It's been just under a month since Hamideh Abol walked away from her "other" career - engineering - to focus full-time on her passion for design. In a coffee shop, just weeks before her couture collection is to debut at Montreal fashion week, the designer shares confidently, "I have always chosen art as a major part of my life and wanted to devote myself to designing. It is the right moment; every piece is like déjà vu for me.
Bringing Art to Fashion - Abol
By ASHLEY PERFONIC
That feeling of natural connection is what drew Abol to work with wool - the defining element of her designs. "I fell in love with raw wool. It was fascinating to see the different colours, lengths, curls and softness." This variety also contributes to the one-of-a-kind nature of her garments. Abol (previously known as Shefelt) is a combination of textile art and eco fashion created from raw wool and reclaimed silks. The collection of dresses, jackets, vests and gowns are dramatic, unexpected and distinctive. With a philosophy to bring art to fashion, this designer strives to create something that will excite the viewer.
How did an engineer switch from a career based on calculations to something so creative? She grew up in Iran surrounded by opposites - engineers on her father's side and Persian rug weavers on her mother's. Abol loved art as a child and was drawn to watercolour painting, drawing and sculpting. Arriving in Vancouver in 2006 to complete a Masters degree in engineering, the designer also enrolled in Emily Carr's Certificate in Fine Art Techniques. Meeting other local artists who were involved in textiles sparked a curiosity to learn more about the different processes - especially felt. Abol chose to focus on creating wearable art. She educated herself in textile manipulation and dyes and experimented with wool, even taking a textile workshop in Italy. Art, textiles and technique all combine to create her couture collection - Abol.
The key to achieving Abol's unique look is the type of wool used and the technical process. This involves creating the fabric from raw materials. Wool is gathered from farms on Vancouver Island, California, New Zealand and Europe. When possible, the designer visits the farms, looks at the sheep, meets the farmers,and chooses the wool herself to ensure the process is animal friendly. Transforming raw wool to felt is intense and time consuming. "My apartment smells like a farm a lot," laughs Abol. "The wool must be thoroughly cleaned with organic soap, dried and hand rolled to create the felt. Things can go wrong. It's a gentle, delicate process; very time consuming but also truly rewarding. The textile you get out of nature is like nothing else out there."
There is a feel of surrealism to Abol's designs. "Things you wish you could touch but cannot, as well as inspiration from nature, can be shown in the form of a dress." The collection, called Dream, combines white, beige, brown and black wools with the bright colours of recycled silk. Vintage wedding gowns and recycled lace are also used to add colour or depth to the garments. While those who love texture will be attracted to the vests, the gowns and dresses are designed for those who desire something truly unique.
At the end of the day, for Abol, this is her art. "I'm proud to be creating eco-friendly, one-of-a-kind designs. Something that cannot be easily copied or remade." For more information on Abol go to www.AbolDesign.com.