Conny Groenewegen, fashion designer

Winner of the Dutch fashion prize in 2001 and described by the international press as “a breath of fresh air for the fashion industry,” Conny develops a collection of garment-sculptures in knitwear. These material experimentations mix traditional artisanship with the latest digital technologies. The Dutch designer has developed a “soft tech,” an innovation by which clothing becomes ductile sculpture, a fascinating blend of lightweight construction and rigidity. Pure excellence.
Conny Groenewegen
How do you define savoir-faire?
Savoir-faire is the knowledge of how a design is to be realized from concept to physical presence. The added value, I would say, is getting to understand the entirety and the physicality of the design process. There are so many interconnected steps from the yarn to the final product. I’m curious about the system behind every design and eager to have the ability to adjust the process at each stage. This way of working demands many research trials, from knit samples to dyeing and felting, in order to get the fullness of the design process’ potential.
In this way, all of the steps in the process are integrated when creating a 3D garment; the size, the seam placements, materialization and shape are all determined by and support each other in an integrated whole. Contrary to “cut and sewn” design where you can still unravel and restitch a sleeve, for instance, my designs cannot invisibly be disassembled.
Is innovation important in your work?
The word “innovation” for me has to do with the word “play,” and play comes from creativity. The great thing about playing is that it allows you to invent your own set of rules. This of course is always a certain reflection on pre-existing rules and patterns, and sometimes a new outcome arises and is considered innovation.
In essence, innovation has little to do with being high-tech versus low-tech; it’s all about using your imagination and embracing play, which I value as the most important and fun part of my design practice.
Can you describe your working process?
I’ll give you one example. In my AW13/14 collection “Primary Explorers”, I designed a dress from one rectangular knitted cloth that was shaped through felting, without a single dart. The rectangle was made into a vertical tube by hand with one woolen thread. This single seam smoothed and disappeared into the whole because of the felting process; the shape of the dress is the result of the combination of different knit stitches and yarn varieties.
The original rectangle was 2.5 times larger than the resulting felted product. For the skirt portion, a surplus of wool yarn was used to create the volume, supported by a small crinoline. A layer of white silk chiffon is also felted onto the knit, giving a shiny, wrinkled feel to the skirt. In some areas, the weave is unattached to the under layer allowing light air bubbles to form.
Conny Groenewegen