MAKESHIFT: The Fusion of DIY, Music, Craft, and Humming by Melanie Falick
Fashion, craft, and design communities find Mecca in Manhattan.
Tuesday night something amazing happened in New York City. More than one hundred people gathered at the Standard in East Village, a luxury hipster hotel on Cooper Square, and joined together for a sing-along and finger-knitting. Really. It happened. I was there. Everyone looked elated, from the handsome 20-something guy across from me (who I initially assumed was a supermodel but is actually an up-and-coming fashion designer), to the chic magazine editors and design company executives who were sipping wine before they settled into the low black couches.
Everyone who was lucky enough to secure entry into this unique event seemed transported by the simple act of transforming a length of cotton jersey cord into a knitted necklace, by taking an old folk song, riffing on a few verses, and making something new.
Singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash led the sing-along. Natalie Chanin, founder and creative director of the fashion and lifestyle companyAlabama Chanin, led the knitalong. The occasion was MAKESHIFT: Shifting Thoughts on Design, Fashion, Craft, and DIY, a panel discussion kicking off a week of MAKESHIFT events organized by Chanin. Also speaking were Cathy Bailey, owner and designer of Heath Ceramics, Maria Cornejo, designer for Zero+Maria Cornejo, and Jessamyn Hatcher, a professor of fashion studies and the humanities at New York University. Moderating was Andrew Wagner, a DIY columnist for theNew York Times and the editorial director of Krrb.
“It’s like a small Pandora’s box opening,” Chanin says of the evening in which the main topic of conversation was the joy and value of making. “Making is as an integral part of all creative, design, and fashion industries. A conversation has been started and we hope it will continue.”
Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics recalled the tour she took of the company’s factory back in 2003, before she and her husband bought it. “Nothing was outsourced, everything was produced there. I think that’s what gave it that energy, that hum. There was such focus.” Bailey had, until then, been working as an industrial designer, but “Design wasn’t enough for me,” she says. “Something is missing when you’re only designing, when you’re not making.”
Maria Cornejo concurred. After leaving the fashion business, in 1998 she decided to open a store called Zero, where she and her team gradually started making things. “We put a rack of clothes at the front of the store; if people reacted to them, we made more, she recalled. “I miss those days when it was so hands-on.”
I personally grew up in a home where the handmade was revered and I edit craft books for a living – in fact, I edited all three of Chanin’s books:Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, the one that just came out and inspired the initial plans for MAKESHIFT 2012. So, given my background and day job, getting together to finger-knit is not as novel to me as it is to a lot of people. Honoring the maker is what I try to do every day. And it’s what Chanin does in her books – in which she shares instructions for the traditional techniques with which her clothing and homewares are made. “We make fashion,” Chanin explained on Tuesday night. “And we teach people how to make fashion.”
Rosanne Cash, who is an avid knitter and recently began hand-stitching Alabama Chanin clothing, told us: “All I want to do is follow Natalie around whatever she does.”
Chanin’s mission for MAKESHIFT is to break down some of the walls that exist between the fashion, craft, and design communities in order to find a meeting place so that “every maker, as well as the designs, products, and lives they touch, will be enriched.”
If the openness of everyone’s faces as they formed their necklaces on Tuesday night is any indication, the walls are coming down.
Crafting Fashion: A Pop-up shop for MakeShift curated by Billy Reid + Alabama Chanin
Opening Thursday, May 17th from 6:00pm - Until
Crafted Fashion, Food, Music, and Drink at Billy Reid 54 Bond Street, NYC Featuring a performance by Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Tift Merritt at 8:00 pm
Pop-up runs from May 18th - 25th
Store hours: Monday-Saturday 11:00am - 8:00pm, Sunday 11:00am - 7:00pm
Born and bred in Pretoria, South Africa, Albertus Swanepoel moved from Johannesburg to New York City after a seven year career as a critically acclaimed fashion designer under his Quartus Manna label. In 1987 he won the Coty Award as top designer in his country.
In New York, Albertus trained as a milliner under Janine Galimard, who worked for Balenciaga in Paris in the 50's and 60's.
He assisted the well-known hat designer, Lola, for several years on a freelance basis. He also worked with theatrical milliner, Lynne Mackey, where he constructed hats for Broadway shows such as Kiss me Kate and Mamma Mia, as well as several operas and ballets.
In 2000, he briefly acted as Style Editor for Martha Stewart Weddings magazine.
In 2004, Albertus began collaborating with several New York designers for their runway presentations. He has since become known as the milliner to seek out during New York Fashion Week. He has worked with such designers as Marc by Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Carolina Herrera, Peter Som, Erin Fetherston, Rodarte, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Nathan Jenden, Costello Tagliapietra, Narciso Rodriquez, Richard Chai, Derek Lam, Suno, Bill Blass, DKNY, and Araks.
In 2006, he formed his own company, Albertus Swanepoel LLC, which designs and produces handmade hats for a select number of stores in the US and internationally. Albertus has received a number of honors, including being named as one of two runners-up for the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2008, a 2009 nomination for Swarovski CFDA Accessory Award, a 2010 WGSN Award nomination for Best Accessory Designer, and was named Accessory Designer of the Year during the 2010 African Fashion Week International. Additionally, Swanepoel’s work was featured in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 2009 exhibit, “Hats: An Anthology.”