Pleated Dreams

At Graduate Fashion Week, I came across a stand for Ciment Pleating.  They claim to be the oldest pleating firm (established in 1925) and one of the few remaining in the UK and they just so happen to be based in Potters Bar, not ten miles from where I grew up.  People who are savvy with all things savoire faire might be familiar with Lognon, the famous plisseur to the haute couture houses, which is part of Chanel’s Paraffection group.  Even there, what was once an employer of over sixty people is just down to five craftsman, entrusted with the noble art of sculpting fabric in this time consuming yet magical way.

Ciment on the outskirts of London, works on a similarly small scale, and has survived by working on projects for clients such as Alexander McQueen, Victoria Beckham and Mary Katrantzou as well as one-off pieces like iridescent creations for Lady Gaga as well as countless student collections calling for expert pleating know how. 

One designer who relies on the work that Ciment does is multi-displinary designer Jule Waibel.  German-born but London-based, Waibel studied her MA in Design Products at the Royale College of Art and graduated in 2013.  Her work be it in furniture or garments are based on precise foldability achieved by geometric pleats.  It’s the transformative element that captures Waibel’s imaginations, which is why her organza pleated dresses have such a lively quality to them. 

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JuleWaibel_2015_08NNPhotography of Jule Waibel’s “Raised” collection by Jasmine Deporta

I was going to pay Ciment a visit but as we’re coming up to the quieter summer period, it would be tricky to see any pleating in action.  I therefore have to thank Waibel’s site for the extensive photography that shows her processes when working in Ciment’s pleating atelier.  I wouldn’t have been able to depict the process any better if I had tried.  The basics of pleating are thus – you have a pattern or mould made out of two pieces of card.  Fabric is sandwiched inbetween the two pieces of cardboard and then rolled into shape, bound and placed in a steam cabinet to heat set the fabric to the shape of the mould.  Knife, box, sun ray and accordion are the common pleats but Ciment can do what they call “fancy” pleating.  This is where Waibel comes into her own as she devises various geometric and intricate moulds to create her  fabrics for her “Cone” series of chairs or her diaphanous organza dresses.  Following in similar vein to another famed fabric manipulator Issey Miyake, as well as Junya Watanabe, who produced astonishing feats of fabric origami for A/W 15-6 –  Waibel demonstrates that there are yet new geometries to be discovered within the sculpting of fabric.  The fact that this can all be achieved just outside of the M25 is even more of an astonishing feat.

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Photography of Waibel working in Ciment by Julian Busch

Moschino Fashematics

>> Back in February last year, I wrote a profile of Jeremy Scott in lieu of his debut for Moschino for Style.com’s print issue.  It was a result of some close following of Scott, observing him at work as well as interviewing him in depth.  The one thing that I will always remember from that experience is Scott’s candidness about how people see his work.  My brain thinks in icons and working with things that universally bring people into it. I’m never going to be inspired by some obscure film, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy that sort of thing. I just want to share my work with everyone.  I like to think of my work and the way people approach it in the same way people approach a Lichtenstein painting.  You can write a one-hundred-page dissertation about why he used comics. Or it could be like, ‘This is cute!’” 

And so it is that surface presented itself in abundance for his energy-charged menswear collection for Moschino, presented as part of this season’s edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence.  So much so that I got stuck in a Fashematics rut.  It was a hyper graphic, hyper literal and hyper period gleaning of the sort of references that I’m always going to be fond of – with one or two vaguely obscure films thrown into it for good measure, despite Scott’s protestations last year.  Fellini’s Casanova was the primary inspiration.  But Amadeus, Behind the Candelabra and of course Marie Antoinette come to mind.  Then throw in cycling jerseys, Formula 1 graphics and motocross gear – aka the kind of active wear that is ripe for a style crossover (didn’t I say motocross would happen?) and you have yourself a feasting of Baroque ’n’ Roll.  By ‘roll’, I’m referring to the wheels of speedy vehicles that skid on tarmac race courses.

As always, Scott’s visual treatment is always going to be a touch too brash for most – ‘clownish’ even.  Well I say clown away.  I’m down for the mashing up of Tour de France with 18th century frock coats, Mr Motivator with Napoleon or Liberace with Grand Prix – and everything awesome but the kitchen sink.  Wasn’t it Franco Moschino himself who once said: “”Good taste doesn’t exist.”

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