Perhaps nothing has been more detrimental to the reputation of crochet than Coachella. For about a decade, the time-honored technique felt like something to avoid—if not deride—thanks to an annual festival season’s worth of boho-gone-bad outfits. But trends are cyclical, cancel culture is toxic, and a new range of designers has lent a high-fashion element to tambouring (as the French call it), hiring artisans from around the world who bring a level of craft that’s almost never made its way to the main-stage crowd—until now, maybe. There’s always room for change.
Today’s emphasis on craft goes deeper emotionally than a straightforward fashion trend cycle. Pre-pandemic, I sat through a presentation from a forecaster that pointed to a movement toward futurism on the runway—fabrics that are manufactured in a lab and look like it. Dresses that turn women into robot versions of themselves, sculptural and interesting but barely recognizable. That forecaster could have never seen what was coming. But the last two years have culminated (among other things) in a collective deep desire for a return to nature and the handmade as a result of too much technology and an overall lack of human connection.
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“I think everyone is looking for pieces that they relate to on an emotional level, things that feel like more than just product,” says Joseph Altuzarra, whose fall collection featured a crochet dress so intricate that it you could easily display it as wall art. “I personally respond to pieces that feel like they are one-of-a-kind, unique finds, pieces that are made by hand.”
Rachel Scott, the designer behind buzzy brand Diotima, which is known for its intricate crochet pieces, says she feels a spiritual and generational connection with the technique. “In Jamaica, crochet is a craft that is passed down … from grandmothers, mothers to their daughters, so it’s something that you see everywhere—doilies and table runners in houses, but also swimsuits and cover-ups. In the Rasta community, in particular, there is a special reverence for crochet hats and belts, sometimes garments and shoes.”
At its best, the crochet trend honors a long history. The craft originated from Chinese needlework before being introduced and reinterpreted in places like Northern Africa, Turkey, India, and beyond. “Working within the vernacular of crochet made in Jamaica, I often start with starched crochet that is typically seen in the context of home goods. … I found that in that starching process, the hand and drape of the yarn changed completely. The pieces are delicate yet sculptural,” Scott explains. “I began using them to make harness-like tops, disrupting the context of how these pieces would usually be seen.”
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Similarly, Altuzarra melds Old World approaches with his own design flourishes. “We work with a lot of crochet artisans for the different techniques we develop for the collection. This season, specifically, we worked with crocheters in India, in Italy, and in the United States. Each artisan has a very specific hand, which can be felt in what they create,” the designer explains.
Crochet could also be found in the collections of Chloé, spearheaded by Gabriela Hearst, as well as in the designer’s namesake collection, where it appeared on a smart spring leather trench that sold out online in a flash. Last summer’s hit Prada bag continues to reign on social media and beyond. In Anthony Vaccarello‘s pre-fall lineup for Saint Laurent, there’s a cutout black crochet dress that looks like it could just as easily be taken to the club as a seaside dinner—but it’s far from your standard boho. This moment in crochet includes restraint in color, with an emphasis on black, white, and neutrals, a body-consciousness and unique approach to shape.
But don’t take it all too seriously; you can also wear any one of these looks to your nearest beach—or ahem, even Coachella. Pick up one of the crochet pieces below, schedule some time back in nature, and add your favorite sandals.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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