A Revolution in Sustainable Fashion
BY MARY E. FETZK0
Czech designer Iva Pfeiffer held an exclusive fashion show at the residence of Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmonitek and his wife Indira Gumarova on September 12 in Washington, previewing her newest collection TRANSLATIONS: Design Moving Between Cultures, which will he featured at Milan Fashion Week later this month.
"I want to create wearable art," says tva Pfeiffer, who graduated last year from Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Sydney Australia.
Already, she has made a name for herself at New York Fashion Week and as one of only fifteen designers throughout the world chosen for a Master Class at the Arts of Fashion Foundation in Paris in 2014.
At the residence, fifteen multicultural models strutted down the grand staircase showcasing 20 garments in indigo blue, white and silver, ranging from jumpsuits, to cocktail and evening wear, in the spring/ summer 1018 collection.
When asked about the collection, Iva stated, “I was looking into a line between haute couture and ready-to-wear: garments that are handcrafted, hand-dyed and hand-embroidered — so luxurious in that sense for me in this contemporary world and the textile industry."
Iva's label, Iva Pfeiffer Creations, is renowned for luxe fabrics, small runs, intricate designs and the ethical supply chain at the forefront of an emerging new trend. Her collection is targeted for “confident women, who are not brand-oriented, who like the individual look and appreciate the craftsmanship behind it.”
Originally, Iva wanted to be a nurse, while her parents hoped she would take over their tailoring shop in the Czech Republic. Although well-disciplined in custom made tailoring, she saw no creativity in the profession earlier; revealing, "I didn't want to return to the village and take over my parents' business, so I worked in multiple jobs in hospitality, as an assistant nurse, in a convalescent home, cleaning, babysitting, anything which gave me an income."
I met my husband while studying English in Australia. He had a contract to work for a year in Japan, so I followed him there and studied kimono making and sewing, and that is what changed my life..." she added.
Her newest collection roots this influence in evening dresses and suits, which have kimono features to them.
Exploring the creative part of the textile industry in Japan and Fashion in general was important to me. The art and craft there just blew my mind and that is why using influences of Orientalism from a [Western] point of view was imperative — the kimono, obi belt and Mandarin colors. I would like to believe that I will have the 'kimono signature' in my work," she declared.
Each piece maintains an authentic uniqueness. "All my garments are originals. After this runway, most likely I will place a production of this range using the same patterns but differentiate features of each garment using a different print, embroidery and color.”
In addition to making wearable art, Iva strives to create sustainable, environmentally friendly designs. She studied sustainability at the university, completing a semester abroad in Shanghai, China. While in China, she visited a variety of factories to address her concern about some of the production there. “I wanted to prove to myself and gain the strength to stand up for environmentally friendly design practices and be socially responsible. While there, I was crying every time I left a factory.”
After visiting these warehouses and seeing the conditions, she decided to focus on small scale rather than mass production of her work.
"Each garment will be original and ecologically friendly. Having that knowledge of where the fabrics come from and how they are made is critical because, at the end of the day, I really need to be personally satisfied with my work."
Furthermore, concerning textiles, Iva said, “I always like to work with natural fibers not just in view of being a sustainable designer, but also because I love the protein fibers as they drape beautifully: silk, wool, linen..." In Translations, she primary uses silk, which accentuates the pigment of the dye.
The collection itself highlights block printing and textile designs of Czech artist Pella Valentová, who Iva happened to meet while doing an exhibition in New York. Petra invited her to the Indian village of Bagru, where she immersed herself in the traditional techniques of hand dying and woodblock printing, inspired by the rich histories in India and the Czech Republic.
“We collaborated on the fabrics and natural dyes and the block print in India...and I´ve seen how much she has helped sustain local communities. It was essential to support her by purchasing her fabrics and moreover, promoting them."
Iva hails from a region in the Czech Republic called Moravia, known for its indigo, blue print modrotisk used in the traditional folk outfit called kroj. Instead of letting the tradition of these patterns die, she wanted to see the craft taken even further.
“I think that Petra is trying to make sure that there will be new block prints which would have maybe similar aesthetics but are a little more contemporary" the indigo dyes of the Czech and Indian block printing ate similar, but the Czech pigment is darker and finer. 'And yet," Iva said, "I like both...I really like both. It's more about supporting the local artisans so that they can still maintain their creative art and craft from one generation to another - to preserve its culture and history."
Iva pays keen attention to every aspect of the process to make sure that the art is being featured and employees are not exploited. Most likely I know that I will have production in India because I have found a factory there that I can trust and I've seen the workers. I've actually worked with them.”
Originally, Iva hoped all production could possibly be in Australia where she currently resides, but the cost proved to be too much. "Customizing will be in Australia and production will most likely be in India because otherwise it would be very hard to compete in the market.”
Iva believes in supporting the local communities of artisans, utilizing old and new techniques, and having high standards for working conditions. She hopes to keep jobs for artisans alive.
“To me it's like experiencing another industrial revolution," she said.
The fashion show was a prelude to the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017- Gregor Mendel, focusing on the inspirations between Czech and American Cultures. For upcoming festival events, please visit vonv.mutualinspirations.org