About one year ago, Harry Styles she wore a cardigan. Composed of squares in bright and cheerful colors, this sought-after piece of JW Anderson it was sported during a rehearsal for the Today Show in February 2020. Worn by Styles, the handcrafted and comfortable look of the sweater made a soft breach by placing itself between the looks of the schoolmasters, the blankets of the 70s and the silences of Elmer the colorful elephant. Nothing new for a singer with a taste for flamboyant knitwear.
Until, several months later, something unexpected happened. The cardigan had a stratospheric response. A fan got into irons and has shared his version on TikTok. Others did the same and soon the cardigan was all over the place: the hashtag #HarryStylesCardigan has reached more than 40 million views. The response was so enthusiastic that designer Jonathan Anderson shared the original pattern for the legion of enthusiastic knitters, telling himself “Impressed and extremely honored” by the response to his patchwork creation.
Miu Miu pre fall 2020
© courtesy Miu Miu
There is something about these events that is particularly evocative of the year that has just ended. During the first half of 2020 – when lockdowns still seemed a strange (and unpleasant) novelty, and a certain optimism supported us that everything would be back to normal sooner rather than later – mother yeast reigned supreme and artisan knitting projects seemed emblematic of a world temporarily stopped and withdrawn inside the houses. A point of view shared by the Victoria & Albert Museum, which acquired JW Anderson’s cardigan in November as part of its permanent collection, noting how the boss is representative and talks about “the power of creativity and social media in bringing people together during times of extreme adversity.”
A trend probably in line with a year in which patchwork has conquered more and more space in the fashion world. To start it all, the collection autumn winter 2020 of Alexander McQueen, inspired by Irish handcrafted quilts and blankets. In other shores, the Miu Miu pre-collection 2020 has proposed a very wide range of female Peter Pan collars along with hippie-inspired patchwork dresses and shirts, ideal for wandering in the last golden days of September.
Alexander McQueen fall winter 2020
© courtesy Alexander McQueen
The patchwork trend will not leave us throughout 2021
When, at the beginning of January, the time came for brands to present their spring / summer 2021 models – after the designers had by now introjected the new times defined by the pandemic – patchwork designs popped up everywhere, from Duro Olowu to Christian Dior.
At the Preen home, the lockdown experience was felt for the designer couple and the two told a Vogue that their decision to use waste fabrics it was partly a necessity related to the problems of the manufacturing industry, partly a response to the time spent with their children during the creative process: “We started giving them scraps of fabric to keep them busy after DAD hours. And we had a small sewing machine in the house … it all started more or less from there, naturally. ” The results – combinations of different colors and fabrics, some of the remnants edged with gold in imitation of the repair of porcelain shards with the Kintsugi method (the Japanese art of repairing pottery, in order to enhance the cracks when they are glued) – they were both relevant to the moment and imaginative.
Duro Olowu spring summer 2021
© courtesy Duro Olowu
A similar impression of lockdown-induced ingenuity is also found in Marni, with the creative director Francesco Risso who composed the joyful patchwork creations of the last season using 25 coats from the old collections, thus reconditioned. He described them as “unique pieces sewn and hand painted with poetry, words that I collected with my community since the start of the lockdown”, speaking with satisfaction of the sense of lightness and symbolic “fragility” inherent in undoing and rebuilding these leaders.
Marni spring summer 2021
© courtesy Marni
A fabric for difficult times
It seems that by choosing patchwork, one can escape from the global implications of the past year: whether the technique symbolizes a more playful approach to the creation of clothes, a conscious desire to remedy the waste of fabrics or a means to reinvigorate the past.
The patchwork suggests a certain methodical slowness, as well as a respect for the reuse of waste. It can be a rejection of the fashion system as we know it, with designers like Richard Malone recycling scraps of leather to create limited edition pieces regardless of the seasons and fashion events.
Chopova Lowena spring summer 2021
© courtesy Chopova Lowena
The artisan aspect of patchwork has also taken on a distinct gender connotation, with several emerging brands, including Chopova Lowena, Sea, and Bode who have honored generations of seamstresses, embroiderers, quilt artisans and carpets that preceded them. After all, textile jobs were historically recognized as domestic pastimes, with women taking care of sewing and patching throughout the house. As Emily Bode explains, first winner of the new Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation introduced by Woolmark last year, her delicate garments make extensive use of “traditional and clearly feminine design methods of quilting, hand drawing and crochet”. Even Jonathan Anderson told a Vogue Business that his initial idea for the Styles cardigan was a punk version of something that looked “handmade, like your grandmother would have done it.”
Bode fall winter 2020 2021
© courtesy Bode
With many of these spring summer collections on sale soon, the desire for patchwork shows doesn’t seem to wane. Perhaps, underneath all these different impulses, there is a sense of comfort and the charm of storytelling. As Clare Hunter notes in Threads of Life (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019), a book that analyzes the political and social power of fabrics “sewing is a way of leaving a trace of our existence on fabric: shaping our place in the world … and leaving indelible proof of ourselves. after point “. This tangibility and this sense of space may perhaps be right for us right now. As hard as it is to make sense of what is happening, there is something curiously reassuring about a garment that shows us how to keep things together.