As we enter the season of “sweater weather”, designer Rachel Garcia creates knitwear pieces that are all about embodying the warmth of a summer's day. Her pieces however will most definitely not keep you warm in the traditional sense, instead they convey a sense of warmness through their pastel colors and feminine silhouettes. Playing with the idea of comfort associated with knitwear, Rachel's collection, Ephemera. Floss, is rooted in warmth not through its tactile body, but through its intentions.
Earlier this year when Rachel was presenting her final collection at the Parsons Fashion Show, I had the opportunity to walk in one of her pieces. It was during this time I fell in love with the Ephemera. Floss collection and Rachel’s vision when it came to knitwear. Her garments seemed to exist between the dichotomies of sheer yet warm, delicate but sturdy, translucent while still full coverage. I spoke with Rachel about her new collection, what inspired her process, and what she’s working on next in knitwear.
Winter is here, sweater weather is here, and it made me think about your work and how it’s such a unique take on knitwear. It isn't very chunky or “warm” in the traditional sense when we think about a full knitwear garment. What was the intention with the Ephemera. Floss collection?
For this collection I was actually inspired by a poem that I read by the painter Florine Stettheimer:
I broke the glistening spider web
That held a lovely ephemere
I freed its delicate legs and wings
Of all the sticky untidy strings
It stayed with me a whole summer’s day
Then it simply flew away-
Definitely for this collection I wanted to embody a warm summer's day. Being in an open, grassy, sunny area, and just really playful. Really feminine with the silhouettes and colors.
Why knitwear? What made you want to focus your collection on knitwear?
I think I like the idea of making the textile myself. I'm not a big cut and sewer on the sewing machine. I took a class, machine knitting, and fell in love with the idea that not only do I get to make the garments myself, I also get to make the textile. It’s a meditative practice of just sitting at the machine. I still cut and sew but it’s not really the same process and I don't receive the same amount of joy as knitting.
I had seen on your Instagram that you had posted a picture of one of your dresses hung up on a window and there was sunlight streaming through it, casting this beautiful pink glow throughout the room…
Yeah, I definitely like having pieces on people but also really appreciate them in my mind as just objects. Hanging them up against a window, I’ve done that with every piece I've made from this collection because I loved how it looked and it was another way to bring the idea of “warmth” into play.
What is your process like? Do you go in with a specific vision for how a garment is going to look or how long a piece might take to knit?
I rarely do any planning before. I don’t sketch, I don't calculate any pattern making. I just start knitting. I feel like I’m mostly inspired by a recent practice with draping. So a lot of the shapes and the colors come from me knitting and taking them to a dress form and seeing where does a color lay on the body or how does a shape fit or form to the body. It’s always very freeform and seeing where it goes.
It is a quick process once I actually get all the panels ready. The technique I was using in this collection specifically, of creating these “bubbly” textures, each one was hand knotted. That doubles the time of any knit panel that I do.
You’ve also created a few wedding knitwear pieces! Wedding and knitwear is a combination that I’ve personally never seen done. What's your vision with meshing wedding-wear and knitwear?
I really love weddings. I love going to people’s weddings and being a part of them. Some of the pieces were inspired by very non-traditional wedding wear because I feel like a lot of wedding wear has a very similar vibe. I wanted to completely change the idea of what a bride could wear to a wedding. I was also incorporating found pieces, like vintage objects with the knit pieces and I'm going to base this next mini collection off that.
I’m still working on the collection. I’m hoping to photograph it in the Spring of 2024.
Do you want to work with knitwear beyond garments? What are some things you’ve knit that are not fashion related?
Another area I want to explore is knit decor/ home goods. I've been working on knitting and crocheting faces as well as playing around with draping my knit swatches as curtains. I think that’s a direction I really want to explore. One without the human body, just creating a space of knitwear.
What do you hope people take away from your pieces? What emotions or feelings do you aim to evoke from people who come into contact with your work?
I would want people to come away with a feeling of warmth and joy. Those are the two biggest words I’ve used throughout my entire collection. The softness but also the bright colors. It’s not apologetic but it's still soft and feminine. Even someone who says this might not be their personal style, they can tell that I had fun creating it. It evokes that warmth and that joy to both someone that looks at it or someone that wears it.
Follow Rachel's work as she continues to create and explore the boundaries of femininity and knitwear.
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