Ode to A
Stories are there to be told! Everyday we show you what we love, while we believe the story behind these items can be just as inspiring. Today it is time to get to know a little bit more about Ode to A, an inspiring Dutch label founded by Sabrina & Noëlle. The due collaborates with artisan communities all over the world to create limited editions collections, and boy do we love what they make. Amazing products with an inspiring story, we’re very happy to share it with you.
Let’s get back to the beginning. When and by whom was Ode to A founded? What was the turning point that made your brand come alive?
Noëlle: Sabrina and I founded Ode to A when were both still living in London last October (2014). When we got to know each other, Sabrina told me about a project that she did for her MA at Central Saint Martins where she collaborated on the creation of a collection together with artisans in a remote area of Peru. We decided to go for it and to create a platform based on the concept of working together with artisans to create contemporary collections. To be able to realise our dream of building Ode to A, we created a Kickstarter campaign that went online last February. We succeeded on raising the amount needed and that’s when it all felt very real!
Sabrina: Noëlle and I founded Ode to A, in a very small Vietnamese restaurant over a very long brainstorm session! I had recently finished my MA at Central Saint Martins (Oct 2014) and had just returned from my British Council residency in Morocco where over a one-month period I worked with six artisans to create a series of bespoke hand woven rugs. With all that I had just encountered in my past projects, I was fortunate enough to meet Noëlle, we were both in search of a more meaningful career path. Both fascinated by craftsmanship, traditions and with a strong belief that collaboration could be a tool to revive these, we decided to join forces to create a brand that would celebrate just this!
We really like your name! Can you tell us a little bit more about why you named your brand Ode to A?
Sabrina & Noëlle: Thanks!! It was a bit of a funny ride before getting to the name Ode to A (abbreviation of Ode to Artisans) We had previously started with another brand name, that after a few weeks, in our eyes, didn’t represent entirely what we believed in. It was important to us that the name would make reference to our work and that it would equally be possible to abbreviate it to something more ear-catching. Therefore Ode to A stands for the celebration of the craftsmen we work with.
Your handwoven shawls and leather tote’s are beautiful. Who makes these designs and where does the inspiration come from?
Noëlle: Thank you! Actually the first thing we do when we arrive at a community is to get to know the artisans and see in what way we can support the community. Sometimes it is on the design side and sometimes the extra help is more needed on the technical side. So I have to say that it can differ from community to community how we come to the eventual designs but it is always a collaboration between the artisans and Ode to A!
Sabrina: Thanks! For our first two collections we worked for the first time with a very remote community located in Huancavelica, Peru. This community is specialised in Alpaca yarn and weaving, and it was great to be able to see how they work. Since it was the first time with this community we had to focus on the quality of the materials and techniques. This is why this collection is very minimal and mainly colour blocked. In our next trip to Peru we will continue with more design workshops that will lead to more patterns in the collection. We therefore collaborate with the artisans to make the designs and these designs are always based on trend and colour research we do beforehand!
How did you come up with the idea to work with worldwide local crafts in (remote) communities?
Noëlle & Sabrina: The idea was born after Sabrina’s MA project Made in Patacancha and The Common Thread project developed with berber weavers in Morocco. Both projects question craftsmen place in our society and especially their value in todays fast paced fashion industry. We were eager to celebrate these makers that had learnt a skill that had been passed on from earlier generations. How could we bring back value to craft skills in an increasingly mechanised future.
Can you tell us a bit more about the process. How does a product comes alive?
Noëlle: Last May, we have made a trip to Peru to create the AW15 / SS16 collections. When we just arrived at the community the leader of artisans almost immediately drove us up in the mountains to 5000 meters high. This is where the alpaca’s live, this is where it all starts! For me it was so special to witness the whole process of the making of the product step by step. It might sounds strange but from the moment when they were sheering the alpaca to when they were preparing the yarns to go on the looms, it became very real to me. This was eventually going to become a scarf that holds us warm in the winter!
Sabrina: There are many steps in the process and of course they don’t always go as planned, but thats just how things role right? So we plan a trip that will serve as research and the making of a collection in collaboration with a specific community. During the first weeks we run a series of workshops with the artisans that aim to teach them about trends, quality and most of all to inspire them to design. It is important to us that the communities learn techniques of how to read trends or design from mood boards in order for them to be able to design on their own!
Are you planning to work with other local communities (outside Peru and Morocco) in the near future? Anything you can reveal to us yet?
Noëlle & Sabrina: We are so happy to be collaborating with the weavers in Huancavelica and we feel that there is still much to explore with them in terms of design. We are currently working on more projects with other communities and this will be slowly coming onto our website! Stay tuned!
Difficult question – we know – but what is your favourite item of your collection?
Noëlle: My favourite item is the Jaime 1.0 (beige & sand mixed scarf). It has a slight colour blocking design and the making of this was quite spectacular. The weaving technique was mastered by one of the weavers and it took him 4 days to make one scarf!
Sabrina: Yes difficult question indeed! I would have to say the Pedro 1.1 scarf (Ice grey), mainly because it was our first ever Ode to A product in the making and we were able to see the whole process from Alpaca finer to final product. Its also the right amount of oversized for the cold winter, and in my favourite colour.
What has been Ode to A’s most memorable highlight so far?
Noëlle: When we were still setting up Ode to A in London, we worked in almost all of the coffee places and hotel lobbies in the East, since we didn’t have an office back then. And this continued when we moved to Amsterdam, we worked all over the city and our bedrooms were looking more and more like a storage spaces. So I can definitely say that one of my most memorable moments was when we got the key to our office space a few months ago!
Sabrina: Good questions, its nice to stop sometimes and think over what has happened, sometimes it all goes a bit fast! I would have to say one of the most memorable highlights was running after the Alpacas at 5000meters altitude along with Lisa (who was filming our short movie). All credits on her though, we were all eager to witness every moment of the process. It was so special!
Any cool new stuff coming up you are willing to share with us?
Noëlle: The launch of our short movie that was filmed and edited by Lisa Galesloot! We believe it communicates beautifully the process of the making of the scarves.
Sabrina: We are also excited for our new website that we currently working on and a new model for us to allow us to work on project based collections with various communities!
Where do you see Ode to A five years from now?
Noëlle: It would be amazing if by then we have worked with multiple other communities all around the world with different skills to differentiate as a brand product wise. There are so many skilled craftsmen with such intriguing techniques and materials!
Sabrina: A year ago I couldn’t have imaged that I would be living in Amsterdam, with an office and a registered company. If I now think of 5 years from now it makes me very eager, I would say that I hope that by then Ode to A will have helped in the change to more conscious consumerism.
Peru journey video by Lisa Galesloot
Are you just as excited as we are about Ode to A and their beautiful products? Have a look at their website and get even more inspired!
© All studio photos are copyrighted by ALL ESSENTIALS and all others by Lisa Galesloot.