So, let’s start at the beginning. No, not my beginning. And not THE Beginning. I’m talking about the origins of the fabric that I used to make this skirt. I stumbled on to something really special and the story is worth telling.
This skirt fabric is made by an Italian company called Gandini Tessuti Alta Moda. With a name like that, you know we’re talking luxury. You don’t even have to see the fabric to know it’s high end. Gandini has been around since 1925, but it was Susy Gandini who took over in 1961 who really brought the company to where it is now. When she began running the company, Gandini Fabrics became a “converter”, meaning they took raw fabric from mills around Lake Como and customized it. Using various finishing techniques, they changed color and texture which obviously alters how it looks but it also changes how it feels and how the fabric behaves.
Susy Gandini then sells the converted fabric to the best design houses in the world. Chanel, Valentino, and Dior are all clients. What’s left over can sometimes make its way to places like Mood or Mendel Goldberg.
When I was in Paris with Susan Khalje, we went fabric shopping at Janssens & Janssens (FYI, AMAZlNG!!). While there, I’m having a grand time picking out my choices. I’m working with a lovely sales woman and she’s giving me the requisite “ooohs and aaahs” at the things that I’m bringing to the cutting table. Just as I’m starting to think that I’m finished shopping I spot a fabric that was almost too high for me to reach. I have to stretch for it and pull it out from under a stack of other bolts. When I take it to be cut, my charming sales woman, who has been all light and smiles, looks at me with an evaluating eye and says with dead seriousness, “You have good taste”. Up until that point, I think she was humoring the American. But something shifted when I presented her with the Gandini fabric, and without knowing it, I passed some sort of test. Can I tell you, I felt like I won something big! I came outta there, beaming with pride.
Now I wonder, if a fabric could have feelings, how it must have felt being put in my suitcase and brought to the southern United States. Not necessarily the most glamorous destination. Could it be that it had high hopes of being turned into something fabulous by Karl Lagerfeld? Or is it more that it had sat so long in the fabric store that it was just grateful to be bought like the damaged teddy bear, Corduroy? Whatever it’s feelings, it was mine now to hopefully not screw up.
Let me just say that to really appreciate this fabric, it has to be handled. The feel and the drape is not like anything I’ve ever (ever!) worked with. It’s simply extraordinary. I looked around for a pattern that matched what I had in my head but didn’t find anything, so I decided to drape it myself. My favorite way to dress is to play with contrasting elements and it seemed appropriate to me that with such a luxury fabric, it would be fun to make a casual and slouchy skirt.
It may have been adding insult to injury that I took the skirt to a mountain top farm in Colombia. Or maybe it’s just happy to be seeing the world. Who knows?! I tried getting the dogs, the cow, and the chickens to join me in one of the photographs but they wouldn’t come close. You can draw your own conclusions.
Pattern, Self-Draped Skirt with Pockets
Couture Details, Handsewn Pick-Stitch Zipper and Narrow Machine Hem
Photographs by Santiago Vanegas
(The information about Gandini came from The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion. Also, I didn’t make the shirt I’m wearing. It’s a vintage linen top from my closet.)