Denisse M Vera: Macramé, All Grown Up
Article by Sharon Salt. Photos by Christopher Polack. Styling by Faisal Westheimer.
Before meeting Denisse M Vera, when anyone mentioned macramé, I would invariably think of a.) friendship bracelets from camp or b.) my aunt’s hanging potted plants. But after one look at her collection, and I was forced to think again.
Though Australian native Denisse graduated recently – in fact, just a year ago, in April 2013 – her graduation collection is already making a name for itself. The pieces, which are based on the Nazca Lines in Peru, combine modernity with tradition: each look incorporates both macramé, an ancient technique, with sublimation-printed fabric, the pattern itself taken from Denisse’s pictures of the Nazca Lines.
The fabric, of course, is beautiful, but it’s the high-end macramé that first caught my eye. Each macramé piece, Denisse tells me, “starts with a sketch and then is knotted straight onto a mannequin.” Unlike fabric, the macramé pieces cannot be tailored later, so every knot counts. In total, the process can take between ten and twenty hours – or more, like a custom dress Denisse made for an Australian blogger to wear to a Vanity Fair party at the Cannes Film Festival.
Despite the long hours, the technique gets easier the more you practice. “My hands are trained now,” she says, so she puts on movies or documentaries, music, or hangs out with her German shepherd Wolfgang to break up the hours. But it’s not completely automatic, either, since every piece she makes now is made-to-order, the measurements ever-changing. Besides that, Denisse makes sure it is one-of-a-kind in other ways, too, like changing the directional lines or use dense knotting instead of open knotting, according to the customer’s preference.
When I asked her how long the pants took, she just laughed and said, “No one has ordered those yet.” Thankfully, she has only had to make them once – so far.
It’s clear Denisse has a mind for fashion, but she also attributes some of her success to the Chilean artisan from San Pedro de Atacama who taught her how to do macramé in the first place.
“It completely changed the direction of my label,” she explains. “Now, my artisan mentor can’t believe what I’ve done with it; he’s completely blown away. Even the [Australian] designer I was working for at the time said, ‘You can’t work with me anymore, you need to pursue [your own work].‘”
As for the Australian influence of the collection, she thinks the way she presents it – through graphic designers, web developers, models, and photographers, all Australian – “draws it together” and makes it feel rooted in the place she calls home.
In her next collection, Denisse wants to continue to push the envelope of macramé by experimenting with polyester cording, “though the natural-colored cord will always be the core of the label.” For someone whose clothing is being worn to Cannes or modeled by an Australia’s Next Top Model winner, though, it’s clear that no matter her choice of material, Denisse’s macramé is all grown up and needs to be seen.
When I ask her how she manages such success so early in her career, she says simply, “Wolfgang keeps me company, and my boyfriend makes me sleep.“