – references to anorak jackets, ponchos, and durable canvas can be found throughout.

Archival imagery and inspiration board for Awamaki Season 2
(images courtesy of the designers)

Crescioni, who focuses on wovens, and Cedarholm who is an expert in knits, have confronted the challenges of working within the artisans' established skill sets while also striving to create clothing that appeals to the international consumer market. As a result, they chose to use the traditional Quechua color palate and designs, but applied them in a new, fashion-forward manner. For example, the heavy woven fabric which is typically found in pillow covers and wall hangings is used as pocket detailing and even made into mini-skirts. Seeing this weaving in a new context makes the collection modern without loosing sight of the fine craftsmanship and tradition of weaving from this region of Peru. 

It is also interesting to learn that this ancient and highly traditional weaving technique is being passed on to future generations. Annie Millican, a full time employee of Awamaki and resident of Ollantaytambo, confirms that girls as young as four years old begin to observe, follow, and study their mother's weaving –  all the way from tending the alpaca sheep herd, to fleecing the flock and spinning the yarn, to natural dying and then eventually weaving on a backstrap loom. Clearly, this shows that the skill is still valued culturally and monetarily amongst families, a possible guarantee for the true preservation of craft. Additionally, the artisans are developing new skills with Awamaki – in fact, each of the weavers designed a backpack for the collection.

Andria Crescioni and Courtney Cedarholm will both continue to design for Awamaki's next collection with help from a new internship program for design students interested in working with Peruvian artisans. The current collection is available for pre-sale ordersWe look forward to seeing more vibrant and culturally rich collections from this amazing textile design team.

You can also read more about Awamaki Lab in Kestrel Jenkins' recent article on EcoSalon as well a via an interview with Annie Millican on Source4Style.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Off The Grid Runway: The Moss & Rust Collection

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photography by Brent Barnett at OSI Photography
Annie Farrer's 'Hanging Moss'
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In the next installment in our 'Off The Grid Runway' series we explore ideas related to moss and rust – two hues on the spectrum of life and death. I have always found moss to be such an alluring texture and rust holds such possibilities  – even in its various phases of corrosion. In a world of ever increasing extremes, it is calming to observe how these two states might co-exist.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ariel Clay Reports on the Maiyet + Nest Collaboration

I am really excited about the recent collaboration between Maiyet and Nest, primarily because it is such a great step forward for Fair Trade initiatives. 

Maiyet, a pioneering luxury brand, and Nest, a non-profit dedicated to promoting artisan skills and revitalized communities, have created a new partnership to assist in the creation of economic self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship in developing countries. Folded into this joint effort is a commitment to promoting traditional craftsmanship and the advancement of regional stability.

Maiyet's Cristy Kaylor, Paul van Zyl, and Daniel Lubetzky wanted to create a brand that would use the power of the market to allocate capital for peace and justice programs in fragile regions. Hopefully, other fashion brands will follow suit and see that the true definition of 'fashion luxury' encompasses artisanal, ethically-made, and hand-crafted designs – all the while working to alleviate poverty through fair wages and prices for goods.

Maiyet + Nest artisan collaboration (photo courtesy of Barneys)

"Partners include carved-block printers in Jaipur, India; hand-loom silk jacquard weavers in Varanasi, India; and Kenyan jewelers working with poured brass, carved horn and bone in Nairobi."  – The Window, Barneys New York

'Maiyet' is named for the Egyptian goddess of truth and harmony

Nest has worked diligently for years to create a network of artisan workshops around the world that demonstrate strong leadership, scalability, and the ability to transform communities by alleviating local poverty, empowering women, and establishing peace. Nest helps Maiyet to make ethically produced high-end fashion collections and accessories by forging lasting partnerships with talented artisans. The team also works closely with each artisan organization to implement short and long-term sustained training engagements – in turn, Maiyet dedicates a percentage of their profits to these programs.

Maiyet | International Artisan to Paris Runway from M A I Y E T on Vimeo.

Maiyet launched its first ready-to-wear collection in October 2011, and it is currently available for pre-order at Barneys New York. I love the thoughtful details and simple silky lines – luxury with a social conscious is always in fashion.

Learn more about Ariel Clay here. Images courtesy of Maiyet, Nest, and Barneys New York.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tumblr Tuesday: love lemlem

lemlem waletta scarf / source: soulhunting
lemlem / source: nautical bohemia
lemlem / source: miss moss blog
lemlem / source: every day workshop
lemlem/ Rebecca Ward installation via pharmaco

As a textile adidict, love lemlem is definitely a Tumblr fashion site that I follow regularly. Supermodel, WHO Goodwill ambassador, and designer Liya Kebede has an amazing eye for all things colorful and environmentally charged. Her exquisite hand woven scarves, chic clothing, and textile accessories are responsibly crafted in her Ethiopian homeland and serve as a pure testament to the beauty of connection with source. I always find that love lemlem images tug at my heart strings and latest styling desires.

View the latest lemlem collection here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Narelle Dore's Art Fashion Alchemy From Antwerp

Women At Sitting Rock Collection / 2011 by Narelle Dore

Antwerp-based designer Narelle Dore's designs really epitomize the artful fusion of fashion + the environment + site specific poetry. Her neo-romantic spirit is deeply rooted in handcrafting techniques (a cool fusion of crochet, knitting, macramé), extensive visual research, as well as her studies at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp

I am very curious to see what this designer concocts for Friday's Green Fashion Competition at Amsterdam Fashion Week. Stay tuned for more coverage on this event.

For now, you can learn more about Narelle's artistry and fashion alchemy on Not Just A Label, where the above photos were sourced from. This 2011 article from Dazed Digital also features an 'organic' installation/event that the talented designer created for RA Boutique in Antwerp.  

Follow Narelle Dore's blog, Coated Arms here.

Above photography by Erika Rodin

Friday, January 20, 2012

Off The Grid Runway: The Tree Collection

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As many of you may already know, I keep a visual journal on Tumblr called, Lost In Fiber. I started gathering these images as a record of my research on ideas related to 'fashioning self and the environment'. For a long time, I have been dreaming of highlighting select images from Lost in Fiber in a new series called, Off The Grid Runway – an illustrated sequencing of how contemporary fashion can and should exist in the context of environmental relatedness. For me, this is an important layer in our understanding of why fashioning self is an act of artful resourcefulness and deeper connectivity.

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My first 'off the grid' feature is called The Tree Collection. I have tried to credit sources as accurately as possible. I hope that this new idea inspires you to go even deeper in your quest for conscious, personal style. 

* image source Juma Studio
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* Tim Walker for Vogue UK / source
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*Valerie Hagerty / source
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Julia Ramsey's PELT NYC Launch

Julia Ramsey in one of her own PELT creations

A huge congratulations to talented knit wear designer Julia Ramsey on her exhibition at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn as well as the official launch of her stunningly luxurious PELT collection. 

It was such a sweet moment for me to see friends like Kestrel Jenkins, Ariel Clay, Amanda Coen, Rachel Miller, Amira Marion, Judy Lee, Owyn Ruck, Jessica Marati and the list goes on at the 'Second Edition: Artist in Residence' opening at TAC on Friday evening. It surely made me miss NYC and the momentum that is building towards a genuine appreciation for the role of fiber and handcraft in conscious, local fashion.

Xi Sinsong's wild and woolly fashion photography

What can I say? I feel like a proud Mom of sorts when I see young designers like Julia doing such beautiful sculptural work with raw organic merino roving. Julia's vision allows us to take shelter and refuge in the comfort of fiber as well as the slow production methods that connect us to space, time, and self. I also love the photography by Xi Sinsong for Julia's latest look book. Such a great expression of 'fashioning self and the environment understanding'.

exhibition photos by Abigail Doan / look book by Xi Sinsong