Colour in textiles


Expanding on notes from Creative Arts Today, page 216

Colour is the first quality remarked by most people in garments.

Decisions on colour can be dealt with in very different ways depending on the designer’s personal choice, themes and inspiration, design trends, fashion trends.

In fashion colour palettes are used to organize colours across a collection.

Some designers use colour as a strong focus for their collections, others prefer neutrals or monochromatic solutions to stress other textile qualities such as volume, drape etcetera.

Some examples:

Zandra Rhodes uses both colour and pattern to create her designs.

Zandra Rhodes’ 1978 Mexican Mountain gown from her lauded archive exclusively for From: (Accessed 24/08/2017)


Gareth Pugh opts for monochrome sculptural garments, making only a limited use of colours:

Gareth Pugh’s look from his ready-to-wear Autumn collection 2017. From: (Accessed 24/08/2017)


As an example of a fashion colour palette here is the Pantone report on the ten top colours used by fashion designers in their collections at New York Fashion Week: (Accessed 24/08/2017)


PANTONE Fashion Color Report Fall 2017, New York

Pantone’s Top 10 Colors for New York


As mentioned by Creative Arts Today, there are specialist trend prediction companies which can foresee years in advance which colours shall be sold in shops. I have made a brief survey and here are some names of trend forecasting companies that work mainly worldwide:

For a general article about fashion forecasting: (Accessed 24/08/2017)




Research Point: A focus on texture – Chanel and Miyake


As explained on Wikipedia, tweed is a rough, woolen fabric with a soft and open texture which is generally produced by weaving. The result is a fabric that is moisture-resistant and made to withstand harsh climate conditions. Various colour and textural effects can be obtained by using different threads and yarns.

Karl Lagerfeld, who is among other roles the creative director of Chanel, invents every year new imaginative ways to use this material in never ending artful variations in his ready-to-wear and couture collections, both for day and evening wear, with rustic or elegant effects. The idea to use tweed in women fashion goes back to the founder Coco Chanel who adopted it from menswear as early as 1924 when she charged a Scottish factory with the manufacturing of her fabrics, as retold in

But already in the Thirties Coco Chanel began combining into the traditional tweeds other fibres like silks, cottons and even cellophane to make experimental, adventurous textiles that became absolutely iconic. Today still tweed remains at the core of Chanel’s production and is manufactured by the House of Lesage, in Paris, as reimagined and reinvigorated year after year by Lagerfeld.

A short video shows how tweed is manually woven on wooden looms at Lesage for Chanel’s haute couture collections:



This is a good image of a Chanel jacket from the Sixties but its allure is without time:

Chanel jacket of 60s from Vintage Voyage collection. From:


I have watched several trunkshows online from Vogue and I have selected two images from the Autumn-Winter 2017 haute couture collection for a closer scrutiny:

and two others from the Spring-Summer pre-collection 2018:

Even from these few images it’s clear how Chanel tweeds are totally identifiable with the brand, how they drape beautifully, in smooth folds and naturally whatever the fibres used are. They look full and rich, soft and light, exuberant and sumptuous but always with an easy, casual feel. They want to be touched and felt. Chanel tweeds are a wonderful example of how a classic and traditional fabric can be rethought and interpreted in infinite ways and variations: the weave structure of tweed naturally lends itself to innovation through the addition of fibres that can be chosen because of their special qualities and so influence the properties of the finished fabric. The result is every time different and can be adapted to suit all seasons and every occasion, from daily wear to evening and formal wear.

Other information on Chanel’s tweeds can be obtained from: (Italian)


Pleats Please by Issey Miyake

With his line Pleats Please the fashion designer, but it would be more suitable to call him the textile sculptor, Issey Miyake develops texture in a totally different way. As the Miyake Design Studio states on its website, the collections are based on the philosophy of clothing made from ‘a Piece of Cloth’, a concept which explores not only the relationship between the body and clothing, but also the space that is born between them. Issey Miyake has been experimenting his pleating technique since 1988: the pleats are formed by heat setting after the fabric – a 100% lightweight polyester knitted fabric – is cut and sewn, a practice that is the opposite of the traditional process. (From:

Here is an original video from the his Spring/Summer 1989 collection using this new revolutionary method:


The technique of pleating by heat setting was first discovered and experimented by Mariano Fortuny, a designer, sculptor and artist of the beginning of the 20th century. It consisted in the creation of a very fine pleating of silk in long sheath dresses which were reminiscent of the ancient Greek garments and were accordingly named ‘Delphos’.

The use of pleating gave his fabrics an elastic quality which so embraced the body without the use of darting (From:


A Delphos Dress, by Mariano Fortuny, c.a. 1920. Examples of Fortuny’s work from the V&A» and the Metropolitan Museum of Art». From:

The main difference in technique between Fortuny and Miyake is the type of fabric used, in the case of Miyake polyester, in that of Fortuny silk. The choice is not just a question of preference: synthetic fibres have thermoplastic qualities and can so be moulded by heat and pressure and retain their shape also after washing, while natural fibres lose their shape when put in the water.



Pleats Please collection images from the Pleats Please Webstore. From:


In the hands of Issey Miyake, this technique lends itself to the creation of architectural volumes on the body which are best shown in motion like in this short video of the Autumn-Winter 2016 campaign:


ISSEY MIYAKE Autumn Winter 2016 CAMPAIGN From ZINE MAG. From:

or in this photographic shoot of the earlier Spring-Summer 2013 campaign:


Pleats Please Spring-Summer 2013 campaign. From:


All images and videos have been accessed on the 21-22/08/2017






Texture: visual and tactile surface quality of garments

Texture is a very large subject. Passionate as I am about textile manipulation I have done many samples just to explore some of the possibilities, but just skimmed the surface.

In this context I’m limiting myself to a dictionary search of some types of textured fabric mentioned by Creative Arts Today (page 215): 

TWEED: Tweed is a rough, woolen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Colour effects in the yarn may be obtained by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.

Tweeds are an icon of traditional Irish and British country clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear, due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climate and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. “Lovat” is the name given to the green used in traditional Scottish tweed. In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with County Donegal. (From:

HONEYCOMB: soft cotton f. with a geometric, relief surface, created by means of a loose honeycomb weavewith convex, deepened places with good suction capacity. Used in hand towels and bath towels, and also for some types of ladies’ fashionwear dresses. The name is given by the honeycomb weave used in its production. (From:

MATELASSE’: Matelassé (French: [matlase]) is a weaving or stitching technique yielding a pattern that appears quilted or padded.[1] Matelassé may be achieved by hand, on a jacquard loom, or a quilting machine. It is meant to mimic the style of hand-stitched quilts made in Marseilles, France. It is a heavy, thick textile that appears to be padded, but actually has no padding within the fabric. (From:é)

CORD: Corduroy is a textile with a distinct pattern, a “cord” or wale. Modern corduroy is most commonly composed of tufted cords, sometimes exhibiting a channel (bare to the base fabric) between the tufts. Corduroy is, in essence, a ridged form of velvet.

The fabric looks as if it is made from multiple cords laid parallel to each other and then stitched together. The word corduroy is from cord and duroy, a coarse woollen cloth made in England in the 18th century. The interpretation of the word as corde du roi (from French, the cord of the King) is a folk etymology. (From:

VELVET: Velvet is a type of woven tufted fabric in which the cut threads are evenly distributed, with a short dense pile, giving it a distinctive feel. By extension, the word velvety means “smooth like velvet.” Velvet can be made from either synthetic or natural fibers.

Velvet is woven on a special loom that weaves two thicknesses of the material at the same time. The two pieces are then cut apart to create the pile effect, and the two lengths of fabric are wound on separate take-up rolls. This complicated process meant that velvet was expensive to make before industrial power looms became available, and well-made velvet remains a fairly costly fabric. Velvet is difficult to clean because of its pile, but modern dry cleaning methods make cleaning more feasible. Velvet pile is created by warp or vertical yarns and velveteen pile is created by weft or fill yarns. (From:

SEERSUCKER: Seersucker is a thin, puckered, all-cotton fabric, commonly striped or chequered, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear. The word came into English from Persian, and originates from the words sheer and shakar, literally meaning “milk and sugar”, probably from the resemblance of its smooth and rough stripes to the smooth texture of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar.[1] Seersucker is woven in such a way that some threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance in places. This feature causes the fabric to be mostly held away from the skin when worn, facilitating heat dissipation and air circulation. It also means that pressing is not necessary. (From:

A useful little glossary of textile terms is to be found online at:

A more complete Historical Fashion and Textile Encyclopaedia is to be found at:

Texture in fabrics can be created in different ways:

  • by the fibres used
  • by the design of the yarns in the fabric
  • by the techniques used to create the textile
  • by the finishes applied to the surface that can change the surface and tactile qualities of a textile and also influence its drape

Some finishes (Creative Arts Today, page 215):

For a general online article on finishing:

BRUSHING: Some fabrics like velvet have a naturally raised (fuzzy) surface and this is referred to as the nap. The term nap is also used to describe other surfaces that look like the surface of a napped cloth. In the finishing process of manufacturing textiles, after the cloth is woven, it goes through processes such as washing, fulling, raising, and trimming the nap. There are several ways to ‘raise the nap’, most of which involve wire brushes such as raising cards and involved special brushing machines to get the best finish. During raising, the fabric surface is treated with sharp teeth to lift the surface fibres, thereby imparting hairiness, softness and warmth. Flannelette is a well-known example of this type of material. Gateway finishers are specialists in this process. (From:

LAMINATING: Laminated textiles consist of one or more layers of textile and component. The Textile Institute defines a laminated or combined fabric as: ‘a material composed of two or more layers, at least one of which is a textile fabric, bonded closely together by means of an added adhesive, or by the adhesive properties of one or more of the component layers’ (From:

FOILING: Foil stamping, (also known as foil application) typically a commercial printing process, is the application of metallic or pigmented foil on to a solid surface by application of a heated die onto foil, making it permanently adhere to the surface below leaving the design of the dye. (From:
PRESSING: Pressing is the final opportunity to change the finish of a fabric. It is greatly influence by both the fabric fibre content, structure and end requirement. Some fabrics will require a clean, lustrous finish, but that same fabric can be manipulated to look fussy, soft and warm.

Processes include:

• Brushing is used to make a fabric’s handle softer. The fabric is run through a series of wire bristles that lift individual fibres from the fabric, making a soft nap.
• Calendering: the fabric passes through a set of rollers which can add lustre or an embossed effect.  

• Singeing: Heat is used to singe away any loose fibres on the fabric surface. It is a dry process, which can be used prior to washing.

Raising is a physical finish where fibres are lifted to produce a warm-feeling and soft fabric, such as flannelette.

• During emerising, a fabric is passed over a rotating emery-covered roller (or over multiple rollers) to give a suede-like or peach-like finish. It produces a very short pile (protruding fibres) that softens the handle of the fabric. (

FELTING: Felt is a textile material that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon. Blended fibers are also common. (From:

All websites accessed on 19/08/2017

Research Point: Looking at fashion images

This first Research Point of Project 4 invites to look at fashion images by some important photographers and note down which textile qualities they wish to bring to the fore and how they achieve this. For every photographer of the list I have selected two images.


Irving Penn (USA, 1917-2009)

Photographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, May 1, 1947


Elegantly straightforward, glamorous style. Carefully staged studio photographs. Background kept very simple, all attention is focused on subject. Composition offers a detailed image of garments. Dramatic effect based on highly contrasted light/dark tones, sharp details. Still, frozen poses, no movement shown. Splendid isolation of silhouette-style lone mannequins, like sculptures or superhuman figures. Simple but very sophicated. Fashion as art. Drape and volume of the garments are exalted, silhouettes are clearly defined.



Mario Testino (Peruvian, born in 1954)




High impact images with strong, sensual, independent women who wear their clothes in very personal ways. Energetic colours and exuberant movement instead of static shots. The result is theatrical and full of personality. A very identifiable, sexy style that suggests how a dress can be interpreted to have a strong, decisive impact. In both photos the light, vaporous quality of the textiles is fully expressed.


Richard Avedon (USA, 1923-2004)



Avedon’s strong images tell a story, facial expressions are striking, poses are interesting. Models are full of life and vigour. Garments are shown in use and movement, within a compelling narrative, while the background is kept simple with all attention focused on the subjects. The effect is fresh and very innovative. These clothes are not for the shy, self-effacing wearer. The first image wonderfully shows the swirling movement of the rich woolen skirt, the second exalts the clean, sexy silhouettes of these cocktail dresses.

Terry Richardson (USA, born in 1965)



Richardson’s images are very different from the glamorous, opulent aesthetics of much fashion photography and they don’t take themselves too seriously, rather they adopt a street style that seems spontaneous, playful, almost casual. Models are sexy, provocative girls who enjoy themselves. The overall atmosphere is easy and seductively alluring. Light is natural, high key, if not harsh. Garments do not come to the fore, they are part of a living context.


Sarah Moon (France, born in 1941)
Sarah Moon, Avril for Alaïa 3, 2009. From:



Sarah Moon, Monette for Comme des Garçons, 2007. From:


With this photographer the mood is totally different: her images are soft, dreaming, vague, models are fantastic, out-of-this-world, extremely feminine creatures. Garments on them have an unreal, enigmatic quality that arouses emotions, intimate thoughts. They seem atemporal, somewhat nostalgic of a world long disappeared, volumes are underlined with great imagination and delicacy.


David Lachapelle (USA, born in 1963)

Alek Wek photographed by David LaChapelle for French Vogue, 1997 From:


Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, photographed by David LaChapelle in 1996 and published in Vanity Fair’s March 1997 issue. From:


Mix of hyper-realism, surrealism and pop in these very individual images. The settings are theatrical, rich with narrative tension and imagination. They are also fun and humourous. Clothes make part of a story, have a cultural context, models embody characters of a story that intrigues and makes one ask questions.


Drape and movement

Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 213-4
  • DRAPE is the way a fabric or garment hangs.
  • It is influenced by the structure and weight of the fabric. Excess fabric can be used to build folds, gathers and pleats.
  • The quality of drape is determined by its softness, rigidity and weight.
  • A fabric is said to drape well when it is fluid, soft and with a rounded handle.
  • Through draping a textile can be manipulated in a sculptural way.
  • The drape creates the movement of a garment, a kinetic energy, that comes to its full expression when a garment is actually worn on the body, like wonderfully exemplified by Avedon’s photograph of the ‘Veruschka’ dress by Bill Blass (1967).

The French designer Madame Grès is a superb example of a master of draping:


Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 212
  • If the silhouette is the overall shape of a garment, VOLUME addresses the space around the body.
  • Volume is created and greatly affected by the weight and thickness of the textile: heavy fabrics need room to fold and drape and can easily produce bulky volumes, light fabrics can produce subtle volumes or be layered to build greater volumes around certain parts of the body.


Example of volume created by a heavy foam: 

Memory foam pullover by Nadine Goepfert, photo credit: Sanna Helena Berger. From:

In the example above by Nadine Goepfert, a Berlin based textile designer, volume is used to great effect.

In a recent online interview of 24/04/2017 from (Accessed 14/08/2017) Nadine says: ‘I’m interested in body language, gestures and how clothing influences them’. Most of her designs can be considered works of art, but they can also be worn. The foam pullover above belongs to her collection ‘Garments May Vary’ and has been worn by Solange Knowles in the music video for her single ‘Cranes in the Sky’.



Example of volume created by a tulle net:

Balenciaga 1957 – Cocktail Dress 2013, possibly inspired by Balenciaga


(Accessed 14/08/2014)


Notes from Creative Arts Today, page 211

  • The SILHOUETTE is the overall shape of a garment and determines the outline of the form. It’s influenced by how a garment is cut and by the softness and fluidity of the textile.
  • The SILHOUETTE is related to the proportion, scale, balance, flow and composition of the shape in relation to the body.

Sewguide offers a practical introduction to the basic silhouette types for what concerns especially women dresses and/or skirts, but of course the same concept can be applied to all types of garments or accessories like for example collars, hats and so on. The web has an almost infinite number of drawings and plates which organize these silhouettes according to categories, places and historic times.

I had a look at Maiko Takeda’s millinery pieces that I did not know:

(all accessed 13/08/2017)

Maiko Takeda working at one of her head pieces, from:

This designer creates ethereal adornments for the body that are difficult to define as accessories – maybe hats, maybe jewels or something in between. They are surreal and delicate, bold and subtle, like magical creatures growing on the body and transforming it, generating an aura around it.

Dream-like silhouettes are created by hundreds of coloured plastic bristles that ondulate softly around the wearer. She explains that she obtained the visual effect she was after by layering printed clear film, sandwiched with acrylic discs and linked together with silver jump rings – she learnt jewellery before millinery.