Project 4 – Enveloping the body

Notes and research


  • When we’re thinking about fashion, texture offers a visual and tactile surface quality to garments
  • Examples of textured fabrics include: tweed, velvet, corduroy, seersucker, velvet, different knits, etc.
  • Texture can be determined by several factors: the kinds of fibres used, the design of the yarns in the fabric, the production techniques, and the finishing applied to the textile’s surface.
    • Finishing processes may include brushing, laminaing, foiling, pressing or felting.
    • These can alter the surface and/or tactile quality of a textile, and affect the quality of its drape.

Research point

Chanel’s use of tweed

The link provided in the course text is outdated, but I was able to get a sense of Chanel’s use of tweed in garment design, specifically their Autumn/Winter 2013 ready-to-wear collection, via Vogue UK [accessed 10 May 2018].

A bit of background about the “quintessentially British fabric,” taken from the Joseph Turner site’s article “What is tweed? A guide to ‘the big cloth‘” [accessed 10 May 2018].

  • Tweed is made of tightly woven died wool. There is no typical tweed, as it comes in a variety of weights, weaves and colours.
  • Tweed originates in 18th century Scotland, designed to be as thick and weather-resistant as possible to help farmers endure tough, cold winters.
  • Evolved when it was appropriated by Britain in the 1830s, adapted to the hunting needs of the British aristocracy. Upper classes would commission unique tweeds to help them blend in with their outdoor surrounding.
  • Tweeds slowly became easier to manufacture and thus more accessible to those outside the aristocracy.
  • Traditionally hand-woven, the process of making tweed is today mechanized.
  • Tweed weaves include: twill tweed, overcheck tweed, striped tweed, checked tweed, herringbone tweed, estate tweed, barleycorn tweed, houndstooth and dogtooth tweed.

Articles I consulted about Chanel’s use of tweed specifically are indicated here. [All accessed 10 May 2018]:

It seems Coco Chanel borrowed some tweed sportswear from her lover and decided it should be worked into her collections. In the early 20s, she had a Scottish factory produce her iconic, nature-inspired tweeds for sportswear, suits and coats. In the 30s, the tweed look had become very popular and she switched production to Northern France, experimenting with integrating other materials like cotton, silk and cellophane to inform and evolve their look and feel.

Source: South China Morning Post Style. “From Coco To Lagerfield: the innovative evolution of Chanel’s Tweed” [accessed 10 May 2018]
Since 1983, Karl Lagerfield has taken over where Chanel left off and tweed is an essential part of the Chanel “brand’ story now, one of their “signature” fabrics. It has been incorporated into all kinds of non-conventional garments, including evening gowns and wedding dresses, and there is no limit to what it might be combined with to unique effect: leather, rubber, denim, chiffon, feathers. Finishes have included sequins, glitter, pearls– but there are no limits and the garment designs continue to be edgy and innovative (not what you’d expect of tweed).

Source: Designer Vintage.Chanel’s Tweed Jacket” [accessed 10 May 2018].
Above is an example of the iconic women’s Chanel jacket in tweed– often imitated but never replicated. Its first iteration came about 1954, characterized by a square, cropped shape, four front pockets with four large buttons, often sporting the Chanel “CC” logo.

Issey Miyake

According to the site [accessed 10 May 2018], the concept for the Pleats Please concept (now it’s own brand) is:

A collection of clothes that are a product in themselves, made with a unique “garment pleating” technique where the materials are developed from a single thread and pleats are added after sewing the clothes into shape. First launched in the ISSEY MIYAKE line in 1989, this pleats line grew until it finally became a brand of its own with the launch of the SPRING SUMMER 1994 collection.
These clothes combine functionality – they’re light and wrinkle-proof, they don’t need to be dry-cleaned, and they can be folded to a compact size for easy storage and carrying – with a versatility that makes them suitable for all settings in your daily life. Comfortable and beautiful too, these clothes have become deeply entrenched in the daily lives of modern women. This brand reflects Issey Miyake’s fundamental concept that “design is not for philosophy, but for life,” and continues to evolve today.

Living in Paris for several years, I grew very familiar with big Pleats Please ads on buses and buildings undergoing renovations. What I noticed right away about these clothes is how comfortable they look: the colors and shapes are beautiful and fashion-forward, but it’s obvious you could move freely and comfortably in them. I also love that they are “low-maintenance” as so much of women’s clothing requires hand-washing and pressing and perfect folding. I don’t know many “normal” people whose lifestyles include the time or inclination for all these steps.

The latest collection is featured in the below video featuring Spring/Summer 2018 fashion show:

What I notice is how movement, freedom and expansion are emphasized. This is really a liberating take on women’s fashion– that you can look great/ be beautiful/ express an interest in fashion and beauty at the same time as being athletic, expansive and/or daring to make shapes with your body and take up/occupy space. Not all the garments here are pleated, but the ones that do feature tiny pleats are evidenced by the way the models move within them, demonstrating how much room there is to move and make shapes as they dance and run across the runway.


  • Is first quality that elicits a response from people when looking at a garment
  • Colors are seasonal (darker colors in winter, brighter colors in summer) but can also be on-trend. For example, color blocking (wearing all one color) was a trend in recent years, where oftentimes its seen as being a bit wacky (for example, the local “cat” lady who only wears purple).
  • Often in fashion, color palettes are created to guide the use of colour across a collection; among other things, this can help a client select more than one piece and easily mix and match them. It’s also an economic choice for designers.
  • Example given of Zandra Rhodes [accessed 10 May 2018], who uses color and pattern boldly.
  • Example given of Gareth Pugh [accessed 10 May 2018], who emphasizes monochromatic sculptural garments but has recently introduced color to his collections. For his latest collection, he eschewed the runway in favor of making a short film, which is the only thing available for viewing when you visit his site. It doesn’t give any indication as to what his designs look like, so perhaps he’s more interested in mood/theme.
  • Color can be added at various stages of the fashion production cycle: at fibre production; during the production of yarns; at textile creation stage; added at last minute after garment’s construction.

Pattern and print

  • Are major consideration in fashion and by designers.
  • Certain patterns, like color, may reflect seasonal trends: for example, some seasons we see a lot of a particular animal print.
  • Textiles can be designed as all-over repeat patterns or as placement prints, so that motifs appear in predetermined positions on a garment.
  • Additionally, embellishments such as embroidery, beading, needle-punching, etc. can be added to a garment.

Research point

We are asked to consider some designer brands who are characterised by their use of print and pattern. We are asked to evaluate whether their use of print and/or pattern is primarily motivated by aesthetic consideration or is an attempt to create an identifiable brand that can then extend to other products such as fashion accessories, household items, etc.

louis-vuitton-carry-all-mm-monogram-handbags--M43623_PM2_Front view
Source: Louis Vuitton USA [accessed 10 May 2018]
I instantly thought of (ugh!) Louis Vuitton, whose repeat motifs change each season but are always highly recognizable and include some variation on a theme, which inevitably seems to place the “LV” logo front and center.  While the site includes a lot of more understated pieces, it seems to me that the majority of “everyday” (ha!) people who purchase Vuitton handbags are interested in communicating loud and clear that they are privileged enough to do so. Louis Vuitton handbags are a status symbol, above all else, and the monogram’s visibility is important for people who care to inform others’ perception of them.

It seems clear to me that Louis Vuitton is mostly concerned with creating an identifiable brand with clearly identifiable products. Those who can afford to splurge on a handbag–and who want others to know exactly what they can afford– would do well to invest in Vuitton because the brand and its corresponding monogram is well-known internationally, and highly (often painfully) visible from relatively far away.

Obviously, this monogram/brand awareness serves the company well. Folks who may not be able to splurge on a handbag but who care nonetheless about possessing branded goods are likely to splash out on the world’s most cheaply-made and comparitively “luxury” commodity: perfume. Indeed, a visit to both the LV USA and LV France homepage features a bottle of LV perfume front and center, suggesting this is a popular item with a relatively low entry price-point.

Mary Katrantzou

Katantzou seems to have made a big splash in the fashion world; her aesthetic is very graphic and the focus seems to be on elaborate textile designs that push the limits of digital print technology.

Resources (all accessed 14 May 2018) I consulted while researching around this fashion and textile designer include:

To get a sense of her background and approach to fashion and garment design, I watched a TedX talk she gave in Athens [accessed 14 May 2018]:

It was interesting to hear her detail her intellectual and “doing” journey as a maker/creative. Although she grappled with her fears a lot sooner that I did, it’s neat to hear her talk about “imposter syndrome,” fear of failure and the slow build-up to being a confident creator/designer/risk-taker. I like how she gave herself challenges (like trying to get into the most notoriously inaccessible schools) and milestones– markers of achievement– and pursued them through “failure” to success.

As I thought about the specifics of her work, I needed a basic question answered:

  • What is “placement print”?
    • Next State (a digital textile printing company) defines placement print as “the controlled position of an artwork within a product. Different to a repeat print, which features continuous tiling of artwork. A placement print rellies on artwork done to the scale of a product and then being cut in a particular position to control the placement of a print.” (Source:; accessed 14 May 2018).

Understanding this, I see that Katrantzou is unique in that she simultaneously designs both the garment and the textile, often with emphasis on the textile’s print, which seems to inform the shape of the garment.

In her Fall 2011 collection, Katrantzou builds upon a theme established in her Spring collection of the same year. What began as an idea to “put the room on the woman” expanded into an architecturally-inspired collection featuring incredibly realistic interior and exterior scenes, and an impressive range of tromp l’oeil details suggestive of curtains fluttering in the wind, rooftops and “wall sconces […] reconfigured as necklaces” [; accessed 16 May 2018]. This idea (of the room on the woman) seems to challenge notions of size and space occupied by (feminine) bodies, and– in a way– frames the body as a destination, and the garments worn as “decor”.

It seems that one of the criticisms (of this highly celebrated collection) was that there was something too structural and unnatural about the looks; that they imposed an architecture on bodies that wasn’t fluid or realistic. In Katrantzou’s Fall 2011 collection, she reformed her idea of the “room on the woman” by putting “the woman [back] in the room” [; accessed 16 May 2018]. Here, Katrantzou’s muse is a connoisseur, surrounded by beautiful objects whose beauty is transposed onto the garments she wears. In the example below, the woman’s structured skirt resembles a porcelain vase, and its no coincidence that wild flowers are bursting from the woman’s waistline.

Source: [accessed 16 May 2018]
In this collection, Katrantzou seems to be playing with the phrase and idea surrounding “the woman in the room”. Instead of creating a scene where we imagine men ogling and women jealously eyeing a specific woman in a room (here I’m imagining a caricature, but one that gets played out in film and song, at least, and is familiar), she seems to be creating/imagining a sophisticated aesthetic relationship between a (specific kind of) woman  and a (specific kind of) room. Of course, this theme is a pretext for the highly realistic graphic style Katrantzou brings to each collection. Her work seems to test the boundaries of how closely wearable garments can resemble the objects or worlds that inspired them.








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