September/October - 2010
The Age of Ornamentation
In a season celebrating rich textiles and luxe embellishments, two industry veterans and four Rhode Island School of Design-trained designers construct women’s wear that flirts with texture, depth and movement.
By Nicole Rollender
I'm always on the hunt for 100-plus-year-old vintage French silk chantilly lace mantillas," says Michael Stuart, owner of New York City-based MS Designs Ltd. "In this black skirt panel, in a way I've resurrected the dead, since many of the French machines that did this work are gone."
Stuart, who thinks much of the lace produced today with recurring motifs is "boring," set out to create his own version of couture chantilly lace. First, he prints out lots of images of vintage lace motifs, and starts to reassemble his artwork on a half-circle skirt pattern. "After the layout is complete with a scalloped border, a grand master center motif and secondary grand motifs on the left and right, I fill in the fields with a gentler set of motifs," he says. "Lastly, I add fills, usually dots with a point d'esprit feeling." After the design has been digitized, Stuart prints it out again in full scale and then transfers the exact pattern in white chalk to a full-size skirt panel of silk tulle.
"All of that work was easy compared to what came next," says Stuart, whose design firm is housed in an 11,000-square-foot, all-white atelier, where he and his staff of 40 make original patterns, drape, do hand embroidery and sew finished couture and ready-to-wear designs. "With a single strand of silk thread, my workers crocheted a hand-embroidered chain stitch, both to outline and fill in the motif artwork. Finally we added French knots and silk organza flowers to crate a magnificent couture creation."
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