Storytelling: Awamaki Lab and Pendleton’s Portland Collection

It should be no surprise to us in this burgeoning age of conscious consumerism that we would want more than just the same old sustainable tale. In fact, as consumers seek to have more storied clothing in 2011, forward-thinking designers are realizing that the more story a garment can weave within, the more appealing it is to buy. This requires not only a tremendous amount of serious thought towards the actual clothing design,  but a knowledge of story and where to draw from.

Take for instance the Awamaki Lab fashion design residency. The lab is giving young designers the opportunity to develop capsule collections in partnership with the Awamaki and its association of indigenous Quechua women weavers.  Study designer Tara St James has been a mentor for the lab and for its inaugural season, Awamaki Lab and St James worked with designer Nieli Vallin, who studied design in Paris at the Chambre Syndical de la Couture. Brought together by the program’s director, Annie Millican, BlackBook reports “The three American fashion devotees will work with the vivid textiles and simple draping of the lliqllas (yik-ee-yaahs) – traditional woolen shawls worn by the Andean women and children – that characterize Quechuan clothing.”

Poncho by the Nielli Vallin/Awamaki/St James Collaboration

Tara says of the collaboration on her The Square Project blog:

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for selected designer participants to develop a capsule collection in the serene environment of Ollantaytambo, Peru. Through the process, designers hone their artistic skills and lend a modern perspective to Awamaki’s range of products. This will improve the organization’s marketability and help to stimulate economic growth in the isolated, rural communities where Awamaki works.”

Domestic economic growth – which we we hope to see flourish more – especially with Native Americans, is with the iconic label Pendleton and three young designers: Nathaniel Crissman, Rachel Turk and John Blasioli. Crissman and Turk, the designers behind the label Church and State worked with menswear designer Blasioli and Pendleton to domestically manufacture the entire line with all domestic wool.

Having been a family owned business for more than 140 years based in the Pacific Northwest (Pendleton, Oregon), the company has always incorporated Native American patterns into their 100 percent virgin wool, reflecting ancient designs and legends. Stay tuned for fall ’11 to see breathtaking ponchos, open back dresses and Native American inspired cardigan sweaters for men and women from the collaboration.

My prediction? Storied clothing in addition to sustainable fabrics is the next wave of conscious fashion where we consumers can be more invested in what we buy from a historical standpoint, designers can learn more ancient trades utilizing their design muse, and with that demand, poor economic sectors will see growth teaching trades they’ve always known. We’re in for an exciting time.

Top Image by Owyn Ruck of Textile Arts Center

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.