There is an element of love that exists in making anything by hand. Whether it is a home cooked meal or a sweater knitted by your grandmother, there is something that no brand or packaged product could ever provide. There are sales tactics, marketing foley utilized by every brand in the world which play an essential role in mimicking this feeling of humanity to earn your trust first and then your money. This is not a bad thing, it speaks to the truth that we all maintain the hope that what we spend our money on was made with love. With the advancement of technology, factories in far away lands employing underpaid or underage laborers with vague ethical practices, it is understood that this love is rare. Whether it is in vogue or not, handmade products which require patience and are made of high quality materials will always exist in its own universe. Time slows to a rare and soothing crawl, the mind rests in passive attentiveness when one's hands are put to use for a selfless and inventive cause.
Sewing by hand demands focus when threading a needle and dexterity when looping each stitch, the fabrics used exist in parallel with the mental acuity of the Maison. Just as the artist’s brush will not create an image without the artist’s unique stroke, the needle and thread need someone who cares enough to see an image or pattern on a blank piece of fabric. When I ordered my first four yards of calico cotton from Australia and pure silk from India I was lost. There it was, there it wasn’t, it sat there folded and neat and so horribly incomplete. The work had not been initiated, the love had not originated, it lay there for days before I finally pulled open a drawer in my mother’s sewing cabinet and cut an A-frame while watching a basic tutorial video on dressmaking.
Observing someone else’s actions to learn the basics, I used a stick of sky blue chalk and a measuring tape to mark out places I would need to cut. When I began the first thing I noticed was the sound, the scissors hissed and snapped shut. The cotton frayed a little, splitting and zig zagging in some places. Like any first attempt it was imperfect and uniquely mine, I felt a responsibility to the material. This would not eventuate in a product or any sort of profit, this would become, over time, something which I would give to a woman in the hopes it looked beautiful when it was finally worn.
Why was I doing this? Was it only to see if I was capable? It could not be so placid and robotic, this was not a graded assignment, it was a labor of love. To me no product existed, no art was made with profit in mind, if this was to become an expression of art it would be to convey emotion and not seduce the wallet of a buyer, this would be given and not sold. While growing up I had a fascination with women’s clothing because I was attracted to women from a young age and what women chose to wear on a weekend night out intrigued me. After I had formed closer relationships with women I felt privy to their taste in clothing, I saw this look come over them for specific items, imagining where and when they might be wearing them. My interest piqued when I learned of one specific staple in women’s clothing, something I was told “every woman should have one,” the L.B.D. (little black dress).
As I grew older and matured, this fascination waned and subsided. It receded to the back of my mind and posed there as other tasks, jobs, hobbies, life’s path outgrew it. I felt I had no place in women’s clothing as a man, no right to take up the needle and thread and claim I was capable of designing and creating a dress to be worn by a woman. There are plenty of male designers who create season after season of breathtaking women’s clothing, Rick Owens and Alexander MacQueen, Matthieu Blazy and Gianni Versace to name a few. I knew very little of the craft, I knew only what I wanted to create, a little white dress to rival the little black dress. This craft called for my mind, my heart and out of a personal necessity my focussed hands.
Even if the act of making something by hand is a show of ones own love, it can often be of equal benefit to the creator. There is a common saying, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” this workshop is where I had found myself after the torrid end to a relationship I held extremely dear, and my hands desperately sought reanimation. The same feeling could have been derived from kneading dough, playing a song on the piano, sculpting terracotta or illustrating in charcoal. The passion must be present before one begins creating by hand; the heart must guide the process, sometimes the mind is absent or intervenes and the end result Is not what was intended, and so you begin again. Whether my little white dress ever exists, whether it looks good on a woman, whatever the result I have already benefited psychologically from working with my hands. There is a quiet beauty and stoicism when making anything by hand, from nothing, our history on Earth across all cultures can be traced back to what and how we worked with our hands.