Archive for July, 2009

2009 Weave of the Week #30: Luisa Cevese
July 26, 2009

Luisa Cevese coin purse

Luisa Cevese coin purse

Since I talked about recycling textile waste in my article about Shinique Smith this week, this seemed like a perfect time to talk about Italian designer Luisa Cevese, whose coin purse, made from laminated textile waste (shown above), is this week’s featured weave. I bought it, and another similar piece at Ad Hoc Softwares, long enough ago for them to qualify as vintage now.

Ms. Cevese’s bio says that she worked for a “major Italian textile company,” and while working there became aware of the artistic and commercial potential in textile waste.  She started to explore possibilities, and my little bags must have been a result of her experiments.

The company name on the bags, Riedizioni (which, I guess, means something like “reissue”), was Italian, and the laminated material was new and very unusual.  A simple hangtag (see above) not only noted that waste materials were used, but also named the sources, so I knew that my bags were made from pedigree Italian textile waste from the Mantero (silk) and Bonotto (woolen) mills.

Coincidentally, my sales rep at the time also represented Mantero, so he introduced me to one of their executives at a trade show where we were all exhibitors.  I excitedly told her about the coincidence of my new bag’s having been so ingeniously made with Mantero’s waste, but she didn’t seem pleased by this at all.  She didn’t explain, just asked me to bring the bag to the show.  I gave it to her the next day, and I don’t know what happened after that, because she never offered any explanation.  Worse, I never got my bag back, or my $25.00.

At this point I was going to continue with a straightforward business story about Riedizioni’s growth and how Luisa Cevese’s recycling concept was so suited to our times, until it dawned on me that her business encases recycled fiber in plastic.  I’m no chemist, and the Riedizioni website says that many different kinds of plastic are used, but aren’t they all oil-based products? And aren’t they non-biodegradable and contributors to pollution?  Yes, it’s a great concept, and it has been carried out brilliantly, but should it have the “green” image that the word “recycling” usually conjures up?

I was intrigued by the question, and, while researching found this surprisingly snarky piece on the website, written in 2006 about another Italian company, called La Tessitura:

“The outgrowth of high-end silk weaving company Mantero, la tessitura takes cast-0ffs from its clients and reweaves, dyes, prints and textures them.  Why go through all the trouble of reworking the fabric rather than using existing scraps to make new items?  Factories are contractually bound to burn or dispose of their clients’ designs.  At la tessitura, your gorgeous purse, hat or rug may carry the eco-burden of toxic dyes and lots of waste water, but at least your purchase helps divert the raw material from incineration or the landfill.  That’s a good concept.”

In the textile-waste-recycling competition both Riedizioni and La Tessitura offer wonderful — and very different — cutting-edge designs.  I’m not going to venture too deeply into eco-politics, but if you’d like to ponder such matters, you can check out the website links I’ve provided.

This article surprised me by taking a left turn in the middle and not turning out to be what I thought I was going to write.  I loved the experience and hope it happens again.

Shinique Smith
July 23, 2009

Shinique Smith, Bale Variant no. 0017, 2009 (detail)

Shinique Smith, Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009 (detail)

I don’t write about art exhibitions often, but two of my favorite words kept popping up in connection with Shinique Smith’s current show: “textiles” and “calligraphy.”

This dynamic multi-media solo exhibition, Ten Times Myself,  comprises new paintings, sculpture, and collages that incorporate used clothing, fragments and bunches of textiles, and funky found objects.  Ms. Smith’s work is influenced by Abstract Expressionism, rap music, pop culture, and Japanese calligraphy, among other things. The exhibition can be seen at the Yvon Lambert Gallery, in far west Chelsea, NYC, until July 31, but if you can’t get there, the gallery’s website has an excellent slideshow.

The photo above, which looks like a bundle of laundry, is a detail from one of the pieces in the exhibition, Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009.  Ms. Smith created it out of used and discarded clothing and fabric that has been commercially dyed from white into shades of indigo, written on, bound up, and finally reborn as sculpture.

Bale Variant is one of my favorite pieces from the exhibition; because it makes me nostalgic, believe it or not, for the bales of textile waste (which I used to ignore when I walked by them) that used to litter Mercer and Greene streets, when I lived there. I don’t know what actually became of those bales of rags, but they were on their way to be recycled, way before the word, and the neighborhood, were cool.

An example of Ms. Smith calligraphic style is shown below, in a detail from And The World Don’t Stop.

And the World Don't Stop

Ms. Smith has studied Japanese calligraphy, and her exuberant, swooping lines teeter between Japanese calligraphy and graffiti, — but they look to me like some styles of Arabic calligraphy as well.

So I recommend the show because it is original, thoughtful, and about fiber, and like too many of the shows that I write about, it will close soon.

2009 Weave of the week #29: Premiere Vision New York
July 19, 2009

"Magnified tweed"

"Magnified tweed"

It’s mid-July, but I’m into fall — fall 2010, that is — because it’s time for me to start thinking about new designs for fall/winter 2010/2011.  So last week I headed over to the Première Vision New York show to start researching colors and fabrics.

Première Vision New York is a spinoff from the much larger,  more comprehensive Première Vision textile show that is held twice a year in Paris, and last week an international group of weaving mills gathered in New York to show — and, they hoped, to sell — their newest fabrics to fashion professionals.

The exhibitors’ booths themselves are restricted to fabric buyers, so I didn’t see the collections, but the rest of us do have free access to the color wall —

Photo by Premiere Vision New York

Photo by Premiere Vision New York

— and the fabric forum.

Photo by Premiere Vision New York

Photo by Premiere Vision New York

Based on what I saw at the show, I chose one of my own designs to feature this week. The large houndstooth check shown above neatly represents some of the 2010 trends and colors, even though I designed it in 2005.

For years I  have ridiculed the pretentious language that trend forecasters use, and this year’s show had its share of the odd and the nonsensical. The fabrics in the forum were arranged in categories that sometimes made sense (“winter flowers”) and sometimes didn’t (“sullied refinement”?).  My houndstooth check design fits into the forecasters’ “augmented” category, because it is woven with lofty woolen-spun two-ply cashmere; the “magnified tweeds” category, for obvious reasons; and the “exaggerated” category, because of its scale and longish floats — and even though I wouldn’t call it “languid,” it is both soft and warm.

Applying some of the color names used in the show, my sample’s warp colors are roughly equivalent to the forecasters’ “brown sugar” and “eggplant leather,” and the weft colors to “anti-rust” and “heart of night.” The overheated language may sound silly, but over many seasons I have come to appreciate how useful fanciful language can be in setting my mood and even in re-focusing my mind. Besides, after spending way too much time trying to decide whether to call a scarf color “lipstick” or “scarlet,” I know how ga-ga one can get matching words to colors oranges.

I was there on the first day and Première Vision felt crowded, but that could have been because,  as Women’s Wear Daily reported last week, “weak economic conditions have already taken a heavy toll on textile shows around the world … As a result, buyers will have fewer shows and exhibitors to survey.”

Still,  it was nice to meet old friends, and to focus on fabrics and colors and silly names for a couple of hours, (and then blog about it), instead of focusing on … well, everything else.