basics of the ancient craft or an accomplished designer who dedicated an entire career to knitwear, that row of palpable simplicity will mark the moment of turning a ball of yarn into an object, a garment conceived from a row of stitches.
And if you let the initial thought develop and capture your mind, you will soon realise that the process of creating knitwear is incredibly similar to the organics of nature, all starting with a cell or seed, metamorphosing into a living being, going from birth to the final stages of existence until the the circle of life is completed.
This simple philosophy with its enormous potential and bounds of inspiration is what attracted me to Nanna Van Blaaderen, the Dutch-born designer, The Willem De Kooning Academy graduate and 2015 Woolmark Europe Women's Wear prize winner who began her career at Maison Martin Margiela before founding her own brand in 2011. Captivated by animals and the beauty of nature Nanna transformed the simple knitwear into unique and extraordinary pieces crafted exclusively from sustainable merino wool and manufactured in the Netherlands in collaboration with the Dutch Textile Industry.
Her collections, from the most recent Sheer and Resilience designed to cocoon the body into the purest and most elegant layers, the Invisible and Living Species that mimic the fur to the 2011 More or Less, are a fascinating visual record of what can be achieved by casting a few stitches... Though Nanna doesn't stop here - she does not just cast the stitches... she casts a spell. And this is why her vision and work to me are a kind of magic.
There were two thing that made me fall in love with you instantaneously: your love of nature and a photo of poodle I spotted in your studio... Why are these two so close to your heart and when did your love of all things natural begin?
Ever since I was a child I was in love with animals. That never changed ever since.
And how did it manifest into fashion?
For as long as I can remember I have been making things with my hands: drawings, sculptures, fabrics, textiles, garments, knitwear. Nature has always been the main source of my inspiration. I would draw my favourite animals, make sculptures of them, or try to create animal prints in textiles. I guess you can say that I combine my two passions in my work: my love and respect for animals and sustainable design / natural alternatives to fur.
What is your fashion philosophy? What about it that you love the most?
I try to create designs that integrate elegance, quality, comfort, mobility and sustainability. By designing and producing nature friendly alternatives I hope to offer designs that can give women high quality garments while contributing to our environment.
I love design, whether it's home textiles or fashion, but it has to have an intrinsic value of quality, sustainability, softness.
Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer? What did you want to be as a child?
Either a textile or fashion designer or working for nature conservation organisations such as WWF or Green Peace.
Are there any designers you admire?
Issey Miyake, Chanel, Raf Simons, and many others. I respect everyone who is sincere and passionate about the profession and willing to offer many things in order to achieve real quality.
Why did you choose knitwear?
This ancient craft suits me. Its possibilities in combination with innovation and materials are infinite. I love the flexible nature, the softness, the elasticity, the 3d character etc. etc., both machine and hand-made.
Talking of the 3d effect. Your designs, especially the first collections, are very sculptural. Would you consider fashion to be a form of art? Or, if not, then something else?
I don't consider myself an artist, but a designer. My abstract sculptural designs are conceived as a result of research and experiments with techniques and materials in order to achieve better results and products. Without research and experiment to the fullest it is impossible for me to reach the highest quality and depth in design.
You are a firm believer in natural fibres - why is it so important for you?
It feels good on the skin, it is good for the skin, it is beautiful, it suits me and my vision. As long as we don't take more from nature then we need, and in a respectful way, meaning producing in a nature-friendly way and giving back to it.
What are your feelings about the man-made materials? Often the use of synthetics is considered to be the meaning of innovation and the choice that would propel fashion into the 21st century... What, in your opinion, fashion evolution really is?
I am not into synthetic yarns personally. They can have advantages for others or for other applications. I think everything we make and use should be done in balance with what nature gives us. When we damage too much or if our waste pollutes too much, the balance is broken.
Your collections take inspiration from nature, so if Nature is the muse then who would you dress, from the past or present, in Nanna Van Blaaderen if you could choose just one person?
What is your ultimate goal?
Bringing the worlds of nature conservation and design closer together hoping that they can work in synergy.
5 THINGS ABOUT NANNA
Five words that best describe you... Stubborn, sensitive, refined, pure, practical.
Your favourite quote or motto.... Just do it.
Your daily life would never feel complete without... Sleep and sunlight.
One of your guilty pleasures... Shopping and a glass of wine every day.
Your most treasured possession... My grandmother's golden necklace.
For more details, images and updates visit nannavanblaaderen.com
Photo source: c/o Nanna Van Blaaderen
Photo source: c/o Nanna Van Blaaderen