These days, when in search of the next big thing, it has become trendy to announce the death of something, or at least, to call some not so old technologies and techniques as archaic. Many believe that the old world and its old rules are only bound to disappear without leaving a trace, drawing a sort of constant adversity between tradition and modernity, as if both couldn’t fuse and lead us toward a brighter future. However, a new vanguard of young designers beg to differ, amongst which is Alice Archer, an amazing British designer who sees new opportunities for craftsmanship through machines.
Dubbed one of the most exciting and talented designers of the moment in London, Alice Archer has already caught the interest of many of the most influential people and publications in the industry (Suzy Menkes, Mrs B, Susie Lau, the New York Times, Business of Fashion, WWD, The latest Pirelli Calendar…). Formerly a student at St. Martins, then both Goldsmiths University and the Royal College of Art in London, Alice started her apprenticeship with almost obsolete, hand-operated embroidery machines, while learning how to program and operate a digital embroidery machine at the same time. By refining and combining these abilities for years, and assisting some of the most revered creators to date like Dries Van Noten, the designer introduced her label in 2014 and to this date, still uses digital embroidery machines to produce embroidery samples for her collections. In her studio, beneath Simon Burnstein’s « The Browns » boutique (one of her supporters), Ms. Archer programmes every single hand embroidery stitches, techniques and textures to her digital embroidery software ; all of this to create ranges of artworks that attracts a broad range of clients.
« Some believe that traditional crafts, such as embroidery, are declining. The artisan is seen to be superseded by mechanical, globalised production. But craftsmanship is not on the verge of extinction. Far from it. » Alice Archer in a BoF OpEd, April 2015
As an embroiderer who uses modern techniques, Alice Archer proves that marrying craftsmanship to the use of computers and mechanical processes is possible, mainly because she approached newness with an open-minded mindset : rather than considering these innovation as a threat to her creative abilities, she was one of those people able to seize how to marry tradition with modernity.
Combining traditional processes to digital designs to create, through the use of hand, digital and Irish machine embroidery, Ms. Archer’s take on design also implies an intensive programming process. Indeed, she uses a software computer program called Ethos in order to map each individual stitch for a single piece, which can require as much as a week of programming for a digitized design.
For her fourth season, the designer as attempted to use a large range of techniques and materials to conceive prints that replicates her singular embroidery, some of which are more affordable (starting 700$).
“I’m using lots of prints in this collection, prints that have been made from complicated processes to give them as much depth and luxury as my embroideries,” Alice Archer in the NYT, September 2017
Contrarily to popular belief, the digitalization or the automation of the creative process don’t essentially mean the death of craftsmanship. Like Ms. Archer’s take on fashion shows, we believe that it all comes to creators to define how they’ll subdue these innovations to their will, not the other way around. This young designer as defined her very own way to do it brilliantly, and we do hope a lot more are forcing or will force their way too. Because thanks to these kind of creators, craftsmanship imight be able to resist the test of time.
But for the time being, let’s agree to keep an eye on this amazingly talented designer, shall we ;) ?