After seeing handicraft and sculptural techniques on show from so many graduates recently, it’s a pleasure to see the spirit also in the works of more seasoned designers. Investing traditional craft ideas to fashion is Swedish knitwear specialist Sandra Backlund, whose handmade designs combine fashion, art and craft to create what seems like architecture for the human body.
Backlund first came to public attention in 2007 at the Hyères Fashion Festival, winning with a daring collection entitled ‘The Ink Blot Test’, building her knitwear into a three-dimensional garment, as if brick by brick, until it became what she describes as appearing “a symmetrical accident”. It’s a method of working that derives from her tendency to build from ideas, rather than sketches, which allows the process of design to become a more organic, and perhaps emotive, experience.
A graduate from Stockholm’s Beckman’s School of Design, Backlund has worked for Louis Vuitton but now is at the helm of her own eponymous label. There she is free to experiment in search of increasingly new shapes and silhouettes for the body, through constantly changing knitwear techniques.
She views her pieces as art, admitting she approaches her work less as a tailor, more a sculptor. Usually found isolated within her studio knitting away for twenty hours a day, she acknowledges the pressure within the fashion world to renew oneself to stay on top, but she prefers to “recycle ideas”, always working with the human body as her inspiration. Trend, it seems, is an admirably redundant concept for Backlund.
The act of making as a source of well-being is a theme we’ve constantly returned to at Amelia’s Magazine in recent months (something Ester Kneen will be exploring more tomorrow) and Backlund similarly draws strength from this feeling of therapy, and has said “when others write poems to deal with themselves, I do fashion”.
It’s a warming idea that mingles with Shakespeare‘s assertion of both the healing and transformative capacities of making art in whatever form, and indeed, Backlund more than anything seems concerned with that sartorial transformation – anything else would be insufficient. Indeed, she likes to create from the ground upwards, saying that it’s heavy wool collage knitting that she finds most rewarding as it allows the freedom to actually construct her own fabric from scratch to work with.
Perhaps the most valuable impression of her designs comes from an emphasis on timelessness, an increasingly relevant strength pertaining to the credit crunch movement towards more classic pieces. As handmade knitwear they are also the beneficiaries of a uniqueness abstracted from homogenised fashion – ultimately creating what she views as ‘the real thing’. As we race towards the future at breakneck speed, with reality gradually living up to some existentialist nightmare, the real thing has never seemed more important.
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