Chloe and Valentino's spring summer 2015 collection put cutwork embroidery firmly on the map this summer. As head designer of Australian fashion label Sancerre (more about them later) who are based in Bali, I have the privilege of working with Bali suppliers, and kerawang open cutwork embroidery is one of Bali's better known exports. Not only is Bali a refreshing place to work, as you can imagine, commuting past rice fields to a big wooden house that is the office, but our suppliers are all family businesses run by friendly people.
Kerawang must have had a hey day in the 70s, although it first appeared on the traditional kebaya much before that. It was first introduced to Indonesia in the 1700's as makarawo which comes from the word “terawang” meaning “can see through”. Nowadays, the town of Gorontalo on the orchid shaped island of Sulawesi is the place where it is practiced to perfection on all sorts of fabrics. Floral motifs with embroidered outlines are connected with open embroidery or eyelet cutwork. The art is in the placements of the motifs around focus points on the garment, and the design of the open cutwork.
I decided that we needed more of this awesomeness in our collections. Then of course I discovered how time consuming the whole process is...
First the design is laid out on to the garment patterns. Then this pattern is made into a screen so that the motif can be printed non permanently onto the garment panels as a guide. And then the laborious work of the embroidery by hand or on a foot pedal sewing machine starts. Every single motif element is outlined in thread, then the open areas carefully cut away.
In Bali, the retail chain Uluwatu does everything in kerawang embroidery on black and white rayons. Other than that, take a peek through Etsy vintage sellers, some kerawang garments pop up there. Free People also have some cute kerawang items in their inimitable gyspy style. Otherwise, watch this space for the Sancerre summer collections to become available online and in Australian stores!