Slovak Origins: Handwoven Heritage | LFW
Photography by Nora & Jakub Caprnka
Slow-pace and patience with every designed piece, Kristína Šipulová makes garments to last for generations. Debuting as the freshest edition to Slovak Fashion Council’s emerging designers, Šipulová encompasses the raw heritage of Slovakian textile materials through the use of hand-weaving and wooden loom machines. The designer’s unique craftsmanship brings ancestorial traditions into London Fashion Week and the modern world.
Revealed on 20th February 2021, at Fashion Scout’s Digital Fashion Week, Kristína Šipulová’s short film entitled, ‘Post Process’, was like being transported into tranquil field of melancholy. With precise explanations of her production process, the viewers were able to thoughtfully comprehend the thoroughness, dedication, and uniqueness of her sustainable collections in the three-minute video. From grown crops to wooden loom machines – no process of production is missed by Šipulová.
As Zoom-meetings are part of the everyday, I speak to Kristína prior to her première collection show, her warm, gentle voice, and thoughtful pauses as bewitching in conversation as they are embraced in her collection. What follows is a committed, caring, and thoughtful débutante, with a dedication to bring an emotive connection to our garments.
How does it feel for you to be debiting your first London Fashion Week during the pandemic?
It feels different because of the format, but I feel very grateful that this possibility came - and luckily, during this COVID time, we can really present and bring this message [sustainability] to the public. It's an amazing opportunity thanks to Fashions CAD and Slovak Fashion Council, so I'm really happy that it could happen. And of course, I'm missing the physical format, like the installation itself and the show; working with people physically, but everything happened so fast. It was perfect with all the people who helped me, so I'm really thankful that very prompt and active.
Your work is very intricate. Can you tell me how you make your designs, and why your collections are considered 'one off' pieces?
Yes, so everything starts basically from the yarn - I don't order fabrics. I have two ways of working; one is building the garment from the yarn, and it starts with weaving or other techniques like Macramé or hand-knitting. As I weave the fabrics for each garment, I often think of the pattern that is going to be directly for trousers or a jumpsuit. So, there is zero production waste. And the second way I work is collecting vintage hand-woven linen canvas. It's a textiles from where I come from in Central Slovakia and they are almost 100 years old. They were hand woven and the linen was hand-spun. So, the yarn itself is completely different quality because the linen in the past is much better quality because the environment was better and the soil was healthier. So, I collect these hand-woven precious textiles and reuse them in garments like coats, blazers, and jackets - giving them a new life. So, there are these two lines one is more like 'one off' from hand woven fabrics, and the second line is this reusing vintage and woven textiles.
It’s like a process of upcycling, that's amazing. And the production process starts even before you start making things because you do your work with zero waste...
Absolutely. First of all, there is the ordering of yarns; I'm combining hand-spun yarns from Japan (when I work with silk mostly), and hand-spun linen from Slovakia. Also, these yarns are vintage yarns. So not only am I recycling fabrics, which have been hand-woven, but I also try to recycle vintage yarns because no one really works with them anymore. But when you combining them with other kinds of qualities, it works really well.
Then the pattern making comes alongside the weaving, as we can already tell how it will behave. I collaborate with a pattern constructor, who also comes from my village, and craftsmen for when I weave and set up the work, because it's impossible to make it all by yourself. It's better to have more people.
Photography by Nora & Jakub Caprnka
You use a very traditional and old-fashioned hand-weaving loom machine for your pieces. What urged you to start using this process?
It was during an internship at Beck & Kinch [Danish Studio], where we used hand-waving techniques on the wooden looms for Chanel and Dior.
I was actually going to ask you about that - is that where your interests of traditional weaving techniques began?
Yes. Definitely. While being there, I just realised that craft can be presented differently - that it's not just about using new technologies, or maybe digital looms. It can be very innovative and a smart combination of materials - it's an investment of time, and it lasts longer, making it more sustainable. But yes, it was there, where I realised that this is very interesting to me, and I wanted to examine it further.
How long does each piece take you to make?
It depends, it's really hours and months of work. The setting up of the work; that takes few days, then setting up the looms; another few days, then the weaving itself - I don't know. One piece can take from around four weeks to make.
Because you make everything by hand, there's an aspect of personalisation in your pieces. Do you work closely with your clients?
Usually, I work with made to order model. The sizes of the garments I work with are not traditional sizes, but more suitable for everyone - almost like 'one size'. These are very precious pieces, and I want them to be worn from generation to generation. And that's why I don't want to create a pattern which is specific to a particular body type - it's more relaxed and adjustable, so that it can fit more sizes. That's very important.
You mentioned that you incorporate traditional Slovakian craftsmanship in your collections. Could you tell me more about them?
Yeah, so there is a macrame technique, which I learned from a very old lady - she lives just next to my village in another region - it's very typical for our traditional costumes, an embellishment. It's not like weaving, but what comes at the edge of a garment - like a scarf. It's made with knots, lots of knots by hand. Then there is another craft which I use, that's weaving from corn husk. These leaves from corn are collected, and dried which changes their natural colour from green to beige. This is also a lengthy process. Then, the separate leaves are hand-spun into one long thread, like a small rope, and then it's hand-woven into a shoe form. I collaborated with one craftsmen from south of Slovakia where this craft is typical.
In future collections, I would love to incorporate some embroidery and leather work. These are my small dreams. Also, I collaborated with craftsmen, using a typical craft of making buttons from cow horns, which can also be made from deer horn when they lose is their horns in a natural process. It's a waste material, that is hand-carved. In my coat, there is a button made by this craftsman.
Photography by Nora & Jakub Caprnka
The aspect of sustainability and longevity in garments seems to be very important to you one of your core values. Since everyone has a different idea of what it means, what does sustainability mean to you personally?
I actually started to think about sustainability, when I visited an exhibition at the V&A - "What is Luxury?" in London. It was really inspiring. I remember standing there with my small diary, and writing down all these keywords like, 'legacy', 'heritage', and 'what is new luxury?', for me, sustainability is what was represented there. It's something that's I long-lasting, where I can focus on making fewer pieces, invested more time in their production. I also believe that, as a designer, I don't really want to make so many products, I'd rather focus on making a few, which last longer. Which is why I want to use craft techniques, because for me, that's a representation of quality, and choosing the best materials possible, working with natural materials which are naturally durable, recyclable and organic. It's about the long-lasting and emotive relationship with the garments, as well as making them locally. I want to combine older generations with younger generations, to pass on skills that are disappearing.
There's so many factors, of what it means to me, like the usage of water in organic cotton, which is a huge dilemma. But also, the craftsmanship is a must - with not only the weaving, but also sawing. I am very inspired by traditional folk garments. They've lasted to this day, for hundreds of years. It's something that we value and is super precious for our families for generations, creating a relationship to our ancestors.
Yeah, definitely! I mean, I have clothes and bags passed down from my mom, that she got from her mom, and those are the things I absolutely adore!
Exactly like that, yes! Also, I really believe that the garments from your grandma, were of much better quality of fibres, as the materials were grown in better conditions. I really think that working with yarn, you can really control the process of how you build the fabric, which is the base of the garment. That's my crazy choice of working with yarn.
As you know, many brands now are focusing on sustainability, especially in the last few years. Do you think this aspect of sustainability, craftsmanship, and longevity is the future of fashion?
I wouldn't say that this is the only direction for the future. There are so many interesting biomaterials growing in laboratories, like materials from bacteria - which are so fascinating! Or maybe some futuristic 3D printing with sustainable or recyclable materials. There's so many designers, each with a different direction and taste, but there needs to be a greater variety. I believe that reviving craftsmanship is one of many, as it's impossible in this century to have just one. I'm not an expert, but for me, it's just my choice.
Photography by Nora & Jakub Caprnka
That's so fascinating! And what inspired the cuts and shapes of your current collection?
Well, I always observe the details of folklore clothing - not copying, but more how certain details have been made. I try to think about how to wear a garment for multiple occasions, but still have just one outfit. I would love to show this kind of mentality through my collections, and consider how we use for our requirements and how much do we actually need?
As you said before with zero waste...
Yes, exactly. Also the pattern should be very easy to move. When it's not super fitted to the body, it can be worn for much longer, because it breathes, it moves better, and there's no need to wash it every day, because some materials are able to clean themselves with just the exposure to fresh air.
That's incredible. Who, would you say, are your designs for?
Hmm. I think it's more women with very strong personalities, who have already found their path, and believe in this philosophy. Our clients are like believers - it's not just that they are not buying it, because they look great in it, but because they believe in the philosophy. Once I got an interesting question, "what is the best thing that happened while building the studio?", and I thought - speaking louder in what I believe in and meeting people alongside that. My clients share the same philosophy and that's very meaningful to me.
It's like growing a community, as you said, with the same philosophy and like-minded beliefs, to get a conversation started.
In my village, we have lots of folklore clothing, which we don't wear every day, but you just have it. Years or decades from now, your kids will find a hidden message within it for future generations. It can be something like a souvenir, to keep and to take care of. Just like with the pieces from your grandma; you wear them, but you also value them, and take care of them.
And how have certain moments in your life shape the way that you create now?
Certain moments? I think I absorbed different experiences. I have a certain aesthetic in me, and it created a certain sensitivity within myself, that's brought out through the creation. But I think that it was many experiences which created this particular picture of what I want to create, and it always changes. At the moment, I have a desire for more colourful expression. It changes - sometimes you're more in the shades of white, sometimes it's more contrasting, and sometimes it explodes with colours. It's like when artists have their periods in life.
Lastly, what would you say your biggest milestone has been?
I think the greatest experience for me was when I had the opportunity to teach at the International Fashion Academy IFA in Paris. I didn't feel I was ready. But for me achievements are these situations where you can really do what you love to do, and feel free in it. That was the biggest achievement and privilege in work. That's the lecture.
Kristína, it has been such a pleasure speaking with you. I cannot wait to see your show on Saturday – good luck for it!
Thank you so much!
Kristína Šipulová’s video is available to view on Fashion Scout’s website at www.fashionscout.co.uk/talent/kristina-sipulova
Post Process made-to-order collection is currently available at Prelude.store online.