Wool Re-Fashioned With Colin McDowell & Christopher Bailey
I was recently invited to attend the Wool Re-Fashioned event in the historic surroundings of Salts Mill in Saltaire. It consisted of an exciting collaboration between the Yorkshire Fashion Archive and the Woolmark Company with students from the School of Design at University of Leeds who had re-worked archive garments and given them a modern twist by using fabric from the ‘Merino. No Finer Feeling’ collection. It was a celebration but also a prevention in keeping the tradition of wool manufacturing on home soil – and as a website that focuses on British designers, brands and trends we were there in a flash.
Getting the train from Euston to Leeds, we were met by an absolutely stunning backdrop of rolling green hills, cobbled streets and stone cottage houses- a slight clue Dotty, we were not in London anymore. Opening for business in 1853, the feeling of tradition is still felt strongly in the architect of its design and the interior inside Salts Mill and has a real sense of community and ‘home’ about it.
Met by a room full of Leeds students, who along with their teachers had creatively modified items donated, including the circa 1970’s poppy print polyester jacquard chiffon evening gown which I fell a little bit in love with. I spoke to one student, Philippa Richardson who helped in the re-design of a sage green moss wool crepe dress circa 1940’s, had just gained an internship at Alice Temperley.
She said: “Before this assignment I never knew how versatile wool could be, I would never have guessed half of these items were prominently wool- based as you always imagine wool to be a thick, coarse, heavy fabric to work with.” And neither did we. With Autumn now upon us, the focus on knitwear, capes and heritage double-breasted coats is noted throughout the high street and on the AW12 catwalks but wool can also be used delicately, in dresses and blouses for that contrast to chiffon or cotton that we associate lighter, more breathable items with.
Before long it was time for fashion writer and critic Colin McDowell to take centre stage in the small exhibition area as Chairman of the collaboration. After a few words from the group’s Patron, Burberry design legend Christopher Bailey, who spoke live via satellite from London – sending his condolences for not being at the event (it was three days before the start of LFW so it was understandable and after seeing the exquisite sights at Burberry SS13 it was obviously worth staying in HQ for.) Colin, a fellow northerner and advocate of tradition and manufacturing however spoke passionately about how fashion is often seen as a ‘mono-city culture’ with many people only focusing on the key cities such as London, Paris, Milan and New York, whereas the materials are often sourced elsewhere, and credit should be shared with the workforce who bring the fabrics to life. I managed to have a long, intriguing, enjoyable chat with Colin later who explained his favourite piece from the collection was the re-worked Yohji Yamamoto wool trousers and blazer circa 1980’s, as “Menswear is where it is at right now.”
After a glass of Prosecco and one too many roast beef and horseradish filled mini yorkshire puddings later (well, when up t’north) we were whisked away to the industry renowned, Abraham Moon & Sons heritage fabric production company who has 175 years worth of experience in manufacturing wool. With the likes of the textile used in the Obama family sofas at the White House having come from the factory, Burberry, Paul Smith and D&G sourcing wool for their collections from here and Boden having recently shot an advertising campaign for the website in the historic walls of Moons in Leeds, it’s safe to say, tradition is keeping itself alive and in production. And what a joy to see.
Ending the day with a fascinating tour around the factory- who knew there was so much to learn about wool?
The Wool Re-Fashioned exhibition runs until 28th October.
Sian @ FashionBite xx