How Yigal Azrouël Works With Fabric

In the weeks leading up to fashion week, we learned about one label's approach to working with that most basic design element, fabric.
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Eliza Brooke
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In the weeks leading up to fashion week, we learned about one label's approach to working with that most basic design element, fabric.

We're always curious about the process that takes designers from the bud of an idea to a fully realized garment. So a few weeks before Fashion Week we headed over to Yigal Azrouel's New York studio to learn more about one specific part of his design process: the creation of fabric. Think of it as a case study in how brands work with the most essential — but sometimes overlooked — tool at their disposal.

"I do create my own fabric in knitwear, we have our own knitting machine. All our samples are done here. We literally sit here and knit the fabric," Azrouel says. "We have some cases where we develop it by showing the mill the yarn we like. I mostly work with an Italian mill."

Laces he'll sketch first and bring those to his producers to bring to reality. Azrouel will sometimes ask his leather manufacturers to give it a particular fabric texture. Developing a new fabric can involve going back and forth with the mill three or four times. Creating swatches in-house can help persuade a reluctant manufacturer to get on board with a new fabrication.

"A lot of the time they'll say no if it's too hard, and I'll try to convince them to do it anyway," Azrouel says.

Walking us through his fall 2014 collection — a textured range of mixed knit coats and a few spectacular leather jackets — Azrouel pointed to a checked mohair coat.

"We were creating a third dimension with the fuzziness and the hair covering the check. Originally it was a lot, and we shaved it to get the thickness we want without losing the mohair details." 

Like many designers, Azrouel starts with a mood board of photos he's taken and research he's gathered. Once he finds a vibe he likes, he starts to source fabric, doing so with the form of the garment already in mind. Draping comes first, followed by sketching.

Of course, sometimes best designs are the result of a happy accident. 

"Sometimes we don't know what we're doing," Azrouel says. "The great things come from the unexpected."

Video shot and edited by Kenny Suleimanagich, directed by Nina Frazier Hansen.