This Designer Will Crochet Anything, Even Shoes
Berlin-based French designer Lou de Bètoly will crochet just about anything. Her jeans are embedded with different yarns that stretch from the knees to the ankle, a sassy asymmetrical miniskirt boasts dainty needlepoint, and knit knee-high black boots recall Victorian mourning garb. In her collections, nothing is short of fantastical and the fabrics and textures are beautifully random, with an almost trippy, stream-of-consciousness quality, as in a sweater with frothy clouds of white yarn mixed with constellations of pinhead-size beads and a slinky evening dress that is reminiscent of a spiderweb dotted with 3-D floral appliqué. De Bètoly, who launched her label a year ago, likens her method to “painting with a needle,” describing it as “wild and free. I don’t follow a pattern. I’m creating while I am doing.”
De Bètoly’s first moment with a needle came at the age of 5, when her mother gave her leftover wool to crochet. “She showed me different types of techniques on a little square,” she says. “I was proud of the result but I wasn’t satisfied with the color.” Years later, her work has the vibrancy of couture, in part because she worked for Jean Paul Gaultier for two years. “I was super lucky, as there are so few houses still doing couture,” she says. “And to really see and be inside of it was something great for me to take part in.”
For De Bètoly, crocheting is like creating a tactile diary. (“A time lapse of my life,” she says.) Her process starts with collecting different fabrics from around the world, including vintage embroideries from flea markets in Paris; tassels from Rajasthan, India; and traditional costumes in Romania. De Bètoly doesn’t only use textiles, either. Her pieces are an explosion of bricolage: A mini pencil and an eyeball bead dangle from the chest of a turtleneck; a bomber jacket boasts a skeleton with dangling crystal eyes, cartoon dolls with green crystals as hair, and a donkey with a collar of colorful rhinestones.
De Bètoly’s delicate and time-consuming craftsmanship is far from the fast-fashion approach. “I am really passionate about survival of handicraft because we are going so fast. Nowadays, everything is mass produced,” she says. “It is a challenge to find places where the handwork is still existing.” De Bètoly makes every piece on her own, rather than enlisting teams of artisans. She admits that the final product isn’t always perfect, but that is the point. “It isn’t just achieving an idea; it is also trying out [things],” she says.
“Maybe you don’t get the result you are aiming for, or maybe on the road there is an accident and you do something else.” As for how long it takes to make a garment? De Bètoly doesn’t count the minutes, hours, days, or weeks. After all, time flies when she is doing what she loves.