Fashion designers Carasan chat to Snippets about their art and business.
Carasan is an internationally renowned, family run fashion business, specialising in knitwear. Mother and daughter design duo Terri and Cassandra spoke to Snippets.
What first attracted you to the medium of knitwear?
(Terri & Cassandra) Knitting is a family tradition. Fashion, in general, is a tradition, going back hundreds of years to our British and Irish roots. And all were independent designers. So what else would we do?
At the end of the day, Knitwear is what we love most. It allows you to do so much more than other mediums. And unlike sewing, knitting is like weaving; you not only create the design, but the fabric as well. You can manipulate the fibre in so many ways and it works well in so many styles. You are limited only by your own imagination. We also love the intimate relationship a knitter has with the fibre; it is very hands on. We love it to the point of compulsion.
Is there a special significance or meaning to the name Carasan?
(Terri) Yes. It is the combination of two family names. Cara, my oldest daughter and Cassandra's older sister. And Cassandra's nickname, San, combine to make Carasan. It is a family design house, so it needed a family name. Cassandra likes it; so we went with that.
Your pieces, in my opinion, often reflect natural forms. Is this
something you would agree with? And if so, what other sources of
inspiration do you have?
(Terri) Nature is a big part of what inspires us. We are both into gardens and love the outdoors. We love to shoot nature in all seasons. So we pay close attention to how nature mixes colours, how plants grow, and how flowers look and take shape. Lace work is inspired by spider webs and Cassandra's favourite, Queen Ann's Lace. We blend these ideas into our work. Deep sea life as well as architecture, art from the Deco and Art and crafts era has additionally impacted how we look at fashion. Lastly, it is history. Cassandra loves the Edwardian and Victorian contributions to fashion. You can see its influence in our work.
Do you consider your work to be art, fashion or a mixture of both?
(Cassandra) We would say both. An example would be of our handmade corsets. We hand embellish them much as you would a mixed medium canvas, or a fine tapestry.
Our hand dyed silks are just that; hand dyed. We don't use a machine to dye the fabric or fibre; we use our hands or a paintbrush to create a look. At the same time the garments need to be functional and stylish and that is where fashion comes into play. We try to create designs that will last for years, that will add to a wardrobe and not end up at the back of a closet or in the giveaway pile.
What processes do you go through to get from initial idea to
(Terri) Cassandra has always been the Creative Director for Carasan. She starts with this overall feeling she wants us to create for a season. Then she posts images she has collected, poems, colours, bits of fabric or even old wallpaper, and then I add to the board. I work on sketches and post them and at the end of the processes we have a collection. I work on the 1st samples and most of the time we are both happy. Sometimes we need to tweak a garment until we are happy with it, so we could end up with a few samples. From start to finish it could take a few days to a few weeks or more to get what makes us happy with the finished garment.
In your opinion, what makes the perfect piece of knitwear?
(Cassandra) Oh, that's an easy one. The perfect piece of knitwear is one that can be worn season after season. You can dress it up or dress it down. It has a timeless style, is made well as are hand knits and you never want to take it off.
You work as a duo. Do you think having two people working together
enhances the creative process, and your work?
(Terri) It helps to work in a team, as there is a give and take to the process that you do not get when you work alone. We work well together so it works for us. All big design companies have teamwork. Outside of traditional couture houses, this is how design is done. For us it takes all of the pressure off of one person. And two heads are really better than one. For us having two generations helps as well. I look at style in one way; Cassandra in another, blending our ideas together just makes sense to us.
Do you ever disagree over how a piece or a collection should look?
If so, how do you resolve this?
(Terri) It does happen sometimes; not a lot, but it does happen. I normally let her have her say.
(Cassandra) This is true, however she normally is right about a garment and what we can or cannot do. I will give you an example of that, it is a funny story that we still joke about. We were putting together one of our first collections, and there was a beautiful pink silk blouse we were working on. Terri had been draping the blouse all day and I was tweaking it as she worked. As the evening came, she was sewing the blouse and it looked great on the dress form. Then around 10:00 P.M., I went into the sewing room and saw the finished sample. She had changed the pieces a bit. So we talked and I said that I wanted it back the other way. She was not happy, but she said she would redo the whole blouse. She stayed up all night working and I went to bed. I got up the next day and looked at the blouse; she had fallen asleep on the sewing room daybed. My mom had worked all night long remaking it. When she got up, I told her it did look better the way she had made it and that she should change it back. Boy was she upset about that. She remade it again and it is still one of my favourite pieces. We now work on how it will look before we go though all of that. She may let me have the last say, but she knows best in the end. It comes down to respect, it just works.
Do you have any advise for aspiring knitwear designers?
(Terri) First, the fashion industry is not all fun and games; it is a lot of hard work, long hours and little pay, at the start. As an independent designer it may take many, many years to really make a living even if you have a great reputation in the industry. If you can, go to a design school and learn about design work, but more importantly how to be a business person. If you can't go to school, learn everything you can, read everything you can and work on your craft. If you have a chance to work as an intern for a designer, take it. You may not get paid, but you will learn skills and make contacts. You may even be able to turn the internship into a paid job. Do not copy another designer's work, ever! Be original; find your voice as a designer.
(Cassandra) If you live in a small town or even a large urban area, try selling at a flea market or see if there is a young designer's market. Sell to your friends and get them to carry business cards for you, so if someone asks about the piece they are wearing they can contact you to have something made. Don't give up and just do it, if that is what you really want to do. Just remember it is hard work.
What is next for Carasan?
(Terri) Well there are a few things that we are doing with Carasan. We are working on our first knitwear book. We hope to have it finished for next summer so that knitters can have it for their fall knitting projects. We are self publishing on a site called Blurb. So we are looking forward to that getting done. We are also working on re-launching a full collection for fall-winter 2010-2011 seasons. It will be a limited edition collection as we have done in the past. In the last few years we concentrated on our accessory line. But we feel it is time to go back to what we love; a collection of beautiful garments, at a price point that reflects the times in which we are living and with more organic fibres.
Cassandra) The collection will be inspired by one of my favourite times and is classic Carasan in style; the Edwardians living in the countryside of England and France. It will be a fun collection to work on. We call it "Weekend at Chateau DuVall" in tribute to our DuVall ancestors. Right now we are also having our accessory line carried in a new boutique in Jersey. This is the first time our line has been carried anywhere in Europe and we are happy that it was in the UK as our family hails from all over Great Britain. By spring you will see a collection of dresses and samples from seasons past on our website and Etsy.
(Terri) We just want to keep doing what we love and are happy that we make our clients happy at the same time. That is all we can ask for, happy clients who feel beautiful when they wear one of our creations.
You can find out more about Carasan at their website and their Etsy shop. Their accessory line is also stocked at L'Arc en Ciel, Shop 2 Don House, Don Street,
St. Helier, Jersey.
Learn how to sew a gorgeous Carasan designer, Ribbon Bib Necklace.