Folk Story: Craftsmanship, hand knits and natural materials
For the past several years, fashion has been gently flirting with a craftinspired, folk-bohemian look.
It began a few years after 9/11 and the power cuts in New York when American designers, in particular, became aware of the over-consumption of society, the environmental impact of industry and the loss of indigenous craft skills. Also, if there is no electricity, mass production is not possible.
So they explored ‘slow’ fashion — craftsmanship, hand knits, natural materials such as skins, natural dyeing, weaving, recycling, upcycling and such. Initially, the look was for the younger market, which is more inclined to support sustainability. But for winter 2011/12, the focus shifted. Designers returned to the folk look, but in a much more grown-up way. Fur, cashmere and silk all entered the equation, making it luxurious and aspirational.
Roberto Cavalli can be relied upon for bohemian fashion, so the look isn’t really new coming from him. But, when sublime designers such as Dries Van Noten and sex-and-power labels such as Gucci start picking up the mantle, you know that this trend requires new attention.
Stylist Iseult Sheehy and I are both big fans of the look. “I really liked it because it was interesting,” Iseult stated. “I saw it in so many places, so many collections. Gucci had feathers, and, with their Seventies vibe, the look was so much stronger. I felt it was a designer trend — there was so much about craft coming in.
“I thought it would translate on to the street and into the high street. But it didn’t. There were so many strong trends for winter that I think it got sidetracked.” As Iseult explained, the body is important.
“The silhouette is cleaner than we have seen in folk before. Rock chick is not part of it. This is more ladylike and refined. The mid-length skirt is right for it. I would add a good, structured jacket or shirt on top to give it some shape and to stop it being a baggy look. It should be womanly,” she said.
Brown Thomas had elements of the look: Karl Donoghue’s raw shearling pieces, Stella McCartney’s chunky cashmere knits, DVF for the Seventies tailoring.
River Island did great faux shearling Seventies-type coats while Zara did sheepskin-made-to-looklike- astrakhan. Vintage stores, such as Harlequin in Dublin city-centre or The Goddess Room in Greystones, Co Wicklow, are always great sources of the Seventies originals.
“I do think it is going to be one of those slow-burner concepts,” Iseult said. “This spring is very tribal. Definitely, it is not going away.”