Friday 24 June 2022

Parish Fashion Week: Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 2023

Brilliant colours, unique silhouettes and wonderful sleeves at Walter Van Beirendock's Spring/Summer 2023 show in Paris. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou for DAM.
Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck's avant-garde and provocative shows are a standout at Paris Fashion week. Post-pandemic he has brought his latest work alive in a historic theatre with a two-act performance that ranged across history, evoking Italy's Black Penitents to Elizabethan doublets, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

The shrouded figures that opened the show
at the Théâtre de la Madeleine in Paris.
WALTER Van Beirendonck's evocative runway show opened amid the jewel-box surroundings of the 1924 Théâtre de la Madeleine, in Paris' 8th arrondissement. Appearing on the stage in the darkened auditorium were a row of dark, shrouded figures.

They looked like 12th century ascetic Italian Black Penitents, or Addolorati, known for wearing robes and pointed hoods during public processions on Catholic holy days, such as Good Friday, and disguising their identity.

However, at Mr Van Beirendonck's show once the black robes were mysteriously swished upwards above the theatre's proscenium, they revealed ~ one-by-one ~ a panoply of brilliant colours and startling silhouettes in emerald green, mauve, buttercup-yellow and metallic gold. The models sported a wild take on 18th century curled wigs which gave the looks both a contemporary aesthetic but also suggested Macaroni; young men famous for their effeminate dress, exaggerating 1700s style and starting new fashions. 

The highlight of the show, if not of Paris Fashion Week, were Mr Van Beirendonck's voluminous sleeves based on 17th century doublets. They looked remarkably evocative with slits for ruffles to flow through and undulating shoulders. He showed different iterations with metallic ruffles revealed between orange scalloped edges and green pleats peeking through the sleeves of cream bomber jacket.

The highlight of the show, if not of Paris Fashion Week, were Mr Van Beirendonck's voluminous sleeves based on the 17th century doublet

The designer's contemporary doublet
sleeve with metallic ruffles.
The doublet was originally designed to give men a fashionable shape and it was worn and redesigned for 
300 years from the Middle ages until the 1600s. A typical sleeve of the 17th century was full and slashed to show the shirt beneath; a later style was slit to just below the elbow and tight on the forearm. 

Mr Van Beirendonck has taken the doublet and reimagined it, making it wearable for our era, Beneath 
the dramatic show and medley of colour is the designer's remarkable skill at tailoring along with a unique avant-garde vision for menswear. 

Decorative ribbon points were pulled through eyelets on breeches in the 17th century and the waist of the doublet to keep the breeches in place were tied in elaborate bows. Walter Van Beirendonck created another version with his knickerbockers finished with rows of ties and ribbons.

This Spring/Summer 2023 collection also had more sporty designs that combined vivid lycra unitards in bold patterns with gleaming damask blazers and metallic green shoes that also suggested 17th century court footwear. Capes, gold medallions and black-banded eyes like masks gave the designs in the second act the look of modern fashion superheroes.

The beautifully-cut shirts with full, ruffled sleeves displayed the designer's brilliant tailoring along with the sharp jackets and long coats. The scintillating colours and interesting shapes were all explorations of the same themes, giving the collection a sense of cohesion amid the different designs. 

While the collection was exuberant, when Walter Van Beirendonck made his bow during the finale, he wore a large and simple t-shirt adorned with the word “Peace,” combined with green shorts and orange runners. But chunky rings adorning his fingers gave away his innovative and graphic baroque sensibility.

Scroll down to see highlights of the Walter Van Beirendonck Spring/Summer 2023

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Thursday 16 June 2022

Ahluwalia's Bold and Bright Spring/Summer 2023 Collection

The leafy setting of the Salter's Hall Garden in London was the backdrop for the new Ahluwalia SS23 show.

PRIYA Ahluwalia originally founded her eponymous label as a menswear brand but added womenswear to her collections last season. Born in London, the designer is inspired by her Indian-Nigerian heritage and launched her fashion company in 2018. Integral to her design ethos are repurposing materials and finding different ways to examine black identity. This season she explored further afield, aiming to bring forth the heterogeneity of the African continent and all of its cultural individuality, calling the new collection Africa is Limitless

"It is inspired by everything from weaving, to their many superstar musicians, to the technicolour Sapeurs and album covers from Cote d'Ivoire," notes the designer. "Beaded elements draw on sources of inspiration from Kenyan and Rwandan cultures. Gorgeous patterns seen in old vintage museum blankets from Tunisia inspire a respectfully redrawn and reinterpreted likeness in knitwear, and other vintage textiles inspire unique prints."

Presented during London Fashion Week, the Spring/Summer 2023 Ahluwalia show was held amid the greenery of Salter's Hall Garden which was a foil to the brilliant colour of the designs she sent down the leafy runway. Colourful and voluminous head wraps completed looks which included an intriguing mix of athleisure and tailoring. The designer's bold patterns added to the vibrancy and vividness of the collection and made elusive references to the many African countries she studied before designing this season's show~ Giacomo de Rothschild

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Friday 22 April 2022

Renaissance Man: Raphael as Artist, Architect and Archaeologist

Raphael's luminous Saint Catherine of Alexandria, about 1507. Photograph: ©The National Gallery, London

A major new exhibition of the superlative Renaissance artist, Raphael, has opened at the National Gallery. Painter, architect, designer and archaeologist, the show has 90 exhibits of his work from celebrated paintings and drawings to lesser-known poetry and designs for sculpture, tapestry, prints and the applied arts. Antonio Visconti reports from London  

Raphael: The Garvagh Madonna, about 1509-10
Oil on wood 38.9x 32.9 cm 
© The National Gallery, London

POSTPONED because of the pandemic restrictions, the National Gallery in London has just launched an important new exhibition which explores the career of Raphael, considered a giant of the Italian Renaissance. In his brief career, spanning just two decades, Raffaello Santi shaped the course of Western culture like few artists before or since. 

“We are delighted that following its delay because of Covid we are now able to stage this exhibition which marks the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in 2020, and is the first ever outside Italy to explore the complete career of this key figure in Western art,” said Dr Matthias Wivel, one of the show's curators.

A  painter, draughtsman, architect, designer and archaeologist, Raphael captured the human and the divine, love and friendship and gave us lasting images of beauty and civilisation. 

Although Raphael’s life was short, his work was prolific, and his legacy has lasted for five centuries. This exhibition examines not just his celebrated paintings and drawings but also his not so widely known work in architecture, archaeology and poetry, as well as his designs for sculpture, tapestry, prints, and the applied arts. 

The aim of the show is to explore every aspect of his multimedia activity. For centuries Raphael has been recognised as the supreme High Renaissance painter, visualising central aspects and ideals of Western culture. Though he died at 37, Raphael's example as a paragon of Classicism dominated the academic tradition of European painting until the mid-19th century. 

Although Raphael’s life was short, his work was prolific, and his legacy lasted for five centuries.

Raphael: Study for the Head of an Apostle
 in the Transfiguration. 
©Private Collection, New York
Raffaello Santi was born in Urbino in 1483, where his father, Giovanni Santi, was court painter. He almost certainly began his training there and must have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, and Piero della Francesca from an early age. His earliest paintings were also greatly influenced by his teacher Perugino. 

From 1500, when he was already an independent master, to 1508 he worked throughout central Italy, particularly Florence, where he became a noted portraitist and painter of Madonnas. 

In 1508, at the age of 25, he was called to the court of Pope Julius II ((reigned 1503–13) one of the great patrons in Western art history, to help with the redecoration of the papal apartments. Now based in Rome, he became one of the great history painters. He remained in the Eternal City for the rest of his life and in 1514, on the death of Bramante, he was appointed architect in charge of St Peter's. 

Raphael died unexpectedly leaving behind a multitude of great projects, some unfinished, and a legacy as one of the defining artists of the Western tradition. 
This exhibition at the National Gallery has 90 exhibits, all by Raphael, except those in media he did not practice himself but for which he provided designs, The show demonstrates why the artist plays such a pivotal role in the history of Western art. Loans from across his entire career, many of them unprecedented, have travelled to London from around the world, to join nine works from the National Gallery’s own collection of paintings by Raphael. 

The Louvre, Musei Vaticani, the Galleria degli Uffizi, and the Museo Nacional del Prado have all lent works for the exhibition. Highlights include Santa Cecilia (about 1515–6, oil on wood, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna) and the Alba Madonna (about 1509–11, oil on wood transferred to canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.) 

Raphael was born in Urbino and must have known works by Mantegna, Uccello, Piero della Francesca and Perugino. 

Raphael: An Allegory, Vision of a Knight
about 1504. Oil on poplar
17.1 x 17.3 cm
The National Gallery, London 

Broadly chronological, the exhibition opens with a section devoted to the artist’s early works created in the Marche region of eastern Italy and his birthplace Urbino. 

These include the drawings for his Saint Nicholas of Tolentino altarpiece reflecting his lifelong practice of studying from live models. 

The exhibition then focuses on Florence where, as well as establishing himself within a new network of clients, Raphael continued to produce works for many other locations, including the Ansidei Madonna (The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari, 1505, oil on poplar, the National Gallery) for Perugia.

 A rare gathering of Raphael’s paintings of the Virgin and Child, the genre that he above all made his own, includes pictures dating to his time in Florence, as well as paintings executed during his first years in Rome. 

Another section of the exhibition traces Raphael’s arrival in Rome where he quickly gained the patronage of the Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi (1466–1520). Chigi became his most important lay client, commissioning frescoes for his suburban villa, now called the Farnesina, as well as designs for chapels in two Roman churches: Santa Maria della Pace and Santa Maria del Popolo. 

Raphael’s Roman years saw him applying his talents widely and building a thriving and multi-faceted artistic enterprise.

Cesarino Roscetti: The Incredulity of St Thomas
Bronze, 88.5cm . Courtesy: Ministero per
 i beni e le attivita culturali  
The exhibition also includes two bronze roundels from Santa Maria della Pace, never previously exhibited outside Italy, including Cesarino Rossetti's The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, after designs by Raphael, about 1511-12 (see at right). 

One room is entirely devoted to Raphael’s frescoes for Julius II’s private apartments, known as the Stanze. This project included monumental, multi‐figure compositions depicting biblical subjects, scenes from the history of the Church, allegories of concepts such as Poetry and the great gathering of philosophers known as the School of Athens (1509–10).Drawings on display include a life study for the Greek philosopher Diogenes.

In addition to his demanding commitment to the Stanze, Raphael found time for other commissions, including his penetrating portrait of the sickly and elderly, yet strong-willed Julius II, also exhibited in this room, which transformed the way the powerful were depicted in Western art.

Never previously exhibited outside of Italy, are two bronze roundels from Rome's Santa Maria della Pace church.

Raphael: Madonna of the Pinks,
(La Madonna dei Garofani)
about 1506-7
Oil on Yew
27.9 x 22.4 cm 
©The National Gallery, London 
Raphael’s Roman years saw him applying his talents widely and building a thriving and multi-faceted artistic enterprise. The artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) described him as a ‘universal artist’ in recognition of the mastery he developed across different mediums.

The exhibition examines his innovative work in printmaking, decorative art and tapestry design, as well as his architecture and archaeological work as surveyor of ancient Rome. 

However, painting remained central to his work, as demonstrated by his many variations on the subject of the Holy Family on display in the exhibition. 

Several of his original print designs, engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi (1470/82 ~ 1534), are here displayed alongside his preliminary drawings revealing the immense trouble Raphael took over what others might have regarded as minor works. 

This includes his Study for the Massacre of the Innocents. Also, included in this section is a single autograph drawing for the border of a salver. 

As surveyor of ancient Rome to Pope Leo X (reigned 1513–1521) Raphael undertook an ambitious survey of the ancient city with drawings of its principal buildings, having lamented in a letter on display in the exhibition, the destruction of significant ruins as ‘the shame of our age’.

The exhibition also provides an overview of his work as an architect in Rome, including his most prestigious appointment as architect of the new St Peter’s, the beginnings of the basilica we know today. His designs for private townhouses, or palazzi, are represented by a model of the façade of the Palazzo Branconio dell’Aquila, while his designs for the sprawling Villa Madama, created as a Medici refuge just outside Rome, were the most ambitious of their kind since antiquity but sadly the villa was only partially completed.

As surveyor of ancient Rome to Pope Leo X, Raphael lamented the destruction of significant ruins as ‘the shame of our age’.

Pieter Coeckle van Aelst:
Vision of Ezekiel c1521,
Tapestry, 440 x 337 cm 
©Museo Nacional de Artes
Decorativas Madrid 
Raphael’s ground-breaking work as a designer for tapestries is represented by the work he did for the Brussels workshop of Pieter van Aelst in 1517. These tapestries, like the Vision of Ezekiel  (see at left) were woven from wool, silk and gilt‑metal thread, This was part of his series on the Acts of the Apostles, designed to be hung in the Sistine Chapel under, and in direct competition with Michelangelo’s famous, frescoed ceiling. 

This series is among his most complex and influential works, bringing the logic of his monumental and meticulously planned narratives of the Vatican frescoes to a different, transportable medium. 

A digital facsimile of the original painted cartoon for the tapestry, made especially for this exhibition, helps elucidate the collaborative creative process behind these great projects, involving assistant painters and draughtsmen as well, of course, as the weavers in the Netherlands who created the finished works. 

The spectacular final room of the exhibition is dedicated to the portraiture of Raphael’s last years. He was generally too busy to take on portrait commissions, unless there was a strong political imperative, as with the 1518 Portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici . The portraits he did execute, therefore, tend to have been painted out of friendship or affection, exemplified by his famous Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, completed in 1519, and on loan from the Musée du Louvre, Paris for this must-see show.

Raphael is at the National Gallery, London, until 31 July 2022.

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Wednesday 23 February 2022

Yuima Nakazato's Brave New (Fashion) World

Yuima Nakazato's vivid SS22 haute couture collection in Paris. All photographs and cover picture by Elli Iannou for DAM
Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato has always brought a sense of fantasy and the avant-garde to haute couture since he became a guest member on the official Paris schedule in 2016. For Spring-Summer 2022 he continues his exploration of an otherworldly aesthetic along with new technologies and materials. We look at his plans to make high fashion more sustainable and widely available. Jeanne-Marie Cilento reports. Photographs by Elli Ioannou 

Contemporary dancers move amid clouds 
of dry ice as a model emerges from the gloom 
in brilliant, butterfly-wing hues
THE dark and atmospheric 17th century Oratoire du Louvre in Paris is where Yuima Nakazato chose to present his new haute couture collection, the designer's first physical show after two years, due to the pandemic. 

Clouds of dry ice billowed around Rococo wooden doors with wraith-like dancers clad in white forming a moving chorus to the models emerging from the gloom. Locks of brightly- coloured hair and elfin pointed ears accompanied Nakazato's voluminous, draped creations. 

"This season was mainly about focusing on the physical fashion show," the designer said. "These two years of digital shows made me really miss Paris. It was very tough to decide to fly to France but I really wanted to present the show. " 

The designer was inspired by the chimera, a mythical creature made up of different animals. Originating in Greek mythology, the chimera was a fire-breathing hybrid creature, from Lycia in Asia Minor. Often depicted as a lion, the chimera had a goat head protruding from its back and tail ending with a snake's head. Although the designer didn't use the image of the chimera literally, he saw it as a symbol of bringing myth and legend into his latest collection.

"This season was all about the physical fashion show. These two years of digital presentations due to the pandemic made me really miss showing in Paris. " 

Nakazato's experimentation with new fabrics
make his collections a stand-out at haute-couture 
week in Paris
Called Liminal, Nakazato explained the theme of the new show was an exploration of a transitional state, an ambiguous space of limitless possibilities, on the threshold between the old and the new. 

In practical terms, this meant the designer mixed the latest technological advances in materials with traditional techniques, such as using a kimono embroiderer to embellish his creations.

"The title "liminal" means something in the middle, a very abstract and unclear area, between say man and woman, artifice and Nature or East and West," the designer said. "That was the starting point of the collection. It is philosophical but very important to me. For example, the Japanese kimono has a rectangular shape and although it is not the shape of the human body, everyone can wear it. This is an interesting concept. I have tried to mix couture with this Japanese kimono philosophy. I wanted to tie them together and express this in the collection." 

Yuima Nakazato has made it his mission to be at the forefront of experimenting with new materials and techniques. He is still developing his in-house production system, Biosmocking, which has no material waste from the production process and does not use a needle and thread to create garments. 

It is a cutting-edge technology making clothes via a digital fabrication of textiles made from artificial protein. The designer uses these natural materials including "brewed protein" which is made from using the artificial protein created by Japanese bio start-up Spiber. 

The designer likes to mix the latest technological advances in materials with traditional techniques

Brightly-hued, asymmetrical wigs and elfin ears add 
to this season's sense of fantasy 
"The brewed protein is a continuously developing technique that is a very important material and element for our creations This time, it is used for very small details like combining it with jewellery and the metal pieces worn in the ear or as necklaces. 

"Upcycling and bio-smocking are part of every collection. I call it bio-technology mixed with the kimono philosophy."

Nakazato strives to look at the big picture, he says he wants to realise "a new vision for humanity" through clothes. His designs made from the plant-derived sustainable materials, represent an important step away from the current widespread reliance on petroleum-based resources. Nakazato is one of the rare avant-garde designers who don't just experiment with style but uses his own radical manifesto for the future. The new textile created from the brewed protein is a sustainable fibre made by a fermentation process.The textiles are created by fabricating the artificial protein. 

As its production doesn't rely on petroleum, brewed protein is biodegradable and could offer a sustainable solution for the fashion industry. Ecologically-minded apparel manufacturers are moving away from micro plastics and animal-derived materials. Protein-based polymer materials are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and economic to produce. The designer believes these innovations in materials and technology are the direction in which haute couture should be moving. 

Yuima Nakazato is one of the rare avant-garde designers who don't just experiment with style but create a radical manifesto for the future

The designer used his Type-1 
technique in the new collection
that make his clothes customizable
Protein biopolymers are part of the building blocks of life, formed from different types of amino acids. Brewed protein refers to structural proteins which have been designed or selected from an almost limitless pool of possible amino acid combinations, and then produced via a microbial fermentation process. 

This is all part of Yuima Nakazato's design ethos about fashion's social responsibility: "I believe that the evolution of garments will lead to a richer human society. To fulfil our responsibility towards future generations, we conduct ongoing assessments of our material supply chains and we create garments designed for long-term use and eventual up-cycling." 

Another element in the new collection that the designer has explored in previous seasons is what Nakazato calls the Type-1 system. This enables parts of clothes to be replaceable. 

In Paris, he wore a shirt where the sleeves and collar could be changed just by undoing a series of rivets. This makes his clothes completely customizable and was incorporated into the Spring-Summer 2022 couture collection.  

The designer believes this revolutionary new technology for making digital couture will allow custom-designed clothes to be accessible to everybody and make couture clothes available to all. "I want to give the experience of having a uniquely designed piece to everyone," he said.

But the designer said the big question is how to do this. Obviously haute couture is very expensive and mass production is very cheap. And the customer cannot communicate to the designer. So Nakazato thinks technology could provide a solution and help realize his idea. He said that "haute couture has the best design but wearing it is not possible for everyone, it is my aim to find a solution to that."

"I believe that the evolution of garments will lead to a richer human society."

Nakazato uses the latest technology and
traditional kimono embroidery to 
bring old and new together
Nakazato believes his Type-1 technique is a breakthrough discovery in fashion technology. He uses a digital system where clothes are adaptable and grow with you ~ upwards or outwards. And which can be easily repaired with another square of fabric that is riveted into place. Nakazato imagines the clothes could be passed down and even adapted to your children.  

The designer has often said he believes that couture is the future of fashion. "This type of technology is sustainable, so if your body changes you can customize the clothes. 

"If you damage some part of it you can just change it ~ so you don't just throw it away. The clothes become like another skin and you can even give it to your daughter, just changing the design and size." 

In the Type-1 system, instead of a traditional fitting where the body is measured, the wearer is scanned through a device before numbered squares of digitally cut fabrics are riveted together to form a perfectly fitting piece. Nakazato said the major discovery was finding a way to use everyday fabrics like cotton, nylons and wool which are difficult to control using digital fabrication.

"That was the most difficult part," he said. "But in the end we succeeded. We can design every type and shape of garment to be a precise fit to the wearer's figure. Digital fabrication is very useful mainly for PVC, rubber or plastic. But I wanted to use traditional fabrics and although these are hard to control using digital tools we found a way of doing it. 

"We assess our material supply chains and we create garments designed for long-term use and eventual up-cycling." 

Vivid colours made the designer's  pantsuits 
and tunicslook like the wings of exotic birds
Custom-made clothes, particularly haute couture, are out of reach for most people. But Nakazato argues his technology would change that: “We want to create a world where everyone can have tailor-made garments. Mass customization is possible because my team has removed the major constraint of have to use the thread and needle." 

The designer has developed the technique in Japan with engineers, 3D designers and sculptors so clothes can be adjusted to be a precise fit to the wearer's figure.

"With this system we are now able to build all silhouettes imaginable," Nakazato explained. "It is like creating a garment from a dress pattern but with even more flexibility." 

While the designer has admitted that his work is very much at the experimental stage, he insisted that "future mass customisation" is possible. "There is still a lot of work by hand in putting the clothes together," Nakazato explains. 

"It is like technology and craftsmanship combined." The designer says that aesthetically his digital creations still had a long way to go to reach the perfection of classic haute couture which must be made by hand.

For the Spring-Summer 2022 collection, the designer included both ready-to-wear and haute couture designs. There were long black and white tunics worn with vividly-coloured capes. The palette of electric blues and greens contrasted with glowing reds and yellows like the brilliantly-hued wings of Australian lorikeets. The asymmetrical wigs and long elf ears added too the otherworldly vibe. The long tunics were worn with cords and combined with colourful prints, tie-dyes and knits.  

For the Spring-Summer 2022 collection, the designer included both ready-to-wear and haute couture designs

Draped 3D fabrics and silky knitted materials
added to the sense of beauty and 
fantasy of the collection 

Yuima Nakazato first began to be interested in fashion as a student because at his high school in Japan they could choose to wear whatever they wanted, unlike most Japanese schools where a uniform is de rigueur. 

"I liked looking at fashion magazines ~ there was no Internet then ~ so we were reading magazines and seeing the "street snaps," a very typically Japanese part of culture with pictures of people standing on the street which I really liked." 

But he decided that fashion would be his career after seeing the first Japanese designers graduating from the Royal Academy Antwerp in 2002. 

"I saw their graduate collections in the newspaper and they looked so colourful and interesting I was shocked. Seeing these designs changed me dramatically and inspired me to go into the fashion world more deeply and immediately I decided to do Antwerp's fashion degree as well."

"I liked looking at fashion magazines and seeing the street snaps which is a very typical Japanese part of culture."

Designer Yuima Nakazato ran out to take his bow 
in Paris before racing backstage
The designer was born in Tokyo and says he learned much about the freedom of expressive art from his sculptor father and mother, a metal carver. His family home is filled with giant art objects. Nakazato's creative upbringing made a strong contrast to traditional, strict Japanese schooling. 

With artists as parents, Nakazato was surrounded by artworks from early childhood and he says that the years of watching his parents' work plus seeing performing arts, stage design, and costumes all have influenced his work. 

Nakazato was the youngest Japanese student to graduate from the Fashion Department Master’s Course at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. So ahead of their time were his shoe designs, during his degree show, that they were acquired by the Antwerp Mode Museum (MoMu) for their permanent collection. He was also awarded the Innovation Award by Ann Demeulemeester for his graduate collection and he won the International Talent Support (ITS) Fashion Competition held in Italy, one of the two largest fashion contests in the world

Today, when Nakazato is designing a new collection in his Shibuya studio, he begins with key words and a story as a starting point like this season's chimera, afterwards he begins the research. But always his ultimate aim for every collection is the search for ways of creating fashion that makes people feel happier. 

"That is why I would like the clothes of the future to all be unique and different as I think that makes everyone feel good. Right now we have to wear mass produced clothes because of the cost. But that is all changing with this new technology and it makes for a very interesting moment in fashion." 

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