I have been observing and admiring the work of fashion knitwear designer Sandra Backlund for some time and I think its a good representation of what it means to combine the words ‘slow’ and ‘fashion’ together in the same sentence. I have been thinking a lot lately about about the word ‘slow’ and its relationship to fashion.
Sandra Backlund studied at Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm and she formed her own label in 2004 immediately after graduating. Her knits are all produced by hand and she constructs the sculptural forms as she works, allowing herself the freedom to improvise as and when she likes. She begins her process with the same patterns blocks and then builds upon this structure to create new 3-Dimensional forms. Each piece takes hours upon hours of hand knitting skills, she is said to spend up to 20 hours per day locked away in her studio knitting and produces two amazing ten piece collections per year!
Her work is constantly changing, shifting and re-forming and I am truly inspired that each piece is crafted by hand. She stated in an interview with BLEND that she was taught to knit as a child by her grandmother and often gets her mother to help out when pressed towards deadlines.
I love the idea of skills being handed down between generations and re-interpreted. Backlund says “my work is very personal to me… I am fascinated by all the ways you can highlight, distort and transform the natural silhouette of the body with clothes and accessories… The handicraft process and the handmade feeling is also significant. I do experiment a lot with different materials and techniques… but its through my heavy wool collage knitting that I have found the ultimate way to express myself. ” The time, precision and quality invested in each piece can make it very difficult to categories her collections – are they truly fashion wearables or art forms? And how do you market or put a price tag on such a high level of innovation and craftsmanship? She could be labeled as a knitting visionary as she pushes the boundaries between traditional hand craft by creating fashion forward garments that are truly iconic and cutting edge. When asked to explain her thought process she explains there is no formula to it… she just experiments through the stitches. Once the panels are formed she pins and constructs them in front of a mirror to shape and form. It’s an interesting discussions as sometimes designers find it difficult to explain their method behind the process, it is an intrinsic part of the design process that is unexplainable and can not be taught.
I think investing lots of time and energy allows us to perfect and reflect a technique but I think there is also a little magic behind the new thoughts or concepts that emerge. I love Sandra’s work. I have linked to her website to view the 2009 collections. If only we could all use hand knitting in such an inspiring way we would have the answers to slow fashion at our fingertips!