The Stitches of Fashion

Sarah Fitzhugh photoWritten by: Sarah Fitzhugh
LdM B.A. in Fashion Design & Art History

 

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Fashion, oh fashion, you are an ever changing and amazing creature! While most of the world sees the final step of fashion in the realized garment, designers often begin with a bigger picture in their heads. Fashion has always been a love of mine ever since I was a little girl, designing new outfits for my dolls and sketching them up on extra pieces of paper lying around. I grew up knowing I wanted to do something with fashion and art, but I wasn’t quite sure yet. As I moved around from urban environments to more rural locations in the United States I learned more about myself and people. I realized that I wanted to work in fashion, not for the glamour of it, but because of its ability to evolve and change the people that wear it. Even in Vermont, my current home state back in the United States, everyone has their own style. I believe that fashion has the ability to better a person in many different ways, even something as small as holding their heads just a little bit higher.

What I didn’t know then is that I would end up later on in life spending my four years of college in one of the most historically rich and fashionable cities in the world: Florence, Italy! As a full time B.P.S. in Fashion Design through Marist-LdM I would be living in the same city where world known luxury brands call home, the birth place of Gucci, Cavalli and Ferragamo to name a few. Just to be walking the same streets these designers once walked is enough to inspire even the least creative person. When we find our inspiration, the creativity beings to flow and our concepts and designs follow. I have been able to find that creativity through spending my four years here at Lorenzo de’ Medici. The success of our collections though is not solely depending on our creativity and inspiration. The success of a designer’s collection also depends on the choice in textiles used.

A few weeks ago I, and fellow fashion design student Sharon Liaw, had the pleasure of visiting the extensive Archivio Storico Lineapiù, one of the most prominent names in Italian yarn production. We were able to visit for our collection that we are developing together through LdM’s ‘Working Group Project’ (which I will have further posts on!) with Professor Julia Steinle. Lineapiù was founded in 1975 and is located right outside of Florence in Capalle and has been revolutionary within the knitwear industry introducing the first 100% viscose yarn in 1987. As stated on their website, “Ours is a history of Italian excellence: an approach, a method, creative and manufacturing skills that have changed the face of knitwear in Italy and around the world.” This quote resonated with me because it reminded me of my time spent at Lorenzo de’ Medici, an approach of fostering creativity and cultivating experiences like the one we were taking part in that day.

Sharon and I did not know the extent of the archive prior to our visit, but we did know we were in for quite a treat. In fact, the archive is like nothing I have ever seen before. Within their archive a painstaking amount of care was taken to catalogued inventories of the past to the present containing almost 60,000 pieces divided between yarns, knitted samples, books, stitches, accessories and photographs. To make things easier to locate if we were looking for something specific there is an online archive where you are able to search by yarn composition, color, season and several other classifications.

The archive is almost like a museum, displaying full garments made with the Lineapiù yarns as well as garments made by designers with the yarns. Out of a total of 30 exclusive design houses, such as Christian Dior, Girogio Armani, Max Mara, Vivienne Westwood, and Givenchy, several have donated pieces back to the archives for students like Sharon and me to learn from. I was able to try one of the pieces on so we could further understand its construction and use of yarn; I was almost overwhelmed with excitement.

When we first arrived we were shown a room that contained all the newest yarns and stitch designs from the presented Spring/Summer collection. From here we were introduced to the several other rooms containing the archives. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling in catalogues of the yarns dating back to the turn of the century; it was almost an overwhelming amount of information. We were fortunate enough to even look at three books contained in the archive dating from 1895, 1902, and 1911. These books were beyond amazing, it was like touching history through the pages of textile swatches.

At this point, Sharon and I had reached information overload and had no idea where to begin! If we had a choice, Sharon and I would have slept there and continued looking through every single book at the stitch samples, they were truly impressive and incredibly inspiring. We were hoping to gain insight into the development of our collection together, which we were able to successful do. Our trip to Lineapiù is something that I know I couldn’t have gained access to anywhere else and was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Sure, we could have studied yarns in depth in class, but having the ability to go see this archive and study the material first hand cannot compare to a classroom setting.  I know that throughout the remainder of this semester at LdM I will have further experiences with Italian fashion and fall deeper in love with the passion and excellence that “Made in Italy” stands for.