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Off the Loom

Our Design Journal

Point of View: Artisan and Machine

“While we don’t exclusively focus on trends we are always observing how the world is changing and as a result what’s next in art, design and fashion.  Attending international shows, scouring flea markets, exploring the latest art exhibitions and observing the latest runway shows are all part of our design process so we stay fresh and relevant.” – Roxanne Hanna, Merida’s Creative Director.

One of the broad cultural trends we are seeing is the merging of technology with traditional forms of making to create design houses and brands that are exceptionally flexible but still put quality and integrity first.

The fact that a rug is woven using a machine shouldn’t necessarily decrease its value versus a handwoven rug. We believe in utilizing the best parts of hand and machine; we maintain the quality of handmade products with the efficiency and capabilities of specialized looms. When used as artisanal tools, machines only expand upon what skilled craftsmen can do.

Merida Loom

The joining of man and machine is occurring throughout art and fashion communities as an alternative to mass production and outsourcing. Li Edelkoort of trend forecasting group Trend Union was quoted in a recent Dwell article:


Edelkoort highlights the machine as companion, with emphasis on the machine’s potential as a made-to-measure tool. Rather than being replaced by machines, designers are using them as specialized tools to go beyond what a human hand can practically do, and be more flexible in the process.

Toile Manus Machina Merida

A current exhibit at the MET, Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology also explores this idea. As curator Andrew Bolton explains, “Instead of seeing the hand and the machine as dichotomous, the show attempts to show it more as a continuum or spectrum of practice. I think technology should be used especially by good designers, as a way to enhance their design practice.”

Chanel Manus Machina Merida

One of the inspirations for the exhibition, a Chanel haute couture wedding dress designed by Karl Lagerfeld combines the hand and machine made. A pattern drawn by Lagerfeld was digitally rendered and intentionally pixelated. The resulting pattern was then applied to fabric and enhanced with thousands of hand applied gemstones, pearls, and more. Photo © Nicholas Alan Cope

Manus Machina Merida

From left to right, these dresses contain an increasing number of machine made elements, yet each is as striking as the last. Yves Saint Laurent (’69-’70), followed by two from Iris Van Herpen (’13-’14 and ’10). Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Manus Machina Merida

Left: Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga, 2003. Right: Iris van Herpen 2012. Photos © Nicholas Alan Cope

Bolton states, “The show isn’t really about fashion and technology per se; it’s more about techniques and processes. People are so preoccupied by the next thing, there’s a lack of appreciation in the making of fashion.” In essence, the quality, design work, and craftsmanship that go into a garment, textile or rug can be independent from the amount of hand or machine work involved.

Designers can take advantage of technology in subtle and sophisticated ways to differentiate their product from mass production without sacrificing flexibility.

At Merida, the harmony between our design team, craftsmen and weavers elevates our design process and helps us refine developments in a more meaningful way.  This synergy provides the benefits of growing our team here in the United States instead of feeling the constraints of having to move our production overseas. This joining of man and machine is more than a trend; it’s a cultural shift that is here to stay.

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