⟨ Craft ⟩

To make truly good clothes

Beely Daily

Words / Jas Tse
Photography / Beely Daily
Translation / Iris Heung

生活裡的一片凌亂,把它梳,梳走了毛絮,又或有一些會留在纖維上,隨著時光變得毛茸茸,常觸碰的則磨薄了,光滑了。

Grace和阿浩,一起經營過六年網店,從外地採購也販售一些古著。「剛開始幾年都順利的,我們就順著走,從中慢慢學。學習衣服、學習呈現、學習表達、學習學習。慢慢就遇到瓶頸了,因為那個自我愈來愈成形。」發覺現成的衣服無法對應內在,原來有更多美好需要靠自己創作才能觸及。「那時候就開始學造衫,愈造得多,就愈清楚我們想走這條路。」

Life can feel chaotic sometimes. Even if you try to comb through the mess and clear up the obstacles, the residues of life’s woes just accrue naturally. With time, these marks of our past may be buried away, or even smoothed out when being over-exposed.

Grace and Ho have spent six years running their online shop that sold clothes and vintage pieces they bought from abroad. “The first few years were pretty smooth. We just went with the flow and learned along the way. We studied about clothes, presentation, communication, and we studied about how to learn effectively too. We reached a bottleneck soon after the honeymoon period was over, as our self-identity began to take shape,” the two realized that ready-made clothes were not sufficient for their own self-expression. There were plenty more beautiful things out there that could only be achieved by producing something from scratch. “So we began to learn to make clothes. The more we made, the more we became certain of our direction.”

於是小樹在成長,絮語沿著成長的速度變得明瞭。他們開始製作能時常穿、一直穿下去的日常服。蒐羅品質優良的天然棉麻和亞麻布,跟用心的本地辦房合作,從布匹到布片,一片片帶到裁縫手中,再一雙手一台衣車,漸漸縫紉心中理想。他們常說:常用的東西要簡單,簡單的東西要用心。

用心交到了客人手中,又如此度過了一年,再初嘗了天然染,而起點就是幾乎每天都吃的牛油果。牛油果的皮和核有豐富的類胡蘿蔔素,一種天然有機色素,在適度調節下,便能染出淡粉淡紅。每片粉紅都不同,每一種都無法命名,只是很美,很柔和,讓人想一看再看。

The seed of their creativity sprouted and has fast grown into a small but strong tree that guides them to the right path. The two started to make casual clothes that never go out of style. Using quality cotton and linen fabric, the duo collaborates with dedicated local seamstresses to produce apparel samples that can fully illustrate their ideas in mind. Grace and Ho both believe everyday items should have a simple design, and simple items need to be made with a dedicated mind.

After starting this project for a year, the duo had their first attempt with natural dye using avocado, which they eat almost every day. The skin and core of an avocado fruit are very rich in carotene, which provides a natural pigment that can be used as a light pink color dye after being treated. The pink color varies in shades. It is difficult to define the pinkness, but all its shades are so beautiful, tender, and indulging to look at.

Illustration by Kinchoi Lam

「基本上做什麼都覺得有趣呢,學習新知識本來就有趣,學習喜歡的就更有趣了。學得愈多愈發現更多不懂,然後又繼續學啊。」從前是文科生的他們,也沒想過有天會因為天然染而閱讀那麼多化學資訊,還請教了朋友基本化學知識,好讓自己在網路探索時不會迷失。「讀完又會外出拾花回來試驗,不同的結果都有不同的滿足感。」二人最近便在河邊拾到了滿地木棉,歷經幾回小型化學實驗之後,最終染出了溫柔淡紫。三月春時落花餘下的,是木棉原來的橘紅,卻能染成另一種姿態,隨著花期成了限定。

“We essentially found every task interesting. Learning is in itself an interesting thing to do, we thus felt particularly blessed when learning something that we are interested in. The more we learn, the more we become aware of how much we don’t know. Then, in turn, we just continue to learn more and more.” Both of them were students of the arts stream back in high school. It was to both of their surprises that they started reading about chemistry to research on natural dye. They even reached out to friends for the guidance of chemistry to make sure they were doing their online learning the right way. “After reading, we would pick up some flowers and try putting our learnings into practice. The different experiment results have been giving us different types of satisfaction.” They recently picked up a lot of kapok flowers near the riverside and used them in several rounds of experiments until they acquired a light and gentle purple dye. The flowers were orangey red in color when they fell off the trees in March, but it could magically become a purple dye after being treated. This is truly a seasonal special that can only be made in early spring.

「有說『染』字拆開來就是染色方法:以水煮木,萃取色素,重複九次,方能把色素染在布料上。九是個虛數,實際意指很多次,重重複複的。」

以前總怕衣服折舊得很快,但天然布料大概像日本人說的養陶,隨著使用層疊出痕跡。用天然布造的衣服在經過一遍遍洗滌後,觸感會更立體,反而令人更期待它的變化,因為表情、皺褶與色落都有自己一個模樣。這就是天然的珍貴吧,無分好壞,就只是有所改變,讓人記住了每段時間。

“There is a saying that 染, the Chinese character of ‘dye’ is itself a graphical depiction of the process of dyeing. First, you boil wood in water to extract pigment and repeat the process nine times before the pigment can be used as a dye to be applied to fabrics. ‘Nine times’ is not an actual number, this is just to illustrate the idea of repeating for many times.”

I used to take extra good care of my clothes to prevent them from getting worn and torn, but natural fabrics are similar to Japanese ceramics; the traces of being used would only add character to its style. The form and color of the natural fabric can get more distinctive after being washed and folded. This makes me always look forward to seeing how it would evolve into a unique personality. This is precisely the gift of nature, which goes beyond the binary of good and bad. All that matters is the change that can remind you of a certain memory.

「之前在學習怎去造一件衣服,現在學習為什麼要這樣造一件衣服。」想好看耐穿,便要仔細描畫細節,靠近看時才能一樣感動。「然而好的衣服,背後還有很大的世界,藏著更多美好等我們呈現。譬如棉花怎樣種出來,種出來後怎樣紡織成紗線布匹,顏色怎樣染,來到我們這邊布匹又怎樣製成衣服,對於環境是否帶著善意,又有否剝削誰。當深究過這些細節後,我們便很想盡力做好的衣服。」

“We used to learn how to make clothes, now we are learning why we have to make clothes this way.” To make apparel that is pretty and durable, crafting details are essential. This piece of clothing needs to be charming when you look at it very closely. “There is a lot to explore behind each piece of nice clothing. There are many beautiful stories that we can tell with clothes. Farming of cotton, weaving yarn into fabric, dyeing the fabric into different colors, sewing fabrics into clothes… all of these processes need to take the environment into consideration. We also need to consider if there is any kind of labor exploitation involved. After delving into all these topics, we were even more determined to make truly good clothes.”