Unravelling Paris via Essex
Paris Essex, our Guest Editors for this issue are a knitwear duo made up of Tiphaine du Lussy and Carolyn Clewer, who met whilst they were both studying knitwear at the Royal College of Art London, where they bonded over glitter yarn, elastic and neon colours. From there, their friendship blossomed and grew into a working relationship eventually creating a designer knitwear brand.
So where does the name of the brand come from? Pairs Essex. Very simple; Tiphaine hails from Paris and Carolyn from Essex, so both the brand name and collections are a combination of the contrast of their perceptions of both locations; Paris chic, sophisticated and glamorous and Essex funny and even a little tacky and brash.
This says so much: reflected in the name, a tongue in cheek attitude towards both knitwear and fashion. There, straight from day one, is a healthy dollop of humour. A slight prod in the ribs to those in the 90’s and noughties working in the global world of fashion who may, just may, have taken themselves a little bit too seriously
The knitwear collections were textured, fun, irreverent, colourful, full of skill and technical know-how; They worked by playing with unexpected/fun combinations of yarns all the way through to 3D items of clothing.
“There is something exciting about actually creating the fabric and developing a 3D garment from it. It’s very immediate experimenting on a knitting machine, lots of colour and pattern and no real rules, part planning and part experimentation”
However the pressures of time and relentless changing of seasons (a new collection every six months ) took its toll. For them some ideas they wanted to develop would take too long to explore within the tight constraints of a staged 6 monthly seasonable collection, all but killing the creative process.
They talk of having loved the design and making process as well as the photography and showing stages but it’s everything that goes with that; the selling, production, PR etc. that kills much of the love and passion; alongside making development time almost impossible.
“It is difficult to work and show seasonally if you are a small scale designer. Nearly impossible! Especially with knit that is technically complex and expensive when in small scale production.”
They wanted to spend more time doing the creative parts that most inspired them. This was the signal to them to start making pieces that were not about fashion as such. A revelation, for them, to make for the sake of making and not worry why or who it is for.
The possibilities of showing in new ways and through social media have also opened up a different perspective- showing work without being part of the treadmill of ‘seasons’ something that has enabled many creatives. It offers a chance to jump off the treadmill and work to one’s own schedule.
By taking their own path, it’s fair to say the roots of their creativity show more clearly. Their university The Royal College of Art is famous for producing artists, fabric designers and has a reputation of excellence across the creative industries.
So now it feels their work in knitwear crosses the border between fashion and art to make something now more common place; to fuse and blend. They don’t like to think about categorising their work but enjoy working with yarn to create ..simply saying “we love yarn”
Lately they have been making a series of ‘crazy blankets’ (how they describe them) which are one of their knitted and crocheted pieces. They take turns working on a piece, sometimes one making a plan and starting with, say, some crazy eyes and then passing on a working piece to the other. There is no set plan, more a starting point/idea: The process is more like a continuous conversation assessing each other’s contributions, reacting to each other. A way of working independently yet together developing the piece like a painting as they go along.
“We pay a lot of attention to colour balance and that’s often when we know something is complete. The process of naming takes place near the end of creation… and the photographing becomes part of the process”
They have exhibited in different ways, near and far, with a show in Essex and last summer, they went to China. So what are they knitting up next? Well they say more blankets working in some different sizes, ones that are between wearable and blanket sized as well as a few collaborations but we are also working on some Paris Essex products that are not knitted… but that’s another story!
The new show Thursday 3rd May to Sunday 13th May at The Old Bank Vault, Hackney Road London
parisessex.com Blankets at W.A Green available Instagram parisessex
Image with thanks; by Sasha Zyryaef for Unmade; Copyright Unmade