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.
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.
Photography of Waibel working in Ciment by Julian Busch