In Conversation with Andria Crescioni

Designer Andria Crescioni marries tradition with innovation. Describing her work as “modern interpretations of traditional silhouettes – utilizing techniques from the past to create pieces for the present,” the recent graduate of Parsons School of Design creates contemporary garments informed by traditional artisan crafts and natural materials. Fresh from the completion of her Spring/Summer collection and a collaboration with ethically conscious sportswear brand, Loomstate, which will produce a zero-waste anorak design of Crescioni’s in their fall collection, we sat down with Crescioni to discuss her particular approach to ethical design practices. Come August, Crescioni is set to depart for Peru to create a capsule collection in conjunction with Awamaki Lab, a non-profit organization committed to provide economic opportunities and support for local Quechua women.

Colleen Kelsey: At the core of your work is the use of artisanal crafts. How do you interpret these traditional techniques to fit your aesthetic and create a modern garment?

Andria Crescioni: It’s important to me to maintain a balance between historical garments/fabrication and contemporary design. If I’m referencing traditional silhouettes or construction details then I will tend to keep my fabrication playful, but if I’m making a textile statement that incorporates a traditional woven motif or pattern I will allow my shape and design details to be a little more experimental and of the moment.  For my spring collection I experimented with traditional batik wax resist printing on silk chiffon and crepe de chine but I approached in an abstract way.  I also cut the fabric into easy pieces like an oversized shirtdress and a dolman sleeved blouse, allowing the technique and fabric to be the focal point of the garments.

Colleen: You have a strong commitment to low-waste and eco-friendly design practices. How does this affect your design process? How do you approach creating a garment with little to no waste? Does the structure of the garment inform the material, or vice versa? How does this commitment affect how and where you source your materials?

Andria: I try to work with natural materials like silk, linen, and leather, as these materials improve and with age and wear. I think this allows for the shelf life of each piece to exist beyond its wearer, making them inherently sustainable. Aesthetics and wearability are also key factors of sustainability in my opinion. Incorporating ethically sourced fabrics is important, but I think designing covetable and long-lasting pieces is just as ethically responsible. Zero-waste garment construction is very new to me; I was just introduced to this method of designing in my senior year at Parsons through my professor, Timo Rissanen. One thing that I caught onto when working on a zero-waste garment was that you have to really know what fabric you are going to be working with before designing, because the width affects the placement of the pattern pieces.  I started researching traditional garments like tunics, ponchos, and kimonos when I first started developing my zero-waste patterns, and these shapes have been guiding my designs ever since.

Colleen: How did you first conceive Spring/Summer 2011? What was your inspiration?

Andria: I knew going into the research and development for spring that I wanted to focus on two things, working with batik on silk chiffon and incorporating a complete jewelry collection. During my research I stumbled across the hedonistic sci-fi film “Logan’s Run” and I was instantly taken by the costuming. I thought the diaphanous uniforms and bold metal collars on display in the film would lend well to my materials and I started sketching right away.  I tried to convey a sense of the past meeting the present in the collection, a juxtaposition of earthen materials like beaten up leather and hand dyed silks with metallic stainless steel hardware.

Colleen: Your spring collection includes a number of reclaimed steel jewelry pieces. Was this your first foray into accessories?

Andria: I’ve experimented with jewelry design for a few years now but this was my first realized collection. My dad has always been a big influence on me creatively; he is a skilled craftsman and is constantly making things, so I thought it would be best to go to him first for guidance. We found these unused stainless steel kick plates in his workshop and decided to salvage them to make the metal shapes for the necklaces.

Colleen: How did you become involved with the Awamaki Lab project? What work do they do? What do you hope to accomplish there?

Andria: I’ll be working with Awamaki come August of this year. My teacher Timo Rissanen at Parsons gave a lecture on sustainability before he started teaching and he mentioned Awamaki Lab, the project really resonated with me and I applied shortly after. It is a Peruvian non-profit that is aimed at helping indigenous Quechua women improve their skills and access the market. Awamaki Lab is a program within the non-profit that is set up to provide opportunities for young designers to develop a capsule collection under Awamaki and it’s weaving association. I’ll be traveling to Ollantaytambo, Peru to develop a fall capsule collection that showcases the beautiful hand-spun Andean textiles and I am beyond excited. I think it is going to be a much slower and simpler way of living, and being in a serene and rural village as opposed to the chaos the New York garment district will help me focus on developing my work even further, I think. Being surrounded by ancient Incan ruins and Macchu Picchu, which is nearby, won’t hurt either!

Images from Andria Crescioni’s Spring/Summer 2011 lookbook, photographed by El Andres Burgos

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