Audrey Charles, the Creative Director behind fashion label Metiseko, talks cultural inspiration, textile designing and respecting local artisans
Prior to your post as Creative Director at Metiseko, you also worked in interior and furniture design. What drew you to the world of textile art and fashion designing? How are the two industries different and similar?
I studied textile design with a major in print creation, which opens up a lot of opportunities. Prints are not only found on textile; they are omnipresent on a wide range of materials such as ceramic, stone, lacquer, brass, wood, etc. In Vietnam, they are also prevailing in lots of crafts and products made of woven materials like rattan, sea grass, bamboo, etc., which connects textile design and interior design. Thus, I’ve also worked with interior design brands as a print designer. It was an enriching experience because it allows for many different approaches with endless possibilities, especially when working with three-dimensional objects.
What makes the two fields different is volume. To create the impression of volume on a 2D surface in textile, designers have to come up with different types of graphic treatments.
Textile design and design, in general, is everywhere but we oftentimes don’t think about the people who create these omnipresent parts of our lives. Can you walk us through the process of designing a pattern?
It’s true that the textile design sphere is unknown and overlooked by most consumers, although it represents a considerable share of the creative fashion process. In its simplified terms, the steps are: inspiration, research, ideation, concept, sketching, coloring, print repeat composition, technical package for supplier and sampling.
Textile design is one of the key elements that sets Metiseko apart because our fabrics cannot be found elsewhere. Therefore, this plays a big role in the information we communicate to our customers, so that they understand the uniqueness of the fabrics and the story that each one of them tells about Vietnam.
Metiseko’s brand identity is strongly linked to Vietnam’s culture and identity, how is this reflected in its textiles and collection?
Metiseko tells stories about Vietnam; it’s about anecdotes referring to things we experienced. Our creative process comes from the surrounding elements, traditions, culture and details that make up this country. Vietnam has a strong impact on our thematic prints, colors and graphics.
How do you ensure you are honoring their cultural significance when using them in your collection?
We make a point to sticking to reality, to inquire about the subject we deal with in order to highlight and respect culture and traditions. There is a respectful transformation and recognition of traditional cultural expressions that are evident in our prints and company ethics.
Metiseko partners with one of the last silk hand screen-printing workshop in Central Vietnam for all its silk items. How did you find them and why choose this traditional method when digital screen-printing is available and faster?
Metiseko aims to showcase local savoirfaire and that is why we make a point of working with local artisans who are still using traditional hand printing techniques. While digital printing may be faster, it is more expensive and we find the finish of the colors less interesting than hand screen-printing.
Working closely with skillful artisans that are fighting to sustain their livelihood is very important to us. Each step is managed by skilled artisans who have a keen eye, which is an important aspect of quality control. These artisans have often spent several years honing their craft to ensure the perfect final product. It’s a way of paying tribute to the Vietnamese heritage.
What media/design tools do you like to use? What are your go-to-sources for design inspiration?
For research I use Pinterest and for general trends I browse digital channel NOWNESS and Instagram. Blogs such as printpattern.blogspot.com, patternbank.com, www.creativeboom.com, www.itsnicethat.com and www.dazeddigital.com are great online resources, too. For runway inspiration I go to Vogue, Elle, NowFashion and The Cut along with French magazine ETAPES and the French press.
Favorite tool you use in your creative practice?
Always a notebook and felt pen because hand sketching remains a key component of the creative process.
What are the best things about working as a designer in Vietnam?
I would say it’s the constant inspiration the country has to offer, especially being able to work with diverse local talents and artisans who are experts in their field—this allows us to explore different techniques in both fashion and production. Seeing the country’s booming art scene evolve is also a great experience for a designer here.
Artists and designers who inspire you?
There are too many to list, however, some names that come to mind are Baskia, the Bouroullec brothers, Egon Schiele, Marimekko, Rothko, Daniel Henri Studio, Zika Ascher as well as plenty of unknown local artists.
What type of materials do you prefer to work with?
As much as possible, sustainable materials, natural, local and recycled. I personally also have a strong interest in textile innovation such as high tech textile.
What would you describe as the most significant development in contemporary textiles within the last five years, especially in Vietnam?
The most significant by far is the recent rising awareness on sustainability in the production process in the textile and garment industries. It triggers a strong reaction within the fashion community as a whole—it’s a big step forward.
What prints and colors do you see becoming more popular in the future? Gingham, camo, something we might not expect?
Fashion is a never-ending cycle; old trends will always make a comeback as mainstream trends. I would say extra large-scale prints and stripes, ethnic-inspired prints and the abolishment of boundaries between fashion fabrics and upholstery fabric are part of the upcoming trends. Also look out for unexpected mix and match prints.
What are your current favorite print and pattern trends right now in fashion?
Oversized and bold graphic prints.
Metiseko prides itself on being a sustainable fashion brand, any tips on being a more conscious fashion consumer?
Answering this question is very complex and it’s not all black or white. Like in The Legend of the Hummingbird by Pierre Rabhi, we think that making a small difference matters.
How many collections are launched per year or are there no limits to the collections?
Metiseko follows the slow fashion movement, as opposed to the current fast-fashion trend. This means that we do not necessarily follow the same cycles that are common in the fashion industry. Within a year, we aim at launching 2 collections, one main collection (50 to 80 references) and 1 capsule collection (25 to 30 references).
How long does it typically take from concept to finished collection in store?
It is a lengthy process that encompasses textile design, fashion design, printing, sampling, producing, etc., therefore it can take anywhere from six to eight months to complete.
It is worth noting that although creating a new collection takes time, this is counterbalanced by the fact that Metiseko products have a longer lifecycle than the industry average. As long as we have sufficient fabrics on hand and that demand sustains, we keep on producing. By doing so, we avoid “scraping”, which is a common practice in the fashion industry to make room for the next collection.
What are you currently working on?
We are working on a new print and fashion collection to be launched in the upcoming months. We are also expanding the area dedicated to Metiseko within Tanmy Design in Hanoi, where we will start selling the latest silk collection, Sống, later in October. Metiseko will showcase its collection at the upcoming Vietnam International Fashion Week in Hanoi. It is a big project in the making because VIFW is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and this will mark Metiseko’s first participation.
We are also currently working on the concept for a new website and online shop that will also be launched in the near future, to ensure that the design is more consistent with the brand image and to offer an optimized shopping experience to our customers.
Last, but not least, we are working closely with our business partners on expanding Metiseko retail outlets at airports throughout Vietnam. A Metiseko corner will soon open inside the international terminal in HCMC.
For more info on Metiseko, visit metiseko.com
Images Provided by Metiseko