Una nueva belleza

Una nueva belleza
Una nueva belleza que sólo yo reconozco: la que brota de mi alma

jueves, 17 de diciembre de 2015

Inside the Tiny Scottish Knitwear Studio That Chanel Couldn’t Resist Mati Ventrillon knits traditional Fair Isle sweaters the old-fashioned way. That’s the allure. December 15, 2015 Nicholas Tufnell

When two Chanel representatives visited Mati 
Ventrillon’s small knitwear studio on Fair Isle in 
the summer of 2015, she was delighted to sell 
samples of her work, on the understanding they 
would be used for research purposes only. 
Six months later Chanel featured Ventrillon’s 
designs during its 2016 preview show, without 
attributing her sweaters as the main source of 
inspiration.Questioned on social media by a 
bemused Ventrillon, Chanel apologized and 
said it had unwittingly used the designs, promising 
to attribute her work “in all future communications.”
When Bloomberg visited her studio on Fair Isle 
in early December, Mati Ventrillon’s sweaters were 
not the subject of international debate. Instead of 
anger at Chanel, we found a professional working 
to keep Fair Isle’s traditional designs alive – exactly 
the same combination that made such an impression 
on two earlier visitors from one of the world’s 
great fashion houses.
Fair Isle is located off the north-eastern coast of 
Scotland, halfway between Shetland and Orkney. 
With just 55 inhabitants and about 1.5 miles 
across, it’s the most remote inhabited island in the 
United Kingdom.
Ventrillon – a French-Venezuelan designer who has 
been working on Fair Isle for eight years – lives on the 
island’s far southwestern corner. She knits and sells 
bespoke Fair Isle sweaters, continuing a tradition 
passed on by generations before her.
Her attention to detail begins with the source of her wool 
– her own  flock of sheep, which she breeds and tends to 
throughout the year.
“We use the same breed of sheep that would have been used 
here centuries ago, imported over from Shetland. In 
addition to my own, there’s a communal flock everyone 
on the island looks after.”
When her flock is shorn in the summer, the wool is 
sent to Mainland, Shetland on board the Good 
Shepherd, a small cargo vessel that delivers essentials 
to and from Fair Isle. On Mainland the wool is dyed 
and spun into reels by local spinners who have practiced 
their craft since the 1800s, before being shipped back.
Once fully stocked, Ventrillon can take orders. 
The sweaters are not cheap: an average design 
will cost about $700 and takes roughly one month 
to complete. The price can change depending on 
how much detailing is required. And there was a 
waiting list even before her recent brush with fame.
Many of the iconic patterns attributed to Fair Isle 
knitwear have evocative names, among them Muckle 
Flooers and Grunds. Ultimately, no-one fully 
understands what they mean or where they originated.
“The mystery is definitely part of the allure. This is 
also how I can detect a good Fair Isle copy from a 
bad one. The good ones understand these shapes 
are not random,” says Ventrillon.
The same can be said of the colors. Meaning is elusive, but 
it is understood that traditionally color should be bold 
and be used sparingly. Each design generally allows 
just two colors per row of knitting, with around five 
colors in total.
“Depending on what the client wants, I’m happy to 
break away from some of the historical rules around 
the patterns and colors,” Ventrillon says. “I don’t think 
this ruins the tradition. Tradition is not the rehashing 
of history. Tradition is taking what was made in the 
past and keeping it alive in the present. I think this 
leaves a lot of room for a natural evolution within 
the field, which we should embrace.”
When she’s not knitting, Ventrillon looks after her two 
young children, tends to her livestock – pigs as well as 
sheep – plants and harvests crops and contributes to 
“All of these extra things - the things that I have to 
do, that I can’t ignore - they’re all part of the reason 
why these are luxury items,” she explains. “You’re not 
only paying for the quality of the knitting, but for the 
hardship and the challenging lifestyle that is required 
to live and work off this island. And it has to be from 
this island because where else can Fair Isle knitwear 
come from, but Fair Isle?” 
On the recent encounter with Chanel, she remains positive.
“I’ve found the last few days very draining and emotionally 
exhausting, but I’ve had lots of support from social 
media and the local Shetland knitting community, 
which has been wonderful.”
She insists that money is not her aim: “There has been 
a lot of good will from Chanel since this happened. I do 
not think any of this was intentional. They have been very 
apologetic and will credit me as an inspiration. This is 
the direction I want things to be moving.
“If you want to treat craftsmanship as nothing but 
business, you will never win. That’s not what it’s about 
at all. It’s so important to be careful about where you 
place value. The value is in the skills, history and 
heritage I wish to promote and maintain. I don’t want 
to chase after Chanel’s money for a mistake they 
have made and for which they have profusely apologized.”
 Photography by Nicholas Tufnell

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