I’m not sure how I first stumbled upon Previously, but one thing is for sure—it was love at first sight! Elide Endreson makes the loveliest vintage-inspired garters, using the same construction methods and materials designers did in the 1920s. The results are absolutely breath-taking. These handmade garters have captured my heart and filled my head with a sense of wonderment. I just had to learn more about Elide and her handmade adventures, and luckily she agreed to answer a few of my questions.
As someone who is obsessed with 1920s design and culture, I’m always delighted and excited to find others who feel the same way. What is it about this era that inspires you and speaks to your soul?
I think I’m intrigued by the decade’s examples of expression and experimentation in the arts and elsewhere. For example, you have Dadaism and Surrealism in this era. You also have the writers of the Lost Generation, the Harlem Renaissance, the Ballet Russe, Berlin Caberet and the Bauhaus during this time. This was also the era of the rise of urbanization and women’s suffrage in the United States. I think it’s the first decade that is relatable because it was when modernism really took hold. As fascinating as Victorian culture is, its sensibility and traditions can feel somewhat alien.
You mention on your website that your garters are inspired by George Barbier and Boue Soeurs. Who are some of your other favorite artists and designers from that era?
Right now I’m looking at a lot of designers that used meticulous embellishment in their work, which includes the House of Lanvin and Callot Souers. I’ve also been looking at illustrators that were the peers of George Barbier such as Georges Lepape and Pierre Brissaud. They all did fashion illustrations for the French magazine Gazette du Bon Ton in the 20s and it’s pure eye candy.
I’ve read in other interviews that the research and development stage is always the best part of the process for you because it’s full of discoveries and possibilities. I can totally relate to this in my own work and process. For me, I think researching and finding the perfect materials for a project is tied into the primitive human urge to hunt and gather, and our natural instinct to be curious. What are your thoughts on this?
For me, the research stage is definitely hunting and gathering. I comb through books and articles on techniques and pictures of vintage lingerie, study examples of vintage ribbon work and what women wore in the 20s. This is the stage where I let my interests wander, and use curiosity like a compass. One one hand, you indulge your interests because you end up going down a path, and then there’s an interesting tangent and you end up somewhere you didn’t expect. On the other, it’s hard to be disciplined at this stage and I can end up spending too much time consuming information. Development is where I try to reign myself in to build a solid foundation. This would include prototyping and figuring out the best and most efficient way to make something.
What do you do when you sit down to design something? What are your rituals in your process?
My design process is slightly different for each of the three categories of garters I’m working on, which are: a standard collection (designs that I plan to sell in my shop for some time), a custom garter set made to order, or a one-of-a-kind garter set.
For the current collection of garters, I spent a lot of time looking at and reading about 1920s ribbon work and millinery (hunting and gathering!). Since I was going for a reproduction look, I wanted the forms and scale of the designs to be in keeping with actual vintage garters. I also wanted something that would still resonate on some level with contemporary sensibilities. I sketched out several ideas and experimented with ribbon to try and get the shapes I wanted. (I think this is usually how it goes for me: form comes first, then color.)
For color, I was really inspired by the illustrations of George Barbier as mentioned earlier. Looking at black and white photos, you don’t really get the big picture of how vibrant color was used then. I was really struck by Barbier’s color juxtapositions which I wouldn’t have thought would be popular in the 1920s. In the design process, I prefer to use natural fibers whenever possible and keep in mind the wearability of the item—for example, is the embellishment that I designed going to be secure enough? Since the garters are worn on your legs, I assume they are going to get brushed by your skirt or dress, or when you cross your legs. It’s because of this that I’m a little afraid to use vintage materials on the garters; they always feel a bit too delicate to me, which is a shame since I have a number of vintage treasures I’d love to use.
For custom orders, the process is more like a collaboration between the customer and I. If it’s someone I know or have met, I try to think about where her aesthetic sense leans and what she wears on a regular basis. I use this as a guide for making design decisions. My goal is always to delight the customer, and I know I’ve done that when there’s a part of me that really wants that custom pair I just made for myself.
The limited edition/one-of-a-kind garters are something I’ve just started. It requires a larger investment in time and materials and is therefore something I wouldn’t allow myself to do until this year. I’m excited to be exploring different materials and more complicated designs.
At the end of each of these design processes, I do have a ritual. I close my eyes for a few seconds, then open them again and look at the garter I have just finished. If it looks like something I would buy—if I love it—then it’s done.
Is there a creative medium or perhaps a vintage method or technique you want to try that you haven’t yet?
There are several, but the one that stands out the most is a Victorian recipe and instructions for making your own stamen for use in various projects (like hairwork or feather flowers). The instructions call for a mixture of rice flour, dye and gum arabic into which you dip the end of silk thread to make the stamen. It’s really not practical to make my own stamen but it’s definitely something I’d like to try.
What are some of your favorite things about living and working in Chicago?
Inspiration is just outside my door! My neighborhood experienced rapid growth in the 1920s and you can see it in the architectural details. The brickwork pattern on a building or the shape of a cut-out on a door will resonate art deco. I also love having access to museums and libraries for research.
What’s next for Previously?
On July 21st I will be joining a roster of awesome local vendors at Indie Wed in Chicago. I also have a collaborative project on deck for this holiday season, a lot of one of a kind pieces in the works and a small limited edition series of garters that will be released soon.
* * *