For anyone who missed the outrageously beautiful Fall/ Winter Haute Couture runway show by Chanel, you can still find it here:
www.chanel.com. Just go to Fashion, and click on the link for the Fall/Winter 2012 couture video.
I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of this collection. The color combinations, ranging from cream to pink to black and silver created an almost ethereal loveliness. And the textile art created by the woven pieces, quilted together, was breathtaking.
Recently, pink has been considered an outcast color in the fashion world. In 2010, Clinton Kelly, celebrity stylist from TLC’s What Not to Wear, wrote of pastel pink, “Sometimes it’s fine to wear pastel pink. Those times would be if, you are Molly Ringwald and it is 1985, or [if] you are an Easter Egg.” [OH NO She Didn’t by Clinton Kelly]. Perhaps times have changed, or perhaps Chanel is singlehandedly changing fashion through the rapturous handling of pink in this collection. Its edgy combination with grey and black, the outrageous beaded pieces and quilting were ravishing, leading me to see pink through rose-colored glasses again!
The piece that most captured my fancy from the show is the V-neck pullover, above. It is such a clever piece, with jacket-like sleeves and jacket trim, yet it is styled as a pullover. The exquisite combination of colors, between the hint of metallic sparkle and the intertwined pink and grey and mauve literally haunted my dreams until I resolved to find some way to achieve a similar piece. Considering that a couture garment by Chanel costs upwards of $30,000 from what I’ve heard, going out and purchasing the coveted sweater is impossible. My only recourse would be to knit a piece in a color scheme inspired by the original that would be my own, but carry something of the spirit of the runway.
The biggest impediment to my dream is the quality of the textile. Clearly, the pullover was woven. How could I create a similar blend of colors using knitting techniques? I spent some time amassing grey and white and silver and pink and mauve yarns from my stash (to my great good fortune I received birthday yarn money—thank you everyone!) and then I proceeded to swatch, and swatch, and swatch. Since I have just learned fair isle, I decided to use fair isle technique to create the columns of grey and light pink vertical stripes, and then I would experiment with other techniques to try to reproduce the effect of horizontal strips woven over the vertical bands of color.
Attempt 1. Using fair isle and reverse stockinette, I tried combining the white silk yarn in my stash (Habu NS-28) with a thin thread of light pink yarn—Classic Elite silky Alpaca lace. Unfortunately, the two yarns did not mesh together. The resulting color was not an angelic light pink but a mottled pink and white mess that presented a sickly appearance. I was more fortunate in the grey yarn I chose. The Malabrigo Silky Merino, in Cape Code grey had a wonderful translucent shine with hints of pink that gave a fair resemblance to the grey in the original.
Attempt 2: Rejecting the pink and white combination, I resolved to use straight pink in different shades mixed with grey. The firefly pink linen yarn is mixed with the Classic Elite silky alpaca again in light pink and mauve, and I brought in a silver thread of Rowan Shimmer to add dimension to the grey. The result reminded me exactly of those dusty rose bathrooms from 1990. I agree with Clinton Kelly here. The overwhelming pink pastel quality of this pink, combined with light grey is cloying and passée. There is nothing chic here.
Attempt 3: Rejecting pink altogether for the body of the sweater, I resorted to a simple white and grey. The problem now is, where is the contrast? To spice it up, I added the Classic Elite silky alpaca again in pink and mauve for the upper section, but the contrast of the pink and mauve with the white is far too harsh. And the 1980s are calling again. Back to the drawing board.
Attempt 4: This swatch was a success. I used a slip stitch pattern to create horizontal rows which give the impression of weaving over the vertical columns of grey and white. Here, the silver Shimmer yarn worked beautifully. Also, I brought in some new yarns that created a more subtle mauve color. Now I knew I was getting close!
My last step was to bring in a strand of light pink kidsilk haze. This gave me the angelic pale pink that I had wanted originally without any mottling, so that the base colors are now light pink and grey. Here is the actual textile I have created for the back piece:
Obviously this is not Chanel. It is simply my own version of textile art inspired by a beautiful piece I saw on the runway. Still, given the enormous limitations of knitting versus weaving fabric, I am pleased with the result.
Considering that I am using a mixture of fair isle and slip stitch techniques to create this textile, using 7 different yarns at one time, this is a laborious project. But sometimes no task is too difficult if you have the chance to follow your dreams.