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.

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