Hand Craft in the Digital Age

Words by Sarah Dennis

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Embroidery at the Maison Lesage Workshop

Having the opportunity to work with embroidery artists from Maison Lesage was truly a treat that has forever marked my appreciation of artisanal craft in fashion. It is one thing to be told the work that goes in to hand-made fashion, but it is another thing to fully comprehend the labor intensity and quality through first-hand experience. I am by no means a designer; in fact my specialty is digital marketing communications.

I plan to run full speed forward alongside the digital and tech evolutionary happenings, yet this does make me wonder at what cost is the fashion industry willing to go?  It is an interesting contrast to have attended the Maison Lesage workshop just before attending a discussion on Fashion Technology X Fashion Design. It is safe to say that a clash of anticipation and angst is in the air around this topic. It was questioned whether the consumer has lost perception of product quality due to advancements that have come with technology and globalization and if it is best to revert back to the simple methods out of fear of how powerful technology will be, rightfully so.

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Sarah working on her own embroidery 

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Resistance has been created from an ambivalent attitude toward the power of technology because we do not want to abandon all historical artisan craft that goes in to fashion. We are at a point of serious disruption in the industry. Yet, the fact is, that these technological advancements are coming. So, how is it possible to maintain an excellent level of heritage craftsmanship and quality? Where and how can these traditional practices fit in to today’s innovative and ever evolving technologies?

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Naturally, my mind revisits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition last summer: ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.’ This exhibition is another example of the clash between craft and hand-made couture fitting into today’s world of technology and 3D printing. The first time we began to acknowledge the wonder of what exactly is the relationship between the two? How are luxury brands making the two harmoniously coexist? Well, as a matter of fact, most luxury brands have resisted adapting to technology…until recently. The two are viewed as polar opposites, yet somehow they aligned beautifully in this exhibition. Technology has given brands resources to be transparent and share their heritage crafts through storytelling. Burberrys’ Maker House was the perfect example of this: using VR technology to give consumers a glimpse in to the artistry. Could this be the solution to combatting the diminished consumer perspective, perhaps?

Though some are fearful, humans are wise and have demanded this authenticity from brands that has paved one pathway for technology and craft to harmonize. Chanel, who recently acquired Maison Lesage, shows the effort being made to ensure these atelier’s sustain our evolving world, and in my opinion, quite an excellent business move. The Hyeres Festival was a fantastic weekend offering a range of workshops, exhibitions, panel discussions, and so much fashion to visually consume. Despite the array of events, it is interesting to let the mind connect the dots from each to reflect on fashion and art’s history and furthermore notably, envision a snapshot of what our industry might look like in the future-what an exciting time indeed!

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