The German-born London-based knitwear designer talks to Zoot Magazine about her alien- inspired Spring/Summer collection.
Text by Anna Battista
In the late ‘30s a team of archaeologists found in the mountains of BayanKara-Ula, on the borders of China and Tibet, lines of neatly arranged graves containing the remains of skeletons with an unusual bone configuration. Next to them there were stone discs that looked exactly like records, with a hole in the centre and a series of grooves featuring lines of closely written characters. Once deciphered, the grooves told the story of an alien race – the Dropas – that crash-landed in that area and, despite their peaceful intentions, were hunted down by local tribes and killed. Knitwear designer Laura Theiss moved from this story of mysterious aliens landing on our planet for her Spring/Summer 2011 collection. The latter includes both dresses and tops, some characterised by looser shapes, others by more sensual figure-hugging silhouettes, though all of them created with maximum visual impact in mind. The sci-fi theme behind her S/S 11 designs also allowed Theiss to experiment further with colours, textures and the infinite structural and patterning potential offered by different knitting and crochet techniques.
Zoot Magazine: Can you tell us more about the story behind the Spring/Summer 2011 collection?
Laura Theiss: This collection is a continuing exploration of traditional hand knitting and crochet techniques. I tried to bring unusual colour combinations and texture in it injecting a futuristic and feminine vision in the forms. Creating a collection for me is a bit like being a journalist or a writer and coming up with a feature or a story, though I don’t use words to tell my stories, but I use my designs. For this collection I was inspired by the legend of the Dropa Stone Discs. They say that the Dropa extraterrestrials landed near the Chinese-Tibetan border some twelve thousand years ago. The Dropa Disc translated by Dr. Tsum Um Nui states: “The Dropa came down from the clouds in their aircraft. Our men, women, and children hid in the caves ten times before sunrise. When at last they understood the sign language of the Dropa, they realised that the newcomers had peaceful intentions.” In my collection I conceived these visitors from the skies as creatures from other worlds who actually live aleady among us.
Zoot Magazine: Which yarns did you use this time?
Laura Theiss: I used cotton yarn with some metallic Lurex in it. I mainly used hand knitting and crochet techniques, so the garments are much softer compared to when you use a knitting machine.
Zoot Magazine: The collection seems to display a good balance between casual and elegant garments, but it also features a few showpieces, is this a new direction for you?
Laura Theiss: I love to create unusual showpieces as they allow me to find innovative ways to knit or display the patterns. A collection needs a balance between showpieces and something more wearable. You can be very creative when you’re showing in London, but in Paris things are a bit different and the buyers also want something more saleable. Luckily, also the crazier pieces sold this season! I enjoy seeing people wearing my designs and I think I will continue creating collections in which there is a good balance between the creative and the wearable.
Zoot Magazine: One design has almost got a tribal look about it, what inspired it?
Laura Theiss: The trimmings are traditional Chinese ornaments I bought during my travelling. The dress is a combination of hand knitting and crochet in a very modern way inspired by the Far East costume skirts.
Zoot Magazine: Can you tell us also about the collaboration with stylist Kabir for the lookbook?
Laura Theiss: I’ve known Kabir for quite a while now. We met at St. Martins and became friends since then. He was Fashion Editor at Drama while I was finishing my studies and we kept in touch and talked a lot about our mutual work. The lookbook for the S/S 11 season was the first time we worked together. As a stylist Kabir represents for me true London edginess, he is very professional and a real perfectionist. I worked with other stylists who just did their job putting looks together, but Kabir puts all his energy into it and the results show it!
Zoot Magazine: Do you feel your style changed and developed since you first started working on your collections?
Laura Theiss: The style didn’t change, but I think I became more professional and – most importantly – I learnt to translate better my ideas into my designs and present them as a collection.
Zoot Magazine: Will you be again at On | Off in the next few days and which was the highlight about last season’s edition?
Laura Theiss: I have a very special relationship with On | Off. They discovered me after my graduation and took the risk of taking me on board. I will exhibit my Autumn/Winter 2011-12 collection again with them both in London and Paris. Last seasons’ event was very exciting and I met influential press people and buyers and some surprise visitors as well, two members of the Missoni family! At first I didn’t recognise the girl telling me how much she liked my collection and that it reminded her of Missoni, but then I realised that was Rosita’s grand-daughter, Teresa Missoni and felt I had just received a huge compliment!
Zoot Magazine: Would you like to release a book of knitting patterns one day?
Laura Theiss: That’s actually one of my future plans! One day I would like to do a book that includes knitting techniques, patterns and further useful information about the world of knitwear.
Zoot Magazine: Future plans and ambitions?
Laura Theiss: As I said I will exhibit my Autumn/Winter 2011-12 collection in the next few weeks in London and Paris. For the next season I would love to have a catwalk show and I would also be interested in some collaborations or in designing a collection for other brands. My 2011 horoscope promises lots of exciting things, let’s hope they will happen!
Photographs by Ellis Scott