11 June 2012

Fashion goes rural

Written by Published in Fashion

As part of a brand new project, Sublime teamed up with Grampus Heritage & Training Ltd. to send fashion students from Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Art in London to various European destinations – but not Paris or Milan. Instead, they will be visiting rural villages in Cyprus, Slovakia and Romania where they will learn traditional skills from lace making and loom weaving to silver smithing

In partnership with Grampus Heritage & Training Limited and the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme, the project grants cover flights from the UK, food and local accommodation. Students and teachers from the prestigious fashion college will in return be able to share their knowledge of the industry with locals, potentially helping to boost their economy through value-adding and the exportation of goods. For the students, it is a rare opportunity for a new generation to weave rich and diverse cultural heritage into their work, supporting its survival in a more contemporary context.

The first cohort of students went to Lefkara in Cyprus at the end of April 2012. Famous for its lace and cut thread work, or "Lefkaritika" as it's called there, the four week placement focused around work with local artisans. 

Here, Central St Martins lecturer Sophie Gorton gives an account of what her and four students experienced......

Early Wednesday we, the tutors, were met at Larnica airport by Martin Clark, director of Grampus, a forester by trade but with a deep love for craft, traditions and the local community. Although our flight was 45 minutes late, a generous late night supper awaited us at the house.

The internships kicked off with 'Trash to Fashion' week, using garments and objects rescued from the local dump. The girls - students Sara Kiani, Shelbi South, Eva Tong and Samantha Yang - redesigned and made new 'trash' garments. The pieces were to form part of an exhibition showcasing local skills including lefkaritika, weaving and basketry. The 'trash' was also re-worked by students from schools and colleges all over Cyprus.

During the first week, five tutors (also from Central St Martins) including myself were invited to join the students as support and to observe and learn from the craftspeople and traditions of the Lefkara district. On the first day we visited local lacemaker, Eli Ruanas, where we viewed intricate pieces of embroidery and reticella work. Later a lady called Panayiota showed us a beautiful cutwork embroidered tablecloth she made for her son's wedding. It took fifteen years to complete and is now an exquisite and skilled piece of artwork.
Sara Kiani upcycled jacket

Over the next few days we visited silversmiths, watched silver mold making from wax, dry etching, beaten work and the ancient art of filigree. We also drove to Nicosia, still divided between the Greeks and Turks, and walked through 'no mans land' to visit Senay Ekingden, an expert in the Byzantine art of silk cocoon ornamentation.

During our stay we also went to see The Rural and Bee Museum at Kato Drys to look at early 20th Century rural life. Whilst there we held silk worms, ate pomegranates and tasted the sweet honey fresh on the comb collected the previous day. We visited a 1000 year old olive grove (under threat because of the dwindling community), ancient chapels and neolithic ruins, the local school and even had a Greek lesson with the Mayor himself. We ate, laughed, observed, explored, chatted and learnt a great deal.

On the last day of the tutor visit we hosted the 'Trash to Fashion' party at the students' house. The Mayor came, as well as local crafts people and the villagers.

I would like to thank Sublime Magazine and Grampus Heritage for the amazing opportunity given to both the students and the tutors. The experience will certainly be integrated into all our future practices.

Grampus are constantly searching for sustainability in the countryside. Martin Clark takes up the story...

Working with Sublime and through them, the London Colleges, allow our organization and partners in Cyprus, Romania and Slovakia to raise the bar in terms of aspirations for local rural people in three European countries where there is serious rural decline. All over Europe, the countryside has a lot to offer in terms of skills, processes, materials and products. To provide rural jobs and give young people a working future in villages, we need to encourage innovation, contemporisation and new markets. The students and tutors who came to Cyprus from Central St Martins and Chelsea College of Art helped our partners, Grampus and our wider partnership ambitions for sustainable rural development within our 'Green Village' framework.

The next placements, taking place over the summer of 2012, will be to Romania followed by Slovakia.

©Sublime Magazine. All rights reserved.