In the last post, we told you about the amazing discovery of samples by the Spanish designer Paloma who worked at Lanificio Paoletti in the late 1930s. Studying his samples and others found in our company’s historic archive was the jumping off point for a workshop project for students of the fashion design courses at the University IUAV Venice. The workshop — called “Storytelling_Storymaking: fashion design and writing from Lanificio Paoletti’s archive” — was a site-specific workshop held on our premises early last June, as part of work funded by the European Social Fund. “The archive as a source of innovation to develop creative and economic potential in making wool textile“, a project of which our mill is an active partner.
One of the key fabrics for this project was from that winter wool sample from 1938 that had fascinated us all completely. Our textile designer Mario Tasca was particularly amazed to see work he hadn’t thought possible with the equipment available in the early 20th century.
Recreating the historic fabric
The sample to recreate was “Item 9086,” a nubby tweed, whose plain weave appeared as if in motion, an effect achieved through the use of a twisted yarn, making it unlike the tweeds made up until then in our wool mill.
Our designer helped recreate its technical specifications by studying the sample, so we could recreate the fabric. Modern yarns and equipment, as well as current finishing techniques, meant we couldn’t make a textile exactly the same as the original. The piece of fabric we recreated responded to modern expectations for softness and this subtly lessened the effect of movement of the original, which was rougher and sharper to the touch. This gave rise to a discussion between the students and company owners, which suggests there will be a reversal in trends among future designers, drawn by the tactile qualities of the historic fabric. Today’s finishing procedure tends to use a standardized approach to smooth away rough qualities of fabric, but this has meant the loss of a tactile experience to which we have grown essentially unaccustomed.
An overview of the Storytelling Storymaking project
The workshop was three days long and focused on six historic samples. Let’s follow the story of one of the most fascinating of these, the “Paloma”.
The theme of the first day of the workshop was “Storytelling: A day in the wool mill.” It let students delve into a physical experience of the place and its history through the tool of narration and by using archive samples! A “dossier” was created for each sample, reconstructing the creative process in reverse in an attempt to find imagery as a starting point. The student Antonia Salomè worked on the “Paloma” sample, developing its floral theme and connecting it to a concept of a “femme fatale“, inspired by the Spanish designer’s creative spirit, forging a new perspective on the story.
On the second day, “Storymaking: Old samples / new fabrics”, the samples’ stories were revisited, forming the basis for projects for designing an outfit made with 5–10 meters of recreated fabric for each sample made available to the students. During the “La Via della Lana” event, the design work started with the doors of the former open, inviting the curiosity of visitors.
The third day, “Storymaking: the sample blanket”, may have been the most exciting one. The students were involved in a project for designing an actual textile. They had the chance to design according to their own creative sensibilities and see a textile prototype completed.
The project’s origins
Our Lanificio’s story can be told in many ways. Researching in the archive means trying out fresh, creative methods, unconditioned by the constraints of a business, to help us reinvent our product.
“How difficult it is for me to see what is before my eyes,” said the Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein.
From story to outfit
We’ve said that first phase was Storytelling, which was the foundation for the students’ design; then, in the second phase, they helped design garments using the recreated fabric. For the Paloma fabric, two outfit were designed: “Quella nuova” by Eleonora Corbanese and “Ritorto” by Sara Trame. Though the two students started with the same material, they developed completely different aspects of it.
“Quella nuova” design is a suit completely reinvented, to be worn by the “femme fatale” described in the storytelling phase. The “Ritorto” outfit was inspired by the fabric’s actual construction, through a model with four modules that incorporated the technical design of the plain weave and worked with the twisting [“ritorto” in Italian] that reflected the yarn’s spiral quality.
All the students’ projects were displayed for the Fashion at IUAV , which took place at the small cloister of the Museum of Santa Caterina in Treviso for the entire first week of July 2014.
Mood to sample blanket
For the third day of the workshop, students were asked to develop a moodboard — a collage of images and other inspirations for design, common in the fashion design world, starting with the sample and history of the Spanish designer Paloma. Emphasizing the tactile, rhythmic quality of textile design, we asked students to complete their moodboards with music and images of objects with tactile surfaces. We wanted to stress the synesthetic quality of fabric as a design object that engages more senses than just the visual.
There were five collections of images, music and objects — also ultra varied — offering free interpretations of the archive sample on which they were based. Our company designer Laura Stefanetto (a graduate in Fashion Design from the University IUAV Venice) helped the students chose three types of yarn for each mood to correspond to these collections of inspirations. She arranged the yarn in three boxes organized by color. There were many options to was give plenty of room to experimenting with unusual yarns.
Here you can see the “pine cone” mood with packaging plastic and wire mesh.
Here there is a mood where the inspiring images are two bracelets combined for their tactile aspect, and sawed-off yarn cones.
And here’s a mood that gives great emphasis to the tactile quality, made with a lemon peel and the bristles of a hairbrush. You can see that the image references are always that of the “femme fatale” envisioned at the start of the workshop.
The teacher Marta Sambin — a former designer for Paoletti — got involved at this point to help the students write the technical specifications for the sample blanket to further develop the different variations of each mood, pairing the yarn with different warps in nubs of wool made at our mill, and assigning each section to a different weave.
The end result was ready in just a week: a six-meter-long piece in which each 30×30 cm portion corresponds to a different aspect of the fabric inspired by Paloma. We eagerly awaited the day to present the sample blanket to the students. It was a thrill for everyone: the Paoletti family, the designers who had worked on it, and the design students, and all were very pleased with the result. It was truly amazing to see the ideas of the students translated into fabric and to be able to match the different sections with the tangible elements of the imagery from which they started.
The sample blanket was also the highlight of the show at the Museum of Santa Caterina and garnered an excellent reaction at Milano Unica and Première Vision, winning many customer orders.
Credits img: Università IUAV Design della moda.