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A COMMON THREAD

 

In 1932, Gabrielle Chanel presented a little-known exclusive collection in Mayfair’s historic Grosvenor Square over a fortnight. The collection comprised of 130 garments made solely from British textiles and came shortly after Chanel had founded British Chanel Ltd, a short-lived venture lasting only a year that saw several textile manufacturers work alongside the brand to bring British women the best of Chanel’s pioneering designs. 
London’s Victoria & Albert Museum honours Chanel’s love for the UK in its latest exhibition, spotlighting the designer’s tweeds – for which she famously enlisted Scottish mills to produce new ­– to celebrate the synergy between the house and British craft that has continued for the past century. 
Across these pages, London-based designers who preserve artisanal handcraft reflect on Gabrielle Chanel’s legacy, shedding light on the essential importance of textiles and the labour of the hands. 

Compiled by Augustine Hammond

Spark (Birth) By Anouska Samms Photoby Rocio Chacon 006
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ANOUSKA SAMMS,
weaving artist

 

Artisanal craft techniques preserve traditions, foster sustainability, support local economies and create meaningful connections between makers and consumers. The tactility of tweed invites recognition of its richness, and is an acknowledgement of the many hands the cloth has been touched by. It’s something very poetic yet simultaneously represents the height of luxury. Chanel’s use of tweed is an iconic contribution to fashion, not only for her mastery of its material nature but for what it symbolises. She redefined a material typically known for men’s clothing and subverted it into a symbol of modernity for women. 

Spark (Birth) (2023) by Anouska Samms.Photograph by Rocio Chacon

Diamond Engagement Ring On Hand Woven Sample Photo By Camille Liu
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MEGAN BROWN,
jewellery designer

 

The movement of fabric as it drapes on the body is what inspires me. Just as Chanel reimagined tweed into a symbol of luxury and artistry, I endeavour to elevate woven metals into wearable works of art.

Handwoven silver by Megan Brown.
Photograph by Camille Liu

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OSCAR OUYANG,
knitwear designer

 

Craftsmanship is an essential aspect of human culture and one of the finest representations of what humans can achieve with their hands. While debates about the relevance of couture and luxury fashion persist, the significance of artisanal crafts remains timeless.

Crochet Fern Balaclava by Oscar Ouyang, styled by Eugenia Skvarska.Photograph by Ania Brudna

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GABRIELA LUNA and CORINA DEL PINAL,
founders of Luna Del Pinal

 

Textiles are the most pressurised and important luxury as it’s a dying art. It’s more relevant than ever to go back to our roots to understand where things come from and reassess the value and appreciation for the handmade. There is still so much we can learn from artisanal craft. 

Embroidered Artisan Bag by Luna Del Pinal.Photograph by Andrés Altamirano

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ELEANOR BUTLER-JONES,
knitwear designer

 

Experimenting with unique stitches, textures, and patterns allows me to infuse my knitwear with a touch of modernity while honouring Chanel’s spirit of innovation. Each handmade piece reflects the skill, time and creativity of the artisan behind it. Consumers increasingly appreciate the value of owning something truly authentic and artisanally crafted.

Intarsia Paper Loop Top (2021) in washable paper and cotton by Eleanor Butler-Jones.
Styled by Caitlin Moriarty. 
Photograph by Jonathan Arundel

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MARTINA SPETLOVA,
fashion designer 

 

Tweed shares an eternal connection with elegance; embracing aesthetics and eco-consciousness, they entwine seamlessly. Fashion’s allure is magnified when aesthetics and practicality blend in harmony: Gabrielle Chanel’s legacy reminds me that fashion is an art form that goes beyond appearances.

Detail of handwoven wall panel using leather off-cuts by Martina Spetlova (2023).
Photograph courtesy the artists

Dorothy + Little Bara Priest, Paris (Vogue) © 1960 William Klein
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DARCEY FLEMING,
textile artist

 

With my work, the “mess” is on show, whilst the “perfect” side is concealed. Weaving enriches my designs; in a world where everything seems instant and quality is lacking, I want to retreat into slowed-down, mastered processes and traditional craft techniques such as weaving. Gabrielle Chanel was interested in the non-glamorous nature of tweed; I use baler twine, another and unconventional material to use in fashion.

Stills from Untitled directed and choreographed by Darcey Fleming

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ALICE EVANS,
knitwear designer 

 

Ours is an era where we value the quantity of items in our wardrobe more highly than their practicality and function. It is easy as a young designer to feel compelled to produce items and designs at a rapid pace to meet the modern demands of social media and shortening attention spans. Yet artisanal craft is the base point from which innovation grows. I’m hoping for a renaissance. ◉

Amulet Gloves (2023) cast pewter tie gloves with antique glass beads by Alice Morell Evans.Photograph courtesy the artist