These are some hot-off-the press images from the new exhibition by Danish hand-weave designer Lotte Dalgaard and innovative fashion designer Ann Schmidt which launched just a few weeks ago in Denmark.
Each garment in the show is a one-off piece and the result of a painstaking process of creation. Garments are shown next to the work of a well-known Danish photographer, whose images were chosen or specially taken to complement the textiles.
The ideas for Lotte and Ann´s distinctive one-off dresses, tops and jackets often emerge from previous projects and through the act of talking ideas through. Each garment is a design project in itself and none are destined for quantity production. These are truly one-of-a-kind art pieces.
The process of working these ideas up into finished pieces involves lengthy and complex processes including making maquettes (in paper or fabric), sampling on the loom, modelling fabrics on a mannekin, making sketches and of course the creation of the complex weave draft which Lotte will use to weave every centimetre of the fabric in a specific way. Shibori techniques and pressure steaming is sometimes used – depending on the fabric and the garmen – to fix the fabrics into permanent hard-edged pleats which can run vertically along the warp of the fabric or on the bias of the fabric, forming more gentle pleats.
The idea for the finished garment may be sketched out on paper for Lotte to translate onto the loom and weave into precisely considered cloth. Instead of a uniform rectangular piece of fabric the length may include sections which are wider than others or with areas of different textures, areas woven as partial tubes, or areas which combine double fabrics which feature special joins which sometimes become fin-like elements of the design. These features which are central to the identity of these garments – can only be developed through a close process of collaboration between fabric weaver/designerand the maker of the garments.
Interestingly, the challenge of designing garments “on the loom” has fascinated hand-weavers for centuries and has always been considered a kind of measurement of the weaver´s skill. But perhaps, as weave is now understood by fewer and fewer people generally the accomplishment and skill is not as easily appreciated.
Collaborations like this between hand-weaver/designers like Lotte and Ann Schmidt are very rare indeed and depend not only on the right personal chemistry between the two but a shared passion and willingness to be open to and learn from the other – over a long period of time. As such this type of collaboration truly enriches each designer-maker – in a creative rather than economic sense (as with all creative innovation and development work the sheer investment in time is hard to quantify in mere economic terms) – the divisions between the different disciplines of fashion design and hand-woven fabric design become far smaller. The result is something truly original and innovative which it is impossible to imitate.
It is the intimate nature of the collaboration which results in such extraordinary garments which are closer to fine art or sculpture than simply fashion.
Each section of the woven fabric is sometimes precisely worked out to correspond to a particular piece of the garment design.
Sometimes Ann sews the garments up by hand – not because of a particular devotion to the hand-made but simply of a recognition that it is the best way to achieve a particular effect.
The attention to detail in these garments is phenomenal. An example of this is how Lotte will also sometimes incorporate manual manipulation techniques when weaving for special effects. Only weavers will appreciate the technical mastery involved but the degree of sophistication in the fabric itself can be appreciated by anyone with aesthetic sensitivity.
The Japanese-inspired jacket in the large photograph, for example, features white threads which “float” free of the main fabric in non-repeating sequences. Each floating thread is placed by Lotte by hand during the weave process. The effect is delicate and unusual and would be impossible to achieve using industrial weaving methods. The two different patterns on the garment are achieved on the loom simultaneously, thanks to the technique of weaving two layers of fabric at the same time on the loom – one which features the simpler, darker stripe pattern and the other featuring the floats. The double-layers are joined, again on the loom – not using a sewing machine afterwards , which produce an additional effect. To preserve the delicate dashed effect of the selvedge Ann Schmidt sewed some of the panels of fabric together by hand to mimic the same effect and achieve a uniform aesthetic.
Congratulations to Lotte and Ann, not only for the wonderful work, but for providing valuable role models for both the worlds of fashion and handwoven textile design.