PARTNERS - ART AND MATERIAL
Since the beginning of the Maison, Cotélac has chosen to create in its French workshops the material games that make its creations unique and immediately recognizable: sublimated prints, crystal pleats, sun, in small tight, thin or rounded folds, mini nuns, micro-bubbled pleats... So many sometimes surprising transformations made possible by a unique know-how. Our experience allows us to recognize artisanal know-how when we see it. As we cannot manufacture everything ourselves, we have developed over the years an international network of partners: we seek out the best producers and artisans, who use authentic and ancestral methods to create something truly special. Weaving and embroidery on pieces in India, alpaca work in Peru, leather goods in Portugal... this sourcing is based on a constant concern for the search for the best raw materials and specific techniques. Whatever we do, we always prefer authenticity to a pale imitation.
And for knitting, one of Raphaëlle Cavalli's original passions, this partnership is particularly important. Janelle Cox, Assistant Stylist in the creative office, explains why.
"The Journal: 'When looking at the labels of Cotélac sweaters and cardigans, the mention "Made in China" often appears. Is this not surprising for a brand that values quality and craftsmanship?' Janelle: 'Actually, no. Many pieces are made in China, but that doesn't mean they are mass-produced in giant textile factories. At Cotélac, we like to work with "fine gauge[1]" which is very technical: each stitch is very small. And so each knit is hand-linked. It's an extremely meticulous and delicate process that China has been specializing in for a long time. Their work is very different from what other workshops in Europe offer, for example. In China, they really focus on the details, sometimes even the tiniest ones. You can see it right away even when selecting the yarns'." [1] Gauge: the number of stitches in a square of knitting.

The Journal: Therefore, can you have unexpected point games made?

Janelle: "Absolutely! We can ask them for all the most complicated techniques. We send them our designs and the realization follows. Even if we sometimes have to exchange and explain several times what we really want. We have known them for a long time now. Over the years, we have forged a real partnership: it is a fairly unique marriage between their technical expertise and our ideas, our way of seeing the finished product. We have brought them a European approach to their way of working, to their know-how. The result is absolutely exceptional pieces. Another advantage of working with Chinese workshops is that when we use Japanese thread (a thread that we love for its particular appearance and texture), we do not need to ship it to the other side of the world: it goes directly to China to be knitted!"

The Journal: this story about yarn is intriguing... how does it work? To create a sweater model, do you start with a drawing or a specific yarn? How far in advance do you need to start? Janelle: the simplest way is to detail the steps, from conception to the production of the sweater. They can be summarized as follows: 1/ Choice of yarn. Often, a piece is imagined starting from a yarn. When yarn manufacturers present their yarns at trade shows, they conduct studies with stitch samples. This allows us to see the potential of the yarn. We look at how we will use it, what are the major fashion trends, how we will interpret the model with this yarn, and what stitch we will choose. Then we will do research to see if a volume corresponds to this yarn. 2/ Presentation of different designs. Sketches are presented to Raphaëlle who finalizes the choice. 3/ Development of the technical sheet. All measurements are put into a file that will be used to make a prototype.
"3/ Development of the technical sheet. All measurements are put into a file that will be used to create a prototype. 4/ Creation of a first model. It is not necessarily made immediately in the correct color. Sometimes it is made just to get an idea of the volume. 5/ Reception of the 1st model and corrections. It is rare that there are no corrections at this stage. The mesh is alive. Even if we take exact measurements, it moves... A clarification is often necessary, but we try to make a minimum of back and forth. Once the correction is made, we try to stick to it until the "OK collection". 6/ Launch of repetitions. Once the model is corrected, we can launch the "repetitions". That is, the collection in several copies. For production, the model is used to test size, measurements, gradations. We also test washing, wearing the garment, etc. And when we say "OK style" we are almost at the end! There may still be some changes, but very few. The more finalized it is at this stage, the easier it will be to launch production."
The Journal: And even if you know your partners well, we can imagine that at each stage there can be surprises? Janelle: Yes, especially since for some models, we also study colors beforehand. For some themes, such as mohair or cotton, we don't choose the color from an existing range. We send our color to Belinda (our correspondent in China) and she will launch a color study (or lab dip) to see what the result is on the material. And it's only at the rehearsal stage that we'll see the knit in the actual color! The Journal: Always this taste for research, experimentation? Janelle: Yes, that's true. Finishes, knit patterns, these are really characteristics of the House. We have some materials that come back in every collection, like Merino wool, light and warm. We love it for its soft hand and fine knit. There is also mohair or alpaca, a slightly rustic and very warm wool. In general, we favor natural materials. When we choose to integrate other materials, it's always for technical reasons. Some blends have more hold, a more modern look. And then we also have the concern of combining our technical know-how (pleats, sublimations...) with the knit. But whatever the technical problem, we always choose the yarns that will keep the most pleasant and natural touch.