Handmade Techniques: Part I

Kelly Allen photoWritten by: Kelly Allen
LdM Fall 2013 Fashion Merchandising major



About two weeks ago, my fashion professors began handing out flyers for a two-part ‘Handmade Techniques’ workshop that LdM is offering its students. Whoever designed these flyers should receive an award for their marketing: the colorful picture on the front had me immediately emailing the fashion department to secure a spot, even though I wasn’t completely sure what I was signing up for.


Today I attended the first segment of the workshop, led by LdM professor Karl Joerns. He took our group through the history of what it means for something to be ‘handmade,’ something we’ve all heard so much about after having spent the past few months here in Florence. Before living in Florence, the word ‘handmade’ always conjured up memories of my own futile attempts at crafting and, specifically, at sewing. I’ve come to realize there is another side to the story: ‘handmade’ can just as easily apply to the haute couture evening gowns parading down the runway in a Valentino fashion show. Quite the contrast to the pajama pants I attempted in middle school…

Karl approached this concept from the more glamorous perspective (thankfully!) – he said handmade means that you take care. I think this is such a cool way to define this concept: something that is handmade is created with a specific consumer in mind, not for mass consumption. It is special and unique, especially since each creation will always be slightly different from the last. He also introduced an idea that was completely new to me: being handmade doesn’t have to mean the absence of machinery. In fact, some of the most famous designers of the past century – Ferragamo and Gucci just to name a few – combined traditional handmade craftsmanship with technology and industry. The distinguishing factor then becomes whom a product is designed for: is it a unique, one-of-a-kind creation or is it standardized to appeal to the mass market?

Next week, we will get the chance to put this concept into practice. Karl will be sewing tote bags for us to decorate however we choose. This perfectly corresponds to what he taught us today: even though the bags will all be sewn on a machine, the end results will be completely distinct from one another as we infuse them with our own personal style. Check back next week to see pictures of my attempt to be artsy!