¨To shoot the breeze¨ is the expression that sparked the beginnings of this season´s Wild is the Wind Collection. It just popped up in conversation, but it was so evocative of the Wild West and the wild winds that blew through it, I was hooked onto a mood and feel that I wanted to capture in a series of fans. But how?
Reading about the history of the Wild West and the American Frontier from the 1860´s onwards, it was an era of cowboys, Indians, pioneers, outlaws and gunslingers brought together by the purposes of growth, defense, greed and reinvention. It was almost certainly not as glamorous as legend has come to portray it, and there is no doubt terrible violence and atrocious acts occurred for those obscuring the path to expansion. However, through film, music, literature and art, the mythical American West, with its heroic cowboys, distinctive style, desert landscapes, action and adventure - it will forever capture our imaginations. From as far back as Buffalo Bill´s Wild West Show in the late 1880´s The Wild West has often been romanticised for entertainment, and who doesn't enjoy films like Butch Cassidy and The Sun-Dance Kid? The Magnificent Seven? Or Spaghetti Westerns like The Good The Bad and The Ugly, filmed here in Spain´s stunning Taberna Desert? The plethora of brilliant cowboy movies in the 50´s and 60´s certainly made an impression on fashion at that time. Denim, suede, the hat, the boots, the plaid.. it was all back with a bang bang.
What further grabbed my attention was how this trend got pushed to the absolute MAX at this time by tailors Nudie Cohn and his protege Manuel Cuevas. These two took cowboy chic to whole new levels. They used the key elements of the Western aesthetic but double-upped the horse power, embellishing and embroidering everything, creating rocking rhinestone outfits that blew the imagination. Whether for stage or screen, all the stars got dressed by these two at some stage - Elvis, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Robert Redford, The Beatles, Elton John the list goes on and on. I immediately knew this vibe had to get on a fan! There are so many parallels between hand-fans and Nudie´s creations. They are both fun, flamboyant, extroverted, bold, great on a dance-floor and fantastic conversation starters.
With the look and feel there, it was time to illustrate the perfect designs to fit the fans. They had to be exclusively KHU KHU which called for original artwork and lots of detailing. I worked out a set of designs that portrayed four key Western themes, cowboys and their equestrian companions, the desert, stars and studs and of course, the instrument synonymous with rock´n´roll, the guitar. Symmetry always works fabulously for a fan print so the TEXAN STAR and RODEO RIDERS were based on that composition, but I wanted a freer DESERT SPARKLER, imagining a twinkling tequila-fuelled desert, full of bright and beautiful flowers. The MELODY SHAKER was heavily influenced by the embroidery of Nudie´s suits, and i was looking to achieve that same feel of a decorative motif making a pattern across the semi-circle of the fan. Working with fabulous illustrator Cristopher Mendez the compositions took shape and a beautiful set of fans was born.
¨I never let a rhinestone go unturned¨ - Dolly Parton
I knew i had to adorn the fans with rhinestones, but was made quickly aware that traditional rhinestone studding techniques using punches and claws would be impossible on the delicate cotton fabric used on fans. We also needed the fans to open and close easily so another method was required. Thanks to Swarovski´s amazing hot-fix solution, we were still able to embellish the fans. The crystals needed to be attached post mount (when the fabric has already been stuck to the fabric) This was an additional challenge, but because no one fan ever mounts exactly the same, this was the only way to go about it. The result worked really well though, studs that are heat-sealed in place and enable a smooth swoosh!
LEATHER AND STUDS
Another detail synonymous with the ranch and rodeo is leathers, studs and stitching. I love the hanging tassels used with the COOL CATS collection, and having our custom loop to hand, it seemed perfect to add hanging leather shapes, cut and stitched by the master of leathers, Jose A. Timoneda in the historic centre of El Carmen in Valencia. Taught by his grandparents Jose has worked with leather his whole life and was quick to tell me about the history of leather craftmanship in the area. Sadly, over time tourism and increased rents have converted these streets mainly into trinket shops and bike rentals, but thankfully Jose is still there, who, with the help of his (he won´t mind me saying this) pre-historic singer sewing machine, created the stars, cactuses and musical notes that adorn the collection.
The mounting of the fabric to the sticks is done by the artisan fan-making community in the outskirts of Valencia. The families here remain at the helm of fan-making in Europe following a rich history that reaches back from before the Industrial revolution (another blog specifically on Valencian fan-making coming soon) The 100% cotton fabrics we chose for this collection have a natural feel that worked perfectly with the retro-inspired collection, and i hope you agree, the resulting collection is something kind-a special!
Thanks for reading. More in fan news coming soon.