Tangled Up in Folk: It is only Embroidery?

We saw enough crochet last year; brace yourself for some real stitching.

Embroidery has been revived for the 21st century with fans, Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele, Milan Fashion Week designer Stella Jean and Instagram famous embroiderer Marie Sophie Lockhart, all aiding the trend to blossom for summer. Vogue writer and author of 70s Style and Design, Dominic Lutyens calls describes the trend as “Pure nostalgia”. The result however, has creating a group of unhappy civilians that are convinced the patterns may undermine cultural traditions.

Lutyen explains designers are inspired by their “mothers wardrobe”. The Met Gala 2015, English model and daughter of former supermodel Jerry Hall, Georgia May Jagger wore an oriental inspired Gucci Kimono dress, coated with embroidered birds, butterflies and other traditional Asian designs. Now both mother and daughter are Thierry Mugler muses. Figures of the 70s Missoni, Zandra Rhodes and Yves Saint Laurent pushed embroidery to its fashionable lengths by fusing folkloric patterns with their designs. As opposed to all over appliqué, the flower motifs are positioned and designed onto garments selectively, making them bolder. Spring Summer 2016 chose more statement pieces of embroidery, like patchwork and trim sections.

The resilient vintage movement has endorsed a comeback for embroidery, “I love to work with the past to translate the future” said Michele at Gucci show with DazedDigital, “images from the 1970s to English prints”. Both Gucci men and women’s wear collections included mulled coloured flowers and swooping birds stitched onto jacket collars, pocket folds and waistline detailing. Valentino and Erdem collections shared similar embroidered in the same nature. Conflicting patchwork and embroidery covered House of Holland but instead of the frequent and archetypal flower and bird stitch work, Holland used embellished insects.

What really is the problem?

Essentially grounded in all cultures globally, from the Bayeux Tapestry to the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, embroidery in history has always been immensely detailed decoration on a large-scale. French couturier Paul Poiret is one of the first designers to interpret characteristic cultural elements and showcase them his fashion designs. His costume collection of Scheherazade in 1910 embraced the exotic with coral silver and turquoise gem appliqué, Turbans and Oriental harem trousers. Translating the trend in fashion has put many designers in a pickle; Yves Saint Laurent’s 1967 Africa collection, exotically feathered and beaded, similarly to Galliano’s first Dior Spring Summer collection in 1997 which was inspired by the Masai and Dinka tribes in Africa. Yet more recently Valentino’s African-Inspired Spring Summer 2016 collection had raged twitter, “Well kids, we’re off to wild, tribal Africa” @RobinGivhan. The problem? A lack of awareness and almost duplicating traditions into designs.

Gypsy tiered skirts, prints of exotic birds and flowers and primary coloured pom poms lined waists and necklines. Stella Jean’s Spring Summer 2016 Collection combined traditional Italian dress with Eastern European folk dress of red and blue geometrics. “There’s not a family in Italy that hasn’t had someone migrant” explains Jean, “(this) reminds Italians that they were, and are, a nation of outward migrants”. Terms like Peasant Fashion, Ethnic vibe, Normad Chic and Migrant Chic have been coined for the trend.

Appliqué, Appliqué Appliqué

American designer and embroiderer, Kathie Sever founder of Fort Lonesome designs Western inspired shirts and jackets; maps, landscapes, animals and cacti are few illustrations she uses. Asos and Lazy Oaf have collaborated with The Ragged Priest, creating embroidered denims covered in unicorns, sequined letters, flowers and rainbows. Nike and more recently Vans have worked with American Woollen Company, Pendleton creating authentic Native American patterns on the trainers. Rapper Drake found Marie Sophie Lockhart’s Good For Nothing collection on Instagram, her designs covered in hand sewn images of rainbows, Sailor Jerry girls and funny quotes in vintage denim garments. She had a bomber jacket customised with Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late album cover, for the rapper himself. Her stitching has also appeared on Marc Jacobs Spring Summer 2016 collection, Mickey Mouse to 3D glasses, the sequined designs were used as patches on Jacobs’ snake-skin bags.

There’s no need to search through your mum’s wardrobe or charity shops anymore, the high street now stocks the revitalised trend on garments, including embroidered trainers. No longer dated and obsolete. Mustard maroon patchwork, bold geometric patterns and beaded cartoon inspired designs on oversized denim.

Embrace the folkloric, embroidery is harmless.

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