Portrait #1 Lisa Wikander, designer of Mes Dames.
Searching for ways to get closer to the origin of the product, Mes Dames designer Lisa Wikander stumbled upon a fibre that changed everything.
Mes Dames was founded in Paris 2009 and have since created biannual collections for women, with a certain attention to detail and handcraft. The brand has become appreciated for its classic lines and quality materials by women of all ages. Questioning the over consumption of wear and tear fashion was with her from the start, and now she’s ready to take it to the next level.
- I have always been reluctant to trends. I wanted to make classic collections that can be combined over the years to create a more sustainable way of building a wardrobe. However, a growing feeling inside told me that the concept of full collections every season is not a sustainable way to go. Both the environment and us as human beings need a slower pace.
So, what did you do with that feeling?
- I decided to stop making full collections every season, to scale down, and to only focus on a few timeless products that you should be able to keep your whole life.
Tell us more about the transition from full collections to your new one -product -concept.
- For me, the craft and material behind the product has always been what interests me the most in creation. I think I lost a lot of it when I made whole collections. Focusing on fewer products allows me to really make the best imaginable out of them.
How did your production chain change?
It used to be a classic setup; sourcing fabric at the big fairs and then putting collections into different productions depending on style and techniques. That made it scattered and I didn’t really feel part of the process.
I wanted to get closer to the origin of the product, produce locally and aim for the best possible handcraft and quality. In the search of this, I stumbled upon an amazing fibre that changed everything; the alpaca.
Alpaca farming is growing in Sweden thanks to the supreme qualities of the fibre; it is soft, strong and comes in a beautiful natural colour range from white to black with beige and brown tones. We sourced the best alpaca farms around Sweden, visiting them and hand picked our favourite natural shades, starting with a black, beige and grey.
How did you proceed?
We bought the wool from several farms, then sorted, rinsed and blended it by hand to get the shades we wanted. After that Båvens spinnhus, one of the few remaining filatures in Sweden, spun it into yarn. There’s no dyeing of the wool or yarn, the colours are the natural shades of the alpacas, which means that it preserves its natural lustre, and that it will not bleach like dyed wool. Dyeing is a polluting process that I’m glad to skip.
What did you do of that yarn?
The result is the Laura, my idea of the perfect jumper; a rib knit with a straight silhouette and tailored details. The jumpers are then knit by professional craftswomen in Tartu, Estonia.
How did you decide on what product to make?
I wanted to make a garment that anyone could wear; a jumper is one of the wardrobe staples. A warm and elegant jumper is such a useful garment as you can pair it with anything.
How is your creative process?
I’m happy to turn things around and start with the material and crafting process. The characteristics of the fibre, the knitting technique, how the garment should feel,.. all these factors then develop into details and shapes in the creative process.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by all things beautiful in general, may it be art, interiors, or just a shape or material. I also find inspiration in women around me, and that was the concept and the start of MES DAMES which actually means My ladies in French. In this interview series we will continue to explore the many brilliant minded and elegantly dressed women that inspire us.
What drives you?
My mission is to show the idea of how clothes should be treated - not as short lived trend products, but as quality garments with a proper purpose. The basic process of taking a raw material and turning it into something useful interests me, and I think we need to get closer to that if we are to live in a more sustainable way.