Patchwork Fashion- A Trend Woven Through Centuries
Updated: Jan 6
2020 has been an unusual and stressful year for us all. In a year filled with uncertainty and sadness, everyone has turned to various coping mechanisms in order to deal with the anxiety and confusion that this year has had in store for us. One of the most popular activities that people have taken up has been creating and up-cycling clothing. With shops closed and online orders taking days (and sometimes weeks) to arrive, learning how to create and personalize clothing has been a fun past-time for many. Not only has this been a way to create unique and personal garments, but it is also a way to re-use and give life to old, unworn items of clothing that would otherwise be given away or disposed of, adding to the already extreme onslaught of excessive consumption and clothing waste that is a huge and ongoing problem across the globe. The United Kingdom alone produces 206.456 tonnes of textile waste a year.With the fashion industry slowly becoming one of the most environmentally damaging industries on the planet, clothing trends that promote up-cycling and re-using are a stylish and environmentally friendly way to create clothing. Whilst tie-dye has undoubtedly been one of the biggest trends of 2020, another trend that has not only been taken up by quarantined individuals, but also by fashion brands, is patchwork.
The process of patchwork consists of sewing together pieces of various fabrics to form a design or pattern. Patchwork as a craft is dated back as far as the 18thcentury, with one of the earliest known patchworks dating back to 1718. Patchwork initially started as a way of using up scraps of fabrics, or of extending the life of well-worn clothing. In creating a patchwork quilt, it was not only a decorative craft, but also a way of creating a garment for warmth. Whereas quilting was considered a more professional and difficult craft, patchwork was accessible to women of all backgrounds and incomes and was a way to reduce waste. However, as patchwork became more of a trend, it was not only used as a way to make the most of purchases, but it was also taken up as an activity with wealthier, middle-class women purchasing fabrics specifically with the intention of turning them into patchworks. Whilst the patchwork trend died down during the 19thcentury, it saw a resurgence during the 1960s as the patchwork ‘look’, rather than the process, came to be associated with hippie culture.
Now, during the 21st century, patchwork is seen as a hobby and craft, as well as a fashion trend that has been, and still is, featured in the collections of many designers and fashion brands. Not only is it a fun and interesting way to create unique patterns and designs using different shades and types of fabric, but it is also a sustainable way of recycling fabric scraps that would otherwise be wasted. Let’s take a look at some of the designers and brands that have utilized the patchwork trend in their work.
BODE is a New York-based menswear brand created by Emily Bode. The brand uses globally-sourced vintage fabrics, and then re-purposes them into various garments. Creating workwear inspired pieces using vintage pre-owned fabrics, BODE creates wearable items from recycled textiles, resulting in clothing with a long lifespan that’ll last years. Some of the most popular pieces that BODE offers are patchwork jackets and shirts of all patterns and colours. Worn by the likes of Zayn Malik and Ezra Miller, BODE has helped bring the patchwork trend into the current luxury and high-end fashion industry.
Creating one of the most sought-after pieces of 2019 and 2020, ASAI(founded by British designer A Sai Ta) is the brand Gen Z’s are lusting after. The sheer, neon, patchwork long-sleeved tops and dresses that ASAI have made their signature pieces, have been worn by Rihanna and Halsey, and as a result have been imitated and re-created by inspired creators, using fabric scraps or unwanted clothing.
Making the patchwork trend accessible to hypebeasts, Supreme’s FW16 and FW17 collections featured patchwork hoodies and jackets. Whereas Supreme is a brand that is notoriously associated with streetwear and is more famous for its brand name than its products, incorporating the patchwork trend into their designs makes the craft and the re-purposing of clothing accessible to a consumer that may not have formerly been made aware of the patchwork ‘look’.
Paloma Wool, a chic womenswear brand based in Barcelona, has quickly become a firm favourite amongst Insta girls, due to their stylish yet comfortable designs. Their current jacquard print is featured on various pieces in various different colours. Though it is not the conventional patchwork technique, it is definitely reminiscent of patchwork designs due to the mismatched squares. Paloma Wool’s clothing presents a minimalist and current take on traditional styles and techniques.
Comme des Garçons
Japanese brand Comme des Garçons has now become a house-hold name, not only due to their innovative and creative runway pieces, but also due to their more commercial pieces which see their iconic heart logo printed on t-shirts and Converse. Incorporating patchwork elements into their designs, Comme des Garçons combine their commercial designs with traditional techniques. The patchwork technique also plays in to Kawakubo’s continuous use of distressed fabrics and unfinished seams in her work, as it gives the garments an authentic and ‘hand-made’ look.
British streetwear brand Jaded London are a fairly new brand who have come to prominence this year due to their unique, modern and affordable products. Their most recent release features numerous patchwork items, proving again the influence of the patchwork trend during 2020.
Undoubtedly the most iconic patchwork piece, if not the most iconic garment, of 2020 was the JW Anderson patchwork cardigan that was worn by Harry Styles. It is so iconic that it has even been given a permanent place at the V&A Museum, due to its role as a pivotal garment that is so representative of 2020. Styles’ stylist, Harry Lambert, rejoices in the fact that the he found the cardigan on sale at matchesfashion.com. The hefty price-tag of the cardigan has led to hundreds of admirers of the iconic cardigan taking up knitting in an attempt to recreate the JW Anderson cardie at a much more accessible price-point.
Welsh designer Elin Manon produces hand crafted knitwear and reworked materials in her work. Using sustainable materials and techniques in her work, she turns to her homeland of Wales for inspiration. Craft, knitwear, and patchwork have been important aspects of Welsh culture for centuries, with wool being one of Wales’ biggest produces and exports. Manon incorporates patchwork into her work in a unique and wearable way that epitomizes her meticulous craft and personal approach towards her work. She also lovingly gives each of her products a distinctly Welsh name, providing a special link to her Welsh heritage.
Written by Megan Finch