Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Art of Crafting Culture

Who crafts culture, and how do they do so?  From what I hear, it is limited to a select few, a coterie of individuals who are using there pasts to sustain there futures, and doing so brilliantly in my opinion.  I was forced to ask such a question this past weekend when I was invited to attend the Nordic Fashion Biennale exhibition and symposium.  The talent in that place was so riche it seeped through the building.  The participants: artists, creators, entrepreneurs, were anything but your average fashion folk.  They were beautifully complicated minds crafting culture.
Danish flag presented on a straight jacket by Julie Edel Hardenberg of Greenland

Founder and master knitter/artist laureate of STEiNUNN designs, Steinunn Sigurdardottir of Iceland.  This woman is amazing.

The 2 day event began with an all day symposium.  I wasn’t too thrilled about being peeled from my bed on Friday and Saturday morning, but ultimately my body lost the fight, followed the lead of my conscious, and off we went.  The symposium featured Nordic designers and artists as well as creative directors from some of the top fashion companies in the world.  The event was designed to “inspire conversation and exploration between master professionals, industry leaders, emerging designers, fashion students and trendsetters” alike with a focus on Nordic fashion and art.

Closing performance by designer/musician Henrik Vibskov of Denmark
Knitwear designs by Gudrun & Gudrun of the Faroe Islands

There was a reoccurring trend that wove itself throughout the symposium, one of culture, sustainability and craft.  These designers are sustaining their cultures through its historical craft.  Creating new products while utilizing traditional Nordic customs ie: fabrics, techniques, prints etc. Co-owner, Gudrun Rogvadottir of Gudrun & Gudrun, a knitwear company from the Faroe Islands discussed the philosophy behind their brand: “when cultural heritage is an embedded part of being creative.”  Such a philosophy doesn’t rely on a market, but on simply sharing one’s past in order to sustain a conscious consumer – and they do it damn good!  Gudrun & Gudrun’s ready-to-wear knits are handmade employing traditional Nordic knitting techniques; in addition, the brand uses some of the finest, handpicked organic Faroese wool, Italian yarns and Mulberry silks from organic suppliers.  It’s no surprise that the majority of their market is in Japan and the Nordic region where admirers are more concerned with sporting a garment that holds traditional value, as opposed to most Americans who tend to find the pieces “itchy.”

Yes, I’m calling us out!  The American consumer.  Too many of us have lost sight of the true beauty of a garment and instead just buy to buy.  I’m guilty of it as well, wamp wamp.  Somewhere in the midst of fast fashion and the economic decline we decided that we would buy it new, and ultimately buy it on repeat.  There’s a euphoric high associated with shopping, and when things get ugly or very un-pretty it seems only natural – or moreso robotic - to head to the nearest department store.  The woes of therapy through retail.  Kirsi Laitala of Norway discussed the ideas concerning clothing consumption.  A survey illustrated society’s attitudes about clothing: some associated clothing to symbolic values such as heightened self esteem, respectability or being “in fashion.”  While few others associated clothing to wearability including use and fit.  61% stated that they would feel less of a need to purchase new clothes if they were of better quality, while 39% disclosed that they would feel less of a need if there wasn’t so much pressure/emphasis placed on having something new.  In 2011 only 11% of us made something new out of something old.  

Quotes from trend book of Trend Union by Lidewij Edelkoort

Sustainability is important, I get that, but sustainability goes further than simply re-using something.  Sustaining ones signature style is what came to mind partly throughout the summit, and doing so by being conscious of what you place on the canvas that is your body.  Are you sustaining a culture or craft through your style, or are you regurgitating mindless babble?  If you chose the latter don’t feel pegged, after a while I’m sure you’ll come to your senses.  Ultimately, the world of fashion needs trends and vice versa, one cannot exist without the other.  But art and creation birth the trends that fashion emulates, so who exactly are the underdogs?  What am I getting at you ask?  Take a break from the indulgences of hasty fashion and instead saunter over to the wild side of “slow fashion.”  Which according to Ragna Frodadottir of Iceland embraces the intimacy involved in crafting a product.  A connection felt by the consumer and the artisan.  Slow fashion is devoted to sustaining a product, making it to last to insure it thoroughly serves its purpose, and eventually building sentiment between the wearer and the product.  Just like the good ol’ days. 

Handmade jewelry from The Kria Jewelry collection by Johanna Methusalemsdotti. Yes the golden skeleton is a piece of jewelry, & I WANT IT!

This isn’t even half of what I learned at the Nordic Fashion Biennale symposium, but for the sake of your ears and eyes, I’ll cut it short and leave you with this: art births fashion, fashion nurtures style, craft sustains style and culture houses it all...

Co-owner of Gudrun & Gudrun, Gudrun Rogvadottir & I
Blackbird owner located in Seattle/co-moderator of the biennale, Nicole Miller & I
Co-moderator of the biennale, stylist/designer, Edda Gudmundsdottir of Iceland
Far right: artist Julie Edel Hardenberg of Greenland & designer/artist/director, Gudmundur Hallgrimsson of Iceland

The 2011 Nordic Fashion Biennale exhibit will be showing at the Nordic Heritage Museum located in Seattle WA. till November 13, 2011.  This is quite a treat for Seattle, and I would highly suggest getting a spoonful! 

Thank you to the folks at Nordic Heritage Museum and sponsors of the Biennale for having me.  It was delicious!

1 comment:

  1. ah! i love seeing your pictures. we are so lucky to have been a part of this event!