Would you cut up an old quilt and make something new out of it?
Quilted clothing and clothing made from quilts are certainly making an impact in the fashion world, as evidenced in the 2018 New York Fashion Week when Emily Bode showed her collection of menswear made using vintage materials. Raf Simons’ debut collection for Calvin Klein also featured vintage patchwork. However, this is not a new phenomenon.
Adolfo Sardina created an evening dress–now in the collection of the V&A–in the late 1960s, fashioned out of a nineteenth century Crazy quilt, and Christian Dior utilised patchwork to make dresses in 2012. Interest in patchwork continues, whether upcycled or newly made, evident in the subsequent runway collections of Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and Libertine—to name but a few.
In recent years, the fashion industry has been subject to criticisms, not least for the environmental damage the industry is accused of inflicting on the planet. Carbon emissions, water consumption, pollution, and micro fibres from synthetic fabrics that have found their way into the ocean are just some of the problems the industry is facing. Fast Fashion, fuelled by constant consumer demand for a cheap and ever-changing wardrobe, has driven and exacerbated these problems. Not surprisingly, ‘Slow Fashion’ and sustainability have become key words in the fashion and textiles industry, tapping into the zeitgeist.
Throughout the pandemic, as freedom has been restricted and access to commercial outlets reduced for two years, there has been a growing interest in craft activities and the ‘make do and mend’ philosophy. In North America, where patchworks were and still are made in the thousands, a growing number of small, independent operations are using quilts and other upcycled textiles to make new garments, operating successfully outside the mainstream industry. Just as concerns about cutting up heirloom textiles for repurposing were raised surrounding the BODE collection in 2018, this debate continues.
Despite highly individual approaches, many female-run enterprises in North America reveal shared concerns. Overwhelmingly, the designers’ particular love for vintage clothing and fabrics comes across, lending them a real connection to the pieces they produce. They all know and appreciate their client base, enjoying the interaction through the personal service they provide. Three of the people I contacted stressed they are only using textiles that are worn and damaged, destined for landfill or recycling plants. They all feel that they are giving these discarded textiles a new life and treat them with respect, paying homage to their original makers. Some concern was expressed that the supply of vintage textiles may well become exhausted, as the current trend to recycle and repurpose quilts continues to gain popularity...
Extract from the article Do It Again: Cutting up quilts and making new, written by Dr Sue Marks.
We've recently come across Mary Fon's YouTube video on this debate and we'd love to hear the thoughts of our textile community. Please comment below and let us know what you think! (N.B comments are approved incrementally and may take a couple of hours to appear on the blog post).
Read the rest of the article in Issue 105 Checks & Stripes. Find out how to buy the current issue here:
Photography: Sara Kerens. Model: Kennedy Givens with State Model Management; Makeup: Lucas Dean Bowman; Hair: Deyah Cassandore