The story of Kirsin


19th March 2015
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Kirsin serape
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My aunt in Lahore (before the Partition of India), 1940s

What's in a name?

 

That’s a long story!

 

I'd like to introduce you to some of my design inspiration, for one of my most popular collections. This design has come a long way, 'woodcock' has evolved into kirsin - in the serape and a jacket - and we’ve just launched more than a dozen new colourways.

 

My mantra is ‘more is more’ as far as colourways go and - with apologies to all of you who have tried to tempt me into the sensible practice and benefits in working with a more limited colour choice - that’s not likely to change!

 

Scroll on for the full story.

Niela

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Woodcock feathers

The starting point

 

The original textile design was formerly known as woodcock.

 

I am fascinated by camouflage. I am interested in how we react to our environment and how we feel within it.

 

Camouflage can make you be seen or unseen.

 

In many collections I use animal coverings as a visual starting point in the textile design development.

 

In fact many of my collections originally had working names related to birds or animals.

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An early version of kirsin (then called 'woodcock')

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kirsen
adj - proper, decent; fit to eat or wear. I wiss du wid wap yon joopie awa: hit's no kirsen to be seen.

 

We gleaned ‘kirsin’ from John Graham’s Shetland Dictionary definition of kirsen - proper, decent; fit to eat or wear – and it all began with a woodcock and a sari.

 

developing the textile

 

Naming the collections was probably the most traumatic part of the whole design development process. I was so attached to my working textile names I took some convincing to change them.  My work however is so hugely intertwined with the place I live, I aim to capture the essence of all that is Shetland to me. So now I love the romantic, rustic Shetland ring to my names.

 

Kirsin originally featured the colours of a woodcock with the pattern chosen to mimic the way the feathers fell on the wings. I experimented with lots of fibres - the one pictured (far left) uses finer fibres as one of the colours.

 

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My Grandmother, Bibiji, (left) in a sari at a wedding in New Delhi, 1960s

the sari

 

The fabric is only, of course, a part of the whole.  The garment design is equally important.

 

I’m interested in primitive dress, and the importance of function in clothing.  Additionally, I’ve always been fascinated by traditional dress, especially the simplicity in one piece of textile used for say a kilt or poncho.

 

I have travelled in India. My father was from India and I’ve been captivated by the sari since childhood – I could never understand how it stayed on without being pinned!  The colours, the drape, the beauty - for me, the sari is a wonderful example of perfect design.

 

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My family in Lahore, 1940s

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Kirsin serape
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The kirsin serape

 

The kirsin and veeve serapes are based on a sari, the way it wraps, drapes and the key component - using your own sense of style to wear it. 

 

For the most part, my designs are unadorned and unembellished leaving you to create the look and feel you want.

 

In my mind, the beauty of the style is the connection between the garment and the wearer – each of you will use your own aesthetic to dress yourself in a way that makes you feel happiest in your own surroundings.

 

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