Benedicte Lux Is a World Traveler Designing for Pilgrims of Soul
Are you, like we, dreaming of making an escape from the cold and travel somewhere far, far away? Take inspiration from Norwegian designer Benedicte Lux and her new Supernaturae collection of artisanal 'travelwear' designed for a nomadic heart and mind.
Benedicte Lux has had a busy year moving from New York via Norway to Ibiza, while also spending a lot of time in India in order to set up production. This April, she launches a new Supernaturae collection of ‘travelwear’ made from beautiful, handwoven ‘old-world’ textiles crafted by artisans across small villages in India. Following up on our last conversation, here’s the latest word from a fellow Scandinavian turned citizen of the world.
You design for a world traveler. Who is the woman you have in mind?
– I design for a global nomad who travels literally or just in mind. Someone with an affinity for story, materiality and craftsmanship, who wants a unique and limited run product. I honestly think it’s the future: supporting small makers is a way to be more cross-cultural and gain a deeper understanding of history. On a practical level, I test-wear all the clothes I make, and most are inspired by pieces that I already own, so comfort is important. I want to be able to travel in my clothes, have them take me through life.
Where do you travel yourself, and what do you always pack in your bag?
– I do travel a lot. I come from a family that loves exploring, and is split between Switzerland, London, New York, Paris, and a little south of Oslo. I prefer slow travel though, when I can stay for a few weeks at a time. For relaxing, I go to Spain and a special little place called Harbor Island, and for work – India. I love Mexico and would love to be there more often.
– I always pack layers, pieces that transcend from day to night, and a big scarf or wrap. Scent is important – my favorite right now is Vetiver – and then a good moisturizer and sunscreen.
Where do you dream of going next?
– I would love to visit Madagascar, Belize and Trancoso in Brazil.
Tell us about the inspiration and design process behind this new collection.
– This was an interesting process as it was transitional, and I was working on the go. I started it in New York when I was still working at ABC Carpet & Home, and then packed up my apartment and finished it over 6 weeks in Calcutta, India.
– I looked at the painter Paul Gaugin in Tahiti. His work featured women – often undressed. I have a problem with the muse in art history, as they are often ‘silent’, with the painter speaking for them. So I wanted to make a collection that allowed the muse to be free; to wander and to have a voice.
– I looked a lot at late 1800’s and 1900’s lingerie, and worked with an artist friend of mine from London, Christian Quin Newell, for the embroideries that were inspired by Tahitian symbology. I then translated that into artisanal production methods, such as ‘kantha stitch’, which is local to West Bengal where I’m working.
What materials did you work with this time, and how did you source them?
– As my work in New York was so much around natural dyeing and materiality, I wanted to keep the production as artisanal as possible. So I’m using only locally sourced raw materials, weaving, embroidering and dyeing made in West Bengal and Madya Pradesh. It’s based around building a supply chain that benefits as many people as possible. We’re using organic cotton and silks that are incredibly gorgeous and handwoven, and representative of the areas they come from.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Indian artisans you employ, and why you’ve chosen to place your production there (even though it’s rather far from where you live)?
– Yes! I wanted to avoid big factories. All of my production is done in rural villages, and they are all fair trade certified, self-organized craft groups. It’s so inspiring to visit them; they are in such beautiful rural areas, and have these incredible skills, but are disadvantaged in that they have no access to market. I work with an NGO that connects us, and ensures their continual employment. I can work like this while my company is small; the handlooms I work on are run completely by hand, and some of the sewing machines are foot-powered too so they’re not affected by power outages, which is a real thing during monsoon.
– One of the groups I work with are in Madya Pradesh, which is arid, hot, and very, very traditional. In this area, a group of women has started weaving, which is completely revolutionary as women normally don’t have a place in the economic society in India. So it’s also socio-economic, as by using the fabric from there, jobs for women are being sustained, and the quality of their work is just beautiful. It’s becoming harder and harder to find good quality artisanal work, so seeing this resurgence is uplifting.
What are your key insights and learnings from visiting these villages and workers in India, and what do you wish more people knew?
– There’s a different pace to life when working artisanally. There’s a lot of joy in the villages, and there are traditional ways of living that are heavily disturbed by moving to cities and slums. Worldwide, 3 million people move each week to a city in search of work for lower standards of living, higher competition for jobs, and leaving friends and family behind. Why should we all live in cities?
– For me, artisanal production and craft methods are where it’s at, and I want to support methods of working that are in line with how and where I would wish to work. There is so much potential there and you can see the love and skill put into it. As Kahlil Gibran said: ‘Work is love made visible.’
What’s up next for you and Supernaturae?
– Right now I’m juggling first-season production with next-season research and design, and am working on a hand-embellished wedding dress. In the end of January I’m headed to West Bengal, Madya Pradesh and Gujarat in India for 6 weeks to meet with new artisans and developing samples there. Then I’ll be popping up throughout the year; I’d like to do a few trunk shows, so stay tuned!
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