I’m republishing here a piece I originally wrote for the site Irenebrination.
Dutch Sabine Staartjes likes to define herself as an “eclectic fashion designer”. A graduate of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, Staartjes often focuses her work on reinventing patterns and fabrics through elaborate processes.
For her graduate collection, entitled “Unexpected Expectations”, she employed a Jacquard loom at the passementerie department of the Tilburg-based TextielLab to make thin strips of fabrics that she then wove to make a pixel-like houndstooth fabric.
Staartjes employed this fabric to make her designs that she conceived as a commentary about modern society and social interactions between people.
The designer recently explored once again the social interaction theme through a new project showcased at the Breda-based Moti Museum during the “Te[ch]x(t)iles” event.
The museum, in collaboration with Stimuleringsfonds voor de Creatieve Industrie (Stimulation Fund for the Creative Industry), invited ten designers to present their visions about the future of fashion investigating new technological and communicative developments and showing how new techniques can have an impact on the functions of fashion.
Staartjes’s project, entitled “SmartPhocus”, was inspired by modern communication, by our constant need to check ou our smart phones even in the most unlikely places and by the “distant Vs close-by” dichotomy.
The designer created two booths where two people meet and carry out a conversation seeing only each other’s head and hands. In this way the people involved focus on the conversation without being distracted by modern technology.
The booths, made with a digital printed fabric with images of eyes and ears on brightly coloured psychedelic backgrounds, also feature an application developed by Kristi Kuusk, a designer set on bridging the gap between textiles and interactive product design (her work was recently featured in the Pretty Smart Textiles exhibition).
The images printed on the fabric are indeed recognised by the camera embedded in a tablet that displays on the screen augmented layers of noises and information. The application shows the technical noise around us, stresses the importance of focusing on each other, but also hints at a future in which our clothes may be made with a textile capable of constantly changing in the digital world while remaining the same in the real world (see this video to get an idea).
Can you tell us more about your background?
Sabine Staartjes: I’m living in Almere, Holland. I was born in Amsterdam and in about two months I’ll be going back there. I studied Fashion Design at the School of the Arts (HKU) in Utrecht, graduating last summer.
What’s the main inspiration behind the SmartPhocus project?
Sabine Staartjes: SmartPhocus is about having a good conversation without being distracted by your smartphone. With SmartPhocus I wanted to bring back the focus on the exchange between two real people (see video here).
There is a lot of talk at the moment about smart textiles – do you feel that new technologies will help us developing genuinely innovative and functional garments in future?
Sabine Staartjes: Yes, I think there are a lot of things happening around smart textiles. For example nano-technology offers so many opportunities to make new fabrics and this is really amazing.
So far which is the most challenging technique you used to make your designs?
Sabine Staartjes: Two years ago I made a collection called “Knitted Silk”. The name of the collection hints at the technique behind it. I cut silk into strings and knitted it into a top and a jumpsuit. I worked on one top for a whole week; it was really a challenging technique because I came up with it myself. For the collection “Unexpected Expectations” I also used a technique I developed by myself to make my own yarn and weave it.
You worked for your graduate collection with the TextielLab, which were the main challenges for that collection yarn-wise/weaving-wise?
Sabine Staartjes: I worked in the passementerie department at the TextielLab. We needed three weeks of non-stop weaving on a very old weaving machine to make the ribbon and that was challenging because when you’re working on a collection you usually want to have all the materials you need as quickly as possible. But there are processes at the TextielLab that bring you backwards in time, so you need to be patient. The most challenging experience for me was to cut and weave 500 metres of fabric into a pied-de-poule-inspired fabric.
The collection seems to be characterised by a sort of interplay of colours and patterns – did you take inspiration from art to create it?
Sabine Staartjes: The inspiration for the collection “Unexpected Expectations” actually comes from cognitive dissonance, a term indicating the feeling of discomfort arising when one is confronted with facts or opinions that contradict one’s beliefs. A good example is the hardening of the society: the different layers of society do not mix well, social contact is minimal and too little effort is made to get to know each other. I do think that society must become more intertwined and people should have more respect for each other. This is why the basic element of this collection is weaving, a technique that hints at the interaction between people. I have used known elements and techniques from the Western culture, but with a new approach such as the pied-de-poule pattern, the T-shirt and the traditional Dutch costume, they were all employed as starting points to create a sort of new costume for a modern society. Zooming in and out of certain parts is also an important aspect of this collection: the designs appear different from a distance than from close-up and encourage the observer to come up close to the person wearing the piece to explore it better.
What kind of materials did you use to make it?
Sabine Staartjes: I used all different kinds of materials. For the ribbons I made in the TextielLab I used wool and metallic thread. The fabrics that I used for the weaving were cotton and velvet. I also employed 200 metres of knitted yarn to make a woven jumpsuit.
Is there a technique you’d like to experiment with in future?
Sabine Staartjes: In every collection I challenge myself to learn something completely new. In future I would like to learn how to make lace.
What are you woking on at the moment?
Sabine Staartjes: I’m focusing on my webshop and a new collection. I would like to have my own shop with wearable clothes one day and and also be able to work on collections for exhibitions.
All images courtesy of Sabine Staartjes
Installation credits for SmartPhocus:
Concept & Installation: Sabine Staartjes
App: Kristi Kuusk (TU / e)
Frank van Duin
Johan van den Acker
The first video embedded in this post is directed, shot and edited by Marijke de Bie for the Te[ch]x(t)iles event.