Kaffe Fassett and Annie Hurlbut, PC's CEO
This year marks not only the 35th anniversary for Peruvian Connection, but also the 10th anniversary of our collaboration with renowned designer, Kaffe Fassett. Kaffe has written numerous books and has created thousands of sweater and needlepoint kits, and his designs have been a source of inspiration to handknitters, quilters, and needlework artists around the world for more than two decades. We’re thrilled to continue our collaboration for this Spring’s collection. Here, Kaffe reflects on the last 10 years in an interview with PC’s fashion blogger, Nicola.
Nicola: You’re coming up on 10 years of collaboration with Peruvian Connection….. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience?
Kaffe Fassett: It’s been absolutely wonderful working with them. I had wanted to work with Peruvian Connection for a while because I knew they were the finest in the business but it took us a while to actually connect. A friend of mine started designing for them and I was so jealous. So I approached Annie and said, I’ve always wanted to design for you and she was open to that. One of the things about designing sweaters that other people are going to knit means I’m usually limited to the amount of colors I can use. But working with Peruvian Connection allows me to use the most fabulous palette and most beautiful yarns. It’s truly amazing to be able to design and have others handknit these complex creations because usually I need to be careful when designing for others in the sense that I need to keep it simple.
Nicola: What drew you to Peruvian Connection in the first place? What sets them apart from other knitwear firms?
Kaffe Fassett: They do the best handknitting in the world. So few people do handknitting and if they do it’s usually very simplistic. Typically, when mass-producing knitwear, only 7 or 8 colors are used so the knitters can get quick at what they are producing. So, it’s unique and wonderful to be able to create these complicated tapestries of pattern. Peruvian Connection has the best handknitters in the world and I don’t know any other company as ambitious and rich in their output.
Nicola: What have you learned from your collaboration?
Kaffe Fassett: I draw on a lot of different sources of inspiration, for example, oriental carpets, but for Peruvian Connection, Annie asked me to tap into the Peruvian culture/angle and use that for inspiration. This was a totally new experience for me, getting to know Peruvian culture and Andean design. It was a new experience learning about the ancient and fabulous tradition of Peruvian textile. I went to Peru and met some of the knitters but the best experience was going to the museums and seeing the collections of antique textiles—the wonderfully imaginative use of pattern and abstract motifs. It was a wonderful adventure to draw inspiration from that culture.
Nicola: What are your inspirations this season?
Kaffe Fassett: This past collection I was really inspired by stripes. Personally, I love them and I love the variation across cultures. You have printed stripes from Korea, woven stripes from India, so I’ve been designing quilts based on stripe motifs.
Nicola: Can you tell me a little bit about your process when it comes to designing?
Kaffe Fassett: Each season I receive a big box of yarn. When it arrives it’s so exciting, like receiving a fabulous box of chocolates. I put the yarns in groups by color and then start thinking about what would be good for the palette. I have a backlog of motifs I’ve wanted to use so I look and see what could work. Then I start knitting and can’t stop. I knit up big swatches and don’t put anything on paper. Then I’ll make a graph for repeated motifs but I do the knitting aspect inspirationally, surrounded by colors, and I will knit for days. The hardest part is stopping!
Nicola: How has your style changed over the past 10 years?
Kaffe Fassett: At first, when designing for Peruvian Connection, I was trying to be simple with my designs because I couldn’t believe that the work could be as rich and with as much color as their sweaters have, so over time I have been throwing more complicated designs at them. I think also, now I’m designing in a darker richer palette more than before, as women really seem to respond to those tones. I can design rich wonderful darker elegant more mysterious pieces in deep burgundies and chestnuts. It’s not difficult to supply what they need.
What’s really interesting is I travel the world about a 3rd of the year for workshops, lectures and exhibits and I always spot a Peruvian Connection sweater on someone in the crowd wherever I go. I will look into the crowd and there is always one woman looking fabulous and unusual, her own persona, and she’ll be wearing Peruvian Connection. It’s usually not my own design, but nonetheless is just as thrilling to see their other designers’ work. Their clothing just radiates.
I’m very glad to still be working with beautiful yarns and elegant producers. Peruvian Connection does a great service to the world and brings a unique product to market. Nobody else does hand knitting like Peruvian Connection.
See Kaffe’s latest designs in collaboration with Peruvian Connection: for the US, click here; for the UK, click here.
See Kaffe Fassett’s Studio website for his latest books and events as well as his biography and a gallery of his designs.
Vitelli Dress, with Savoca's church in the background
The namesake of our Spring bestseller, the Vitelli Dress, draws from the rich history of a picturesque Sicilian village. The hillside town of Savoca was the setting for several scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Here Michael Corleone asked for the hand of the beautiful Apollonia, sitting at the table outside Vitelli’s Bar on the piazza. Later, when Michael and Apollonia wed in Savoca’s church, they walked down the cobblestone streets for a reception outside Vitelli’s.
Santa Croce Skirt & Elemental Top, shot on the patio outside Vitelli's
Today the town and Vitelli’s bar look much the same as they did in the movie, and as they probably have for the last few centuries. You can savor an ice cold granite di limone outside Vitelli’s, while enjoying the magnificent view of the Mediterranean.
For a clip of the Godfather scenes in Savoca, see the YouTube video. For more on our trip to Sicily and a recipe for granites, see our post, “What We Love About Italy.”
February 17, 2011
Tagged Apollonia, Francis Ford Coppola, granites, Il Padrino, Michael Corleone, Santa Croce Skirt, Savoca, Sicily, Taormina, The Godfather, Vitelli Bar, Vitelli Dress
Mario Testino with Kate Moss
Peruvian-born photographer Mario Testino is famous for his work in the glamorous fashion world (think Gucci, Burberry, Michael Kors, Vogue and Vanity Fair) and the world of celebrity. His famous subjects have included many actresses (i.e. Gwyneth Paltrow, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones) as well as Diana, Princess of Wales. His most recent claim to fame is as the photographer for Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s official engagement portrait. Make sure to check out the lovely photograph, as well as his behind-the-scenes story of the photo shoot, in the February edition of Vogue!
What’s stronger than steel, softer than cashmere and extraordinarily flexible and lightweight? It’s spider silk! In fact, natural spider silk has a tensile strength that’s five times greater than steel and is around 25 percent lighter than synthetic, petroleum based polymers. Because of these qualities, spider silk would be an ideal material for everything from air craft and bullet proof clothing to artificial ligaments and tendons. The reason why spider’s silk hasn’t been commercially produced, like silk worms’ fiber, is that spiders’ antisocial habits (spiders tend to kill each other!) make them impossible to farm. And gathering natural spider silk that isn’t farmed is an excruciatingly slow and tedious process.
All that may be about to change. Randy Lewis, a professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, and his team of researchers, have developed a way to splice spiders’ silk-making genes into goats. No… these goats don’t have eight legs, climb walls and spin webs. In fact, they look exactly like other goats. But when these high-tech “web kids” mate, it is hoped that the nanny goats will produce milk that contains the spider silk protein.
Goat-generated spider silk isn’t ready to hit the commercial markets yet, but consider the possibilities… not only in the industrial, medical and military fields, but in the realm of fashion! A sweater that’s softer than cashmere yet stronger than steel? Sounds too good to be true. The only way we at Peruvian could imagine improving on this idea would be to up the luxury factor by splicing these amazing spider genes with an alpaca or vicuña instead of a goat!
See the video from Nova’s “Making Stuff: Stronger” on the PBS website
Last week’s “Morning Edition” on NPR has renewed our interest in the grain of the Incas, quinoa. The popularity of quinoa has brought about change in Bolivia where much of the crop is grown. Read the story on the NPR site, where you can also find links to more healthy & delicious recipes. Our blog from May 2009 is republished below.
After many years of reading about the wonders of Peru’s grain, quinoa, I have always intended to incorporate more of it into my diet. I have been somewhat intimidated by past recipes that call for repeated soaking and rinsing to remove the bitter coating on the grain. But when Annie, our CEO and founder, brought in this month’s issue of Gourmet with loads of delectable Peruvian recipes, I knew it was time to give it a try. The story’s beautiful images and descriptions of colorful veggies and exotic seafoods causes my stomach to rumble, but the recipe for a quinoa salad intrigues me the most.
Quinoa is not technically a grain since it is not from a grass, but is the seed of a leafy spinach-like plant that is grown in the high altitudes of the Andes. There it has been cultivated for more than 6,000 years, called the “Mother of all Grains” by the Incas. Traditionally the Incan emperor sowed the season’s first seeds with golden implements. The nutrional value of quinoa shows that it truly deserves its reputation, valued as a complete protein and powerful source of many nutrients.
Thanks go to Gourmet magazine for this recipe for Quinoa Salad with Fresh Hearts of Palm (now I only feel intimidated by the search for fresh hearts of palm. They do say chayote can be used as a substitute, if cut into matchstick-size pieces to make 2 cups.)
Quinoa Salad with Fresh Hearts of Palm
active time: 20 min. start to finish: 40 min.
1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1/2 lb. fresh hearts of palm (not canned)
1/4 c. red-wine vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. packed flat leaf parsley leaves
Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a fine-mesh sieve. Cook quinoa in a medium pot of boiling water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 min. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot above 1 inch of simmering water. Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth), then cover with a lid and steam until tender, fluffy and dry, about 15 minutes. Let stand covered with towel for another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile soak onion in a bowl of cold water 5 min. then drain well and pat very dry. Trim ends of hearts of palm, then cut crosswise into very thin slices.
Whisk together vinegar, oil, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper in large bowl. Toss quinoa, onion, hearts of palm, and parsley with dressing.
More Quinoa recipes from 101 Cookbooks (vegetarian) and Epicurious