Hawthorne & Heaney Visits Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion

When a major fashion exhibtion comes to London, we love to go and see what it is all about and the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion Exhibition currently on at the Victoria and Albert Museum does not disappoint. Based in the fashion and textiles section of the museum, the exhibition goes through from the beginnings of Balenciaga as a brand, through to current designers that Balenciaga has influenced.

Starting downstairs, most of the historical garments and accessories are displayed with accompanying notes and toiles. There are a few pieces which have a video animation next to them of how the pattern goes together to make the garment function which are very informative and really demonstrate the complexity of the designs:

#balenciaga @vamuseum #patterncutting

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This accompanies the actual garment which it explains as well as a calico toile of the garment. A few pieces from the collection have been x-rayed as can be seen in the back of the next video which shows the many layers that go into a piece like this and the hidden support within some of the ‘simpler’ looking gowns.

@vamuseum #balenciaga #fashion #london

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X-ray photograph of silk taffeta evening dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga, 1955, Paris, France. X-ray by Nick Veasey, 2016. © Nick Veasey

They have a section which is dedicated to the fabric choices and embroideries used in some of the historical Balenciaga pieces. These include a wonderfully rich example of silk shading on a gown with an impossibly tiny waist and a very decadent textured jacket. The base embroidery of the jacket is demonstrated by an embroiderer from Paris based embroiderers Lesage recreating the design. See below for a snippet of the tambour beading over long silk stitching.

Wild silk evening dress (detail), Cristóbal Balenciaga with embroidery by Lesage, 1960 – 2, Paris, France. Museum no. T.27-1974. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Going through the exhibition, the different approaches to each of the pieces are explained as Cristobal Balenciaga applied both tailoring and dressmaking techniques to his pieces. He was know for his surgical precision, often pictured in a lab coat measuring and remeasuring sections. A selection of traditional tailoring tools are displyed including shears, pressing ham, chalk shaving box and tracing wheel.

Cristóbal Balenciaga at work, 1968, Paris, France. Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson. © Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum PhotosMoving upstairs, the exhibition focuses more on Balenciagas lasting legacy and those he has inspired. Against the dombed ceiling, three videos of current designers such as Mollie Goddard and Gareth Pugh who speak about how Balenciaga has influenced them and their design work. A series of parallels are drawn between contemporary designs and historical Balenciaga pieces such as the below by Hussein Chalayan and Oscar De La Renta which are likened to textured coat and silk work dress previous mentioned.

This exhibition is a well rounded insight into the Balenciaga brand with lots of lovely couture examples and the technical specification to go with them which is interesting for those with and without exisiting fashion knowledge.  Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion will be running at the Victoria and Albert Museum‘s Fashion and Textiles Gallery Space (Room 40) until Sunday 18th February 2018 so if you have the opportunity to see it, it is worth the visit. Tickets cost £12.00 and some concessions are available.

All images and videos courtsey of Natasha Searls-Punter (@tashasearlspunter) unless otherwise stated.

Hawthorne & Heaney visits Peranakan Embroidery Boutiques in Singapore

During a recent visit to Singapore, one of the team at Hawthorne & Heaney took a sight detour off the tourist trail and visited one of the Peranakan Embroidery heritage boutiques in the suburbs. This small street houses a couple of shops in which they are keeping the more traditional embroidery techniques of the region alive. One such place is called Rumah Bebe which is lovely in itself as it is covered in patterned tiles and gilded woodwork. They house a wide range of Nyonya garments such as sarongs, embroidered jackets and beaded shoes. As is fitting to the work that has gone into them, the pieces are quite pricey, but well worth it for how lovely they are.

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Kim Choo Kueh Chang is also next door where you can sample traditional Nyonya cakes from the cafe downstairs made with coconut, condensed milk and pandan leaves which gives them a bright green colour. They have a little shop of trinkets but upstairs is where you will find the best bits as they have a range of embroidered pieces which line the walls and a variety of vintage items on diplay in their exhibition. They explain a little of how the embroidery is intergral to the wedding services of the culture with the examples around for context.

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A personal favourite had to be this part completed design, still on the frame which demonstrates a little of the technique that is used to create these pieces and the scale of the beads that form the designs.

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To see more of what they have to offer, visit their websites above or watch the video below for a glimpse of the action.

Hawthorne and Heaney: Tambour vs. Ari Beading

One question we get asked a lot at H&H is the differences between Tambour and Ari beading, technical differences, the pros and cons of each and which is faster. Both tambour and Ari work off of the same principals of applying beads to fabric using a specialised hook. Using the hook a chain stitch is created through a twisting motion of the tool allowing the beads to be applied in a continuous line.

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Tambour is the name given to this kind of work in the west, and is believed to have come for the french word ‘Tambour’ as in drum because of the fabric is stretched in the frame. Ari is the name used in the East, countries such as India and Pakistan have a rich history of using this technique for sari making.

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In Tambour, the beads are loaded up onto the thread first and then the piece is worked on from the wrong side (back) so any guides are only applied to the reverse.  This means that you can work on a continuous thread until you finish the area, which makes it very quick, avoiding any unnecessary starting and stopping. One challenge with Tambour however is that you can not really see the work while you are working on it unless the material is particularly transparent which some people find more difficult.  In Ari the beads are loaded onto the hook itself so you would load up as many as is comfortable onto the hook, work with them, release the thread, reload the hook and begin again. This allows you to work on the right side of the fabric and see the beads as they are applied but does require you to stop and start as the beads are used up.

                        tambour hookari hooks

There is also some differences in the tools used for these two stitches, the Tambour hook is placed into a holder, usually wooden which allows the size of the hook to be changed according to the work in hand. Notice that the hook is quite long in itself and almost closed to help it to pass freely through the fabric without snagging. The Ari hook is set into a metal or wooden holder so can not be changed between jobs although they too also come in different sizes. The hook part itself is wide but tiny to allow the beads to slip off when applied and to pass through the fabric easily.

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Both techniques are not just restricted to beads, they can also be used to create the chain stitch allow as a decoration in its own right or to apply sequins instead of beads. As to the question of which is better, that is down to the creator to decide as to which they are more comfortable with, the effect in the end is almost identical.

If you would like to learn more about these couture beading techniques, have a look at the London Embroidery School website for classes and courses on Tambour Beading as well as a way to purchase the Tambour and Ari hooks shown above.

Hawthorne & Heaney for Jaye Pearce

A few months ago we were approached by an interiors consultant called Jaye Pearce for a rather special project, her wedding dress. She had decided she wanted something different and being a creative person, decided that she was going to have a little more of a hand in what her gown would look like than just choosing it, she was going to design it.

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This is the point where we starting discussing the possibilities for making her design a reality so Jaye presented us with a detailed sketch of the design she wanted for the top of her outfit which was going to be in a very sheer fabric with delicate beadwork. The design comprised of deco inspired fans complimenting the contours of the body, a scattering of stars and romantic cabbage roses surrounded by daisies.  The design had a quite whimsical nature with all its delicate components so to reflect this is was decided that the beads would be a combination of seed pearls and satin cut frosted glass beads in the traditional ivory tone. This was highlighted with very fine silver stitched details which offset the lining which was in a vintage blush pink.

Jaye has very kindly sent us some pictures from her big day where you can see the full outfit in all its splendour and so you can see the beading how it is meant to be seen.

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And here’s the lady herself, congratulations to the happy couple for all the ladies at Hawthorne & Heaney!

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London Fashion and H&H

Hawthorne & Heaney always watch the emergence of new fashion graduates with great interest and feel its very important to encourage young designers in order to propel fashion forwards.  Over the last week there has been plenty of new talent coming through and this talent has been displaying a range of extremely innovative embroidery.   Starting with CSM and RCA and working into graduate fashion week there has been plenty of techniques on display.

Olga Kuryschuk displayed a delicate silver and white collection, with lace applique and a swathe of crystals strewn across the garments in a nonchalant manner.

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Amie Robertson and Richard Quinn opted for bolder, structural applications of large shaped sequins or floral pieces for a more 3D effect.

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While Flora Cadzow incorporated fine machine embroidery into her sheer fabrics.

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London is always such a haven for young designers because it is so open to embracing the experimental, innovative and the quirky. Therefore finding new and exciting ways to present embroidery and reinvent old techniques in fashion gives is very exciting and challenging. In the past, we have had great fun working with emerging designers, like these graduate may go on to be.

We work with the designer right through from the initial idea, translating drawings into embroidery during the sampling process, development, placement and finally the realised products in production. In collections past we have worked with designers such as Isa Arfen, Reem Juan, Sibling, and Claire Barrow just to name a few.

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Free Falling Crystal and Bead Tassels from Isa Arfen

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Delicate Silk shaded body suit from Reem Juan

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Islamic Inspired floral goldwork cap from Sibling

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Fully couture beaded dress from Claire Barrow

Being a London based studio, we provide a more inclusive approach to embroidery for fashion as well as being able to modestly boast 15 collective years of industry experience.   If you have an idea about some embroidery that you would like to have done, but don’t have the capacity to make it happen, contact us and we can see what we can do to make it a reality. For more examples of fashion embroidery by Hawthorne & Heaney, have a browse of our pinterest board