Once a summer camp standby, macramé is fashion’s next big thing. // by Mike Albo
“MACRAMANIA IS SWEEPING THE COUNTRY,” reads one of my mom’s macramé manuals from the ’70s. Back then, it was all about making planters, wall hangings and funky belts. Though all the rage during the Carter administration, the practice actually dates back to Arab cultures in the 13th century (the word is derived from the Arabic migramah, an ornamental fringe or veil) and was picked up by sailors in the 19th century. Now macramé is back, this time on runways and in haute hotels.
In the 2011 spring/summer fashion shows, Julien Macdonald sent a beautiful white macramé minidress down the runway, and Catherine Malandrino showed sandals with intricate plaits winding up the leg. Last year, when he was commissioned to create a macramé wall hanging in the lobby of the new Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, L.A. artist and designer Michael Schmidt wanted to shake things up. “I suggested we take the seventies macramé idea further by incorporating nautical and Japanese rope-knotting techniques,” he says. The curtain hangs from assorted pieces of antique hardware, ship’s pulleys and butcher’s hooks. The result is a loopy, drapey work that transforms the lobby.
“Of all the things I make and exhibit… my micro macramé seems to stop people in their tracks,” says jewelry designer Lorraine Cook, who uses the technique with bright colors and beads to create intricate, tribal-looking necklaces. “Why? I have no idea, other than inside all of us is a primal love of color, threads and beads.”
Macramé’s current popularity makes sense with the resurgence of crafts, but it’s also a sign of our interconnected, globalized culture. Cook, who lives in Queensland, Australia, became interested in the art form while Googling. “I searched ‘woven jewelry’ and stumbled on macramé…. It was like opening a Christmas present.”
MIKE ALBO’s favorite ’70s macramé manual is Create a Happening with Basic Knots.