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Of Samurais and Girls

Knitwear designer Laura Theiss is showcasing her brand new collection inspired by samurai girls at the On|Off Showroom, during Paris Fashion Week.

Growing up in Lithuania in a house decorated with knitted pillows, tablecloths, toys and pictures, studying in Germany and then at London’s Central Saint Martins, definitely had an impact on Laura Theiss’ designs. Having learnt to knit and crochet when she was very young, as she grew up Theiss took her knowledge of traditional handicraft techniques further, applying it to the modern shapes and silhouettes of her designs.

Theiss’ new collection shows the young designer couldn’t be further away from the domestic bliss evoked by classic knitting: inspired by samurais. She created innovative yet wearable knits characterised by an usual mix of colours and textures. The traditional kaori is turned into a soft knitted jacket with an armour-like rib patterned motif while the tassels that adorn samurai swords are applied to a skirt to create three-dimensional multi-coloured effects. Strongly themed and visually powerful, the collection combines feminine silhouettes with inventive construction, embellishment and colour.  

Dazed Digital: Did you find it challenging developing the knitting techniques for the new designs?
Laura Theiss: This is my first collection after finishing Central Saint Martins and I feel it’s very special, it was definitely intriguing, exciting and joyful working on it. For this new collection I settled to develop completely different techniques: I spent most of the time working on mannequin rather then designing on paper and treated my knitwear as if it were a piece of fabric, coming up with tailored garments and pushing my shapes to new levels, but making sure at the same time that the knitwear remained comfortable and protective. I think knitwear is an exciting medium to express yourself in since it doesn’t put any limits to your creativity, and it’s also an addictive medium: I have just finished working on this collection, but I’m genuinely looking forward to focusing already on the next Spring/Summer season.
DD: Who is the samurai girl you chose as the main inspiration for this collection?
Laura Theiss: She’s a feminine, modern and post-feminist woman who wears garments that make her feel empowered. In the designs I tried to mix the armoured details with softer elements and motifs in a very natural way. My friends are making jokes about me, saying that I’m turning into a samurai girl myself, but I guess that you have to live the life of the person you are dressing and feel their mood to create a successful collection.

DD: What kind of yarns did you use for this collection?
Laura Theiss: The fifteen garments that are included in the collection are all made in cashmere and wool with some metallic yarns thrown in the mix. My signature pleats and tassels are still present, but all these details look very wearable. The colours are wintry, so the palette revolves around grey, brown, blue and black tones with bright shades of vivid colours that create contrasts and give the garments a womanly touch.   

DD: You developed some of the pieces in your new collection with a little factory located in Italy: did you find it difficult to let go of your designs and entrust them in the hands of a company? 
Laura Theiss: The Italian factory I am collaborating with is very small. I made them crazy with my unusual wishes, but it was also very interesting to discover the new possibilities offered by this collaboration and seeing how my billowing pleats were translated into optical illusions. The two ladies working there are very passionate about knitwear and their business is family-led so they always make you feel very welcomed. They have already invited me to stay longer with them to make my next collection and I hope I’ll be able to keep this “Made in Italy” label for as long as possible.

DD: Would you like to experiment in future with any special materials or blends? 
Laura Theiss: Yes, I will try out different yarn weights and structures, in fact at the moment I’m researching into exciting knitwear and see if I can experiment with high-tech materials. My dissertation was about the use of high-tech fabrics in the fashion industry and I think it would be interesting to do further researches into the applications of nanotechnology to knitwear.

DD: Would you like to develop a knitwear collection also for men?
Laura Theiss: The day will come for a menswear collection. I do have quite a few male friends in fact who are asking for a knitted piece and I feel I already know what kind of man I will design for, a bad boy, a sort of boxer.

DD: How do you feel about showcasing your work in Paris?
Laura Theiss: It’s a dream: even the words “showing in Paris” sound like magic to me. I feel honoured, though it also makes me nervous!

Laura Theiss’s new collection will be presented at Paris’s On|Off Showroom from 4th to 10th March and at London’s Alternative Fashion Week, from 19th to 23rd April.

Photographer: Sean Collymore
Stylist: Claudia Behnke
Styling Assistance: Irene Manicone and Tanya Gohil
Make-up and Hair: Elizabeth Hsieh
Model: Gana@Profile