An exhibition at the Textile Library in Hangzhou is exploring the craft and intricacies of old fabric and how it evolved into new fashion designs inspired by lace.

The founder of the library, Ma Daixia and Edith Cheung, an award-winning Hong Kong costume designer, curated the exhibition, “Lace to meet you.” It also collaborates with the Textile Museum in St Gallen, Switzerland, to bring some of its historic collections to Hangzhou.

The lace is believed to have originated in Europe as early as the 14th century. But the city of St Gallen rose to significance with the invention of embroidery machines in the early 19th century. At its peak time, more than half of the lace production worldwide came from the city.

Etching embroidery was born in the Swiss town, when Charles Wetter invented the technique. He took silk as ground material for the embroidery and used cotton thread to produce patterns and motifs. By burning out the silk part with caustic soda, the embroidery part remained as chemical lace.

Delicate flower-patterned lace pieces
Delicate flower-patterned lace pieces

Apart from etching, the exhibition also reveals other typical lace techniques, including a running stitch and chain stitch. A book from 1900 reveals how lace makers drew inspirations from different cultures and regions. One of the embroidery pieces from the St Gallen collection is found with the Chinese character xiang (香) stitched on it.

In the “beauty of the mechanics” section, laces made by machines are juxtaposed with illustrations showing the evolution of technology, from hand-operated machines to the latest 3D printing. Martin Leuthold, creative director from the textile company Jakob Schlaepfer presents a delicate 3D printed black lace cloning patterns on the fabric pieces.

Although the embroidery industry never recovered its prosperity, as it did in the 19th and 20th centuries, lace still remains popular with haute couture productions. In the “lace in the future” section, the Textile Library invited six groups of fashion designers to interpret lace in new contexts.

Designer brand CHEN PENG used laminated lace on down jackets. The inflated size and the heavily draped fabric overturned the stereotypes of lace as light and refined. Another brand CHOCO CONCERT incorporated colored lace patterns onto different parts of shoes, including the tongue, the welt and throatlines.

Date: Through June 22

Address: 8F Zhebao Building, Yuzhang Rd, Hangzhou

Admission: 88 yuan

A 3D-printed black lace embroidery
A 3D-printed black lace embroidery