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Close-Up Of A Material Girl: Mary Ma And The Textile Library

We are indeed living in a material world and every designer is a material girl. Or boy. As a non-profit service platform, the Textile Library dedicates itself to design creatively through a material-focused lens and to recreate materials using contemporary techniques. The world is your designing oyster!

Fashion is all about touch: This art form touches the soul, the body and even acts as a touchstone of social, economic or environmental trends. We now find ourselves in the designing eye of the storm, where the essential inspiration meets the essence of realization. In that fashionable moment of truth, “textile” is the name of the game. Yet what are the rules to know and follow? Temper seeks sensible answers from Mary Ma, founder of Hangzhou-based Textile Library.

 Textiles have since the dawn of the spinning wheel taken on coveted star-studded parts in the socio-economic lives of different social gatherings. 

The Textile Library

“Textiles serve the everyday needs of people, but they may also serve to distinguish individuals and groups of individuals in terms of social class, gender, occupation, and status with the group,” thus tells us Textile Science. Traditional societies have long associated certain textile designs with pinpointed significance. These particular meanings tended to touch base with particular ethnic groups only — assuming everyone in the group was in the loop. Nonetheless, once their meanings become lost, their reconstruction becomes close to impossible. The patterns in Javanese batiks, for example, originally bore meaning to the wearer, but these meanings are now largely lost.

Aside from their symbolic value, textiles can portray a palpable one as well. Take, for example, the political power of silk: Several silk-rich nations in the past millennium used to deny trading privileges to ostracized foreign entities; those governments in favor, on the other hand, were rewarded in denier-dense strands of silk — not the entirely accurate use of designer lingo yet the meaning is one denier sheer, me doth thinks.

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Mary “Material Girl” Ma herself boasting some rather familiar-looking fabric right there.

A Lesson In Textile

Textiles have since the dawn of the spinning wheel taken on starring parts in the socio-economic lives of different social gatherings. Across Europe and Asia, young women, Sleeping “Aurora” Beauty aside, “spent many months preparing clothing and furnishing textiles for their wedding trousseaus as a demonstration of their skills and wealth,” according to Sabrina Tager in her excellent thesis on “Women in the Global Clothing and Textile Industry”. Generally speaking, women have indeed played a far larger role in the production of fabrics than their male counterparts, yet throughout many urban or more refined textile traditions such as Asian rug weaving at large or the works of Chinese weavers during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), men were the executive producers.

Textiles are thus a major component of material culture and deserve to be considered products of technology, cultural symbols, works of art or items of politics and trade. The “fabricated” arts are a fundamental activity within any society, articulating much of what is valuable in any given culture through a particularly given symbolism. Being the Curious Cathy Temper is at the core, we sit down with Textile Library’s Mary Ma and steal the informative shirt off her back.

The Library devotes itself to discovering the “future stars” in the field of design and aims to build a bridge between designers, manufacturers and brands in order to support young designer dreams and careers through the means of business logic and economic laws.

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The All Comes From Nothing brand by multi-talented Eva Xu — a jacket crafted from one Textile Library gem, i.e. that “rather familiar looking fabric”. I choose to call this piece of visual art “Dutch Misunderstandings”. Ha.

The Temper Touch

The Textile Library (the Library) is more than just a place where technology and fabric meet; it is a platform that connects young designers, with “cloth” as a red thread running throughout. The Library devotes itself to discovering the “future stars” in the field of design and aims to build a bridge between designers, manufacturers and brands in order to support young designer dreams and careers through the means of business logic and economic laws. In doing so, the Library promotes a healthy development of the creative industry, with Ma as its head seamstress!

Temper: Mary had a little… library! 

Ma: I’m Mary Ma, also known as Daixia Ma, and I’ve been doing textile research and development since 1998, specializing in functional textile development and application. I have consulted many international leading brands in textile innovation and development.

Meanwhile,  I have also supported many Chinese designers in terms of textile design and development, as presented in various leading fashion shows all over the world. I in 2015 founded the Textile Library, officially opening to the public in November of 2016. As a non-profit service platform, the Library dedicates itself to design creatively from a material-focused approach and to recreate materials through contemporary and interesting techniques — in turn leading to unlimited possibilities.

The Library offers people customized material research and technological support. Through different events and forums, together with research sharing, you can create innovative design using the latest in textile information and creativity, providing yourself with a diverse and energetic thinking and lifestyle!

Temper: What does “textile” mean to you? 

Ma: The emergence of the Library breaks the traditional bond between cloth, designer and garment. The Library has been trying to explore the fusion of cloth and its surrounding art space. We highlight different aspects of textiles, their processing methods and the designing concepts, as well as integrate literally ready-to-wear clothing in the space, by time and again launching designer cloth-themed exhibitions and pilot exchanges. Occasionally, we invite fashion practitioners, designers and artists to the Library to share both their own unique perspectives on fabric and the anecdotes behind the anecdotes.

Temper: What does a typical day at the Textile Library look like? 

Ma: Usually, we will host more than one group of visitors to discuss the development of fabrics inside our exhibition hall and share some fresh takes on design.

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Temper: What inspires you? 

Ma: As they say in Chinese: “念念不忘、必有回响” or [for the laymen and non-character readers out there] “always remember, there must be an echo”. I want for people stepping into the Library — designers, clothing brands, artists, and so on — to gather a sense of professionalism and enthusiasm from the fabric in se. The Library at heart isn’t just about the constant innovation of cloth, but about material professionalism and attracting designers to the creation of fabric.

Temper: How do the designers you work with inspire you?

Ma: Designers convey a sense of young thinking; their freedom of /in designing impresses me, but subsequently promotes the Library as well as pushes it forward!

Temper: How do you collaborate with Chinese artists and designers?

Ma: 99.9 per cent of the time, artists and designers will take the initiative to book a tour of the Library, take a look at the different types of cloth available and pitch their designing ideas. After gaining an initial understanding of their ideas and motives, we will select an array of materials and fitting processes for them, then in turn we together can start creating new materials and help the designer wrap up production.

“I really appreciate Uma Wang and Xuzhi, two Chinese womenswear designers who both really acknowledge and value a material’s uniqueness in the designing process,” Mary Ma

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Temper: What’s your opinion on the current China Fashion scene?

Ma: I think Chinese design, in its very own fashion, is getting closer to global markets and catwalks.

Temper: How do you see China Fashion evolve?

Ma: Through inheritance and innovation.

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Temper: Any favorites?

Ma: I really appreciate Uma Wang and Xuzhi, two Chinese womenswear designers who both really acknowledge and value a material’s uniqueness in the designing process.

Temper: What’s next in store for you and the Textile Library?

Ma: The Library in 2018 will host a large-scale “LACE” themed exhibition in Hangzhou and we would like to get some kind of “Have a LACE day!” type of slogan or “thing” going by reaching out to more Chinese people and make them see the true charm of lace fabrics!

 

We are indeed living in a material world and when it comes to fashion, every designer is a material “girl”. Because fashion and fabric touch the mind, the body and the soul. It’s their inherent inheritance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A special Temper thanks to Mary Ma’s assistant Pan Luyao
More on Textile Library :
  • Address: 8F, Zhebao Building, 88 Yuzhang Road, Jianggan District, Hangzhou,China  310012
  • Phone: +86  0571-88160000   
  • Email: luyao@textilelibrary.cn
  • Website: www.textilelibrary.cn
All images come courtesy of Mary Ma and Textile Library
Copyright@Temper Magazine, 2017. All rights reserved