Wednesday, February 7, 2018



Today, this word often means poor quality, poor workmanship.  However, the term “shoddy” is actually a textile term.  Callaway Textile Dictionary defines it as wool fibers that have been made into yarn or fabrics, torn apart and made ready for use again”. This is made possible with the use of a “shoddy or rag picker”, a machine for tearing apart wool rags , clippings, etc., reducing the to a fibrous condition suitable for carding.  The machine consists of a pair of strong, fluted feed rolls between which the material is slowly passed to be acted upon by a large, rapidly rotating cylinder studded with sharp pointed steel teeth or spikes.

In the field of recycling this is what happens to fabrics too worn or damaged to be used again in their present state.  A commentary by Adam Minter in the Santa Fe New Mexican, Monday, January 22, 2018, “No One Wants the World’s Used Clothes”, cites the fate of  over 200 manufacturing plants in Paniput, India which for decades was the world’s largest recycler of woolen garments, a $4 billion trade in used-clothing.
The shoddy was made into cheap blankets for disaster relief, making over 100,000 blankets each day.

What would seem to be a good, as well as worthwhile solution to the glut of useable, but unwanted, fibers has hit an economic snag.  Minter estimated that between 2000 and 2015, global production of clothing had doubled, however the average number of times the clothing was actually worn declined by 36 percent.  This appears to be good news for the shoddy recyclers.  Enter the Chinese manufacturers.  It seems that using modern techniques, the Chinese could produce more blankets, in various colors, selling the new polar fleece blankets for $2.50 (the recycled blankets retailed for $2.00).  So now, Panipat is changing.

The crux of this environmental disaster is that even with production of shoddy at its highest peak there would still be a growing deluge of used clothing entering the market.  Now, with cheap, new fabrics available,  textile manufacturers are attempting solutions by creating new fibers from recycled materials.  This is a long process and quite a challenge.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

F is for Fortuny

Mariano Fortuny

Recently, well known mystery writer Sue Grafton died at the age of 77.  She titled her books with an alphabetic device – “A is for Alibi”, for example.  I borrowed her idea for several of my blogs.  Today,  “F is for Fortuny”.

Spanish-born textile and fashion designer Fortuny (1871-1949) studied many of the arts: painting, sculpture and photography. His interest in the effects of lighting led to creating stage sets for opera and the theater.  Between 1901 and 1934 he registered more than 20 inventions for stage lighting systems and machinery for the production of textiles.

His fascination with textiles came from his father’s collection of fabrics-including samples of antique materials- and his mother’s preference for the textures and colors of Morocco.

Attuned to all aspects of fabric printing he produced many of his own dyes and stencils, never using the exact design and color palette twice.  Most of his work was monochromatic-the most notable exceptions were block-printed or stenciled designs with gilt or silver pigments.  His material of choice was silk because of its quality, texture and variety of forms and his simple, classic designs were functional as well as non-restricting, which was far removed from the fitted gowns of his contemporaries. 

With doubt his most famous design (1907) was the Delphos dress, a simple, pleated, satin silk that he reproduced for over 40 years.  The finely pleated silk material was sewn in a cylindrical shape with holes for arms and head.  All dresses reached the floor, covering the feet.  An optional belt could be worn at the waist or under the bust.  These dresses were stored by being rolled lengthwise, twisted from both ends creating a coil and placed in a small hat box, which preserved the pleating.  He patented this pleating process in 1909, building a factory in 1922 which is still in operation today.

 Similar in design are these lamps created by Ayala Serfaty in 1984. They were made of hand-dyed, custom crushed Indian silk in a range of rich colors and neutrals and featured in an article “Leading Lights” by Polly Guerin in Art and Antiques magazine, June 2006.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The House of Givenchy

A Change at the Top

This year Clare Waight Keller, an English-born designer. was hired by Philippe Fortunato, chief executive of Givenchy, to become the first woman to hold the position of Artistic Director of women’s and men” ready-to-wear, haute couture and accessory collections.

Hubert de Givenchy  was a student of the Beaux-Arts, studying and working with other famous designers at a time when noted fashion houses  used their designs as  property of the “company”.  Young designers , in order to gain recognition,  began creating collections of their own and showing their collections at various venues much smaller in scale than the lavish “fashion week” showings offered by the “big” houses.

In 1952 Givenchy founded and launched a collection called “Les Separables”, the first designer to create luxury ready-to-wear. The collection received great acclaim from sources such as Vogue, NY times and Album du Figaro.  It was at this time when middle class buyers were demanding high quality and the same fashion aesthetic accorded to couture clothing, which was, of course, sold at a much greater price point.  Realizing the potential of this new purchasing market would change the face of international fashion as it was known at the time.  Fashion houses were being combined under the auspices of financial entrepreneurs, commonly called “kings”, and the pressure was now profit driven.

In 1969 the House of Givenchy developed a fashion line for men and further diversified with shoes, jewelry, table wear and upholstery and in !976 established their flagship store in New York on 5th Avenue. 

In 1988 Givenchy joined the powerful and influential LVMH (Louis Vitton, Moet and Hensley).

Hubert retired from  the company in 1995.

Interlink Books, Northampton, MA, 2014

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Celebrating Italian Design

A Tribute to Italian Design

While we were in Milan ( see my blog on  Milan fashion week) wandering and window shopping I spied the most awesome store front in the plaza across from the famous La Scala Opera House.  The first floor of a block-long building showed the interior of a high-end haberdashery shop.  Through the windows the public could see stacks of fabrics, masses of buttons, zippers and all manner of sewing accessories.  This display was so realistic that many people tried to enter the building.  I admit, I would have spent days and days within.  But, of course, none of this wonderment was real.  It was the most clever fa├žade celebrating  Italian  design.  There were other public displays to be found around the city featuring design in many areas.

This is another Italian Design display found in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  This ornate shopping arcade has a floor plan on the shape of a Latin cross.  Mosaics represent the continents of Asia, Europe, America and Africa and the glass and metal ceiling was the first in Italy to be structural rather than merely decorative.  This display, in front of the Prada flagship store, featured Italy’s great reputation as jewelers to the world.  Renaissance figures adorned billboard-sized panels, dressed in finery, and, of course, their fabulous jewels.  The jewels were showcased in three dimensions .

You just never know what you might encounter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Italian Fashion Week- Milan

Milan Fashion Week

We recently returned from a short trip to Italy, beginning with Milan during Fashion Week.  Milan, capital of the Lombardy region in northern Italy which stretches from the Alps bordering Switzerland to the flat plain of the river Po, is both the financial and fashion capital of Italy.  A fashion design rival of both New York and Paris, Milan hosted more than 60 fashion shows and more than 80 presentations with  800 showrooms throughout the city.  “This is an Italian city of progress and change” stated “King” Giorgio Armani.

Before a glimpse at the fashions for spring, 2028, let’s take a walk through the so-called “fashion quadrilateral” ( Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni. And Via sant’Andrea). Flagship stores from Armani to Versache  along with many independent boutiques offer a window-shoppers dream.  The one word I thought of as I viewed the fall and winter displays was “texture”.  Designs were often of several fabrics, heavily textured (some bulky).  The addition of animal furs ( and hair) both faux and real  added additional layers which, at times appeared to be in their natural state.  Long rovings of slightly curly fleece-like material hung from the waist or hem of garments.  (I called this the “wet English sheep-dog look”)  Other trimmings were fine textured, obviously synthetic and highly colored, Even handbags could not escape this furry look.



But you did not have to spend your Euros in the up-scale establishments, as the market stalls offered much cheaper versions.

The promise of Spring was similar but slightly more refined.  Plaids and checks from head to toe and multicolored jackets worn with cowboy boots.  But there was also shimmer and glitz with Armani’s shiny black suits and iridescent fabrics from Gucci.  But fear not, fringe was still shown , now floating on the hemline of long dresses.

Though those of us who do not walk the red carpets , do not greet heads of state, nor jet around the world with valets to care for their wardrobes can still appreciate these outpourings of fashion creativity.  The “trickle-down effect” soon reaches the ready-to-wear consumers and don’t we all want to be in fashion?