Charlotte Markson on turning her Greek grandmother’s doilies into a fashion statement

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There are many things Greek families pass down from one generation to the next. For Charlotte Markson, her love of fashion and textiles was passed down by her yiayia at an early age and she’s never looked back.

Ahead of showcasing her latest collection at the UTS Runway Fashion Show on Tuesday, November 29, Charlotte shares with The Greek Herald how her family and Greek heritage inspires her work.

Tell us about your journey to design:

Being a fashion designer is something I have always known I wanted to pursue. I was first introduced to sewing back in Year 7 where I took co-curricular dressmaking classes after school. Textiles was always my favourite subject at school and I recall spending every spare minute of my HSC year working on my Major Work; a white silk gown with blue hand painted and embroidered Greek inspired motifs.

Charlotte Markson.

I was accepted to study a Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies (Italian) at the University of Technology Sydney in 2017, which is where I’m currently completing my Honours year. This final year of study requires the creation of a six-look graduate collection alongside a supporting research paper, with an open scope to choose whatever concept is of interest to you.

In 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India for one of my electives at university. It was there that I was introduced to slow processes of printmaking, and was lucky enough to learn the craft of hand block printing by local artisans.

I have undertaken various internships to gain as much hands-on industry experience as I can while studying, including Carla Zampatti, Camilla, and Nevenka.

How would you describe your new clothing collection?

I have created a six-look luxury womenswear resort collection titled ‘A Handcrafted Place’ that focuses on the connections between place and handcraftsmanship. This collection has been generously sponsored by AWET (Australian Wool Education Trust) and has allowed me to incorporate various shades of white and blue merino wool to capture the essence of place; the Greek island landscape.

This collection is soft, sophisticated and breezy; yet fun, fresh and feminine. There is a strong sense of materiality and a richness in handcrafted processes. Some silhouettes are reminiscent of traditional Greek outfits, however the most significant nod to Greece is explored through both my choice of and creation of fabrics alongside my handcrafted work.

The collection captures the colour palette of the Greek island landscape through various tones of fresh whites and deep blues. I have experimented with the creation of my own fabrics by following the traditional method of weaving on my own loom, all by hand. Weaving each yarn one by one is a long and tedious process but definitely rewarding. I am able to create one-of-a-kind, unique textile pieces that are then transformed into garments.

Another significant part of the collection is my experimentation with drawn thread needlework. This is a meticulous technique that involves removing individual threads from cloth one by one, by hand. It is often left loose and distressed, or regrouped with twists and hand-stitching. I have self-taught myself this traditional technique and experimented with it in such a way to be suitable for a contemporary fashion context.

I have also incorporated various vintage sourced tablecloths, and doilies which my yiayia has passed down to me. The intricate hand stitching on these pre-existing tablecloths adds a unique sense of materiality to my work and perfectly captures a white and blue Greek design aesthetic.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have always been inspired by travel and my Greek culture, and I often find myself designing pieces that have a personal connection and sentimental meaning. I wanted to create a collection that was just completely and utterly me, whilst paying tribute to tradition and heritage. I was interested in specifically focusing on the idea of place, with Greece carrying such a rich sense of tradition and history alongside a unique and beautiful landscape which I will always feel connected to. I collated and collaged various photos from my own trips to Greece as a starting point of reference. I wanted to honour my heritage and the intricate handcrafted textile techniques that are a part of Greek culture yet make them contemporary to appeal to a modern fashion context.

What techniques did your grandmother pass onto you?

Like many other yiayias I’m sure, both my maternal and paternal grandmothers have an extensive collection of doilies and delicate lace tablecloths lying around the house that decorate almost every piece of furniture and ornament. To me, these beautiful pieces are the epitome of Greek textiles and I was intrigued to rework them into components of fashion garments for my collection, transforming them from something seen in the household, to something that can be worn on the body.

Growing up, my yiayia would always tell me stories about her life in Greece before she migrated to Australia. She would often recall how many of the girls in her village would spend their evenings crocheting after a long day of working on the farms, or they would hand weave larger trousseaus pieces such as bed linen. This sense of slow handmade textiles in Greece forms a part of tradition and culture, and is something I am very much interested in. 

You can follow Charlotte’s work on Instagram @charlotte.markson and website www.charlottemarkson.com.

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