Encountering a spring-loaded tangle of wires, the most productive performance I can achieve is shoving the curly mass back into a cavity with hopes it stays out of sight. Where most see snakes on a plane, Alexandra Sipa envisions purpose and possibility. What she makes is repurposed, beautiful, a blend of old and new. All the good stuff.
Gwynned Vitello: Central Saint Martins in London is such a highly regarded school. What were your expectations when you were accepted? Is your current work a departure from what you first had in mind?
Alexandra Sipa: I wanted to go to CSM since I was 12 but, at the time, was attending an arts-focused high school in Bucharest, Romania. Going abroad to study was a big financial commitment and risk, especially with the job insecurity in creative fields. However, when I learned about CSM, I knew it offered the best education and environment possible to achieve my dreams. I wanted to go desperately.
So much has happened over the last four years at Saint Martins that I could not have imagined. What makes this school so special is the unique mix of people, personalities and backgrounds. The most important thing we learn at CSM is that to succeed in this industry and in life you need to value yourself—where you come from, who you are, and what you do.
Attitude, social structure, ambience—how was the adjustment moving to London?
I used to be very shy, so my first year was tough. I already knew English, but it’s one thing to be textbook fluent and another to effortlessly express your personality in a second language. It’s almost like I had to get to know myself again in a different language. Things got easier after the first few months. I was lucky to meet some amazing people who made me feel at home. It also helped when I finally was able to understand British accents!
When you hatched the idea for lace wiring, were your family and teachers surprised or skeptical, or was something so novel kind of expected of you?
It’s funny you ask because my tutors were in complete disagreement. When I first started making the waste wire lace, one of them really loved the idea and encouraged it wholeheartedly, while the other was skeptical and not convinced. That was my second year before interning in the industry. When I returned in 12 months for the final year, my unconvinced tutor slowly warmed to the idea, as I had improved and refined it. That’s the great thing about having two opposing perspectives: one to push and challenge me to make my ideas better and someone supportive no matter what. I’m incredibly grateful to have been taught by Anna-Nicole Ziesche and Heather Sproat, the two BA Womenswear tutors at CSM.
Once you latched on to the idea, what was most challenging about actually producing a garment? What properties of the material are difficult and which are inherently advantageous?
The time-intensive nature of the lacing process was initially most challenging; however, I soon became more efficient, and making the lace became second nature. The process feels meditative now. After mastering the fundamental lace stitch and technique, finishing the wire garments to a luxury standard is the difficult part, and it varies from piece to piece. For example, for the A-line lace dress from my graduate collection, I adapted the Romanian technique of point lace to finish the entire bottom, hiding any loose wiring and creating decorative oval petals. The challenge is to find aesthetic solutions to practical issues so it is wearable, comfortable, and beautiful. The lace dress has taken the longest of the pieces so far, about 1000 hours across a few months.
Unless deliberately undone stitch-by-stitch or cut with scissors, the wire lace textile is essentially indestructible, and including the dress and ruffle coat, can be folded, bent, or reshaped, yet easily molded back to its original shape.
What did the first design look like, and was it easy to proceed to the next shape or type of garment?
The first time I tried making a garment out of wires, three years ago, was not what I imagined at all. It didn’t look polished or close enough to a lace fabric, but I really loved doing it and saw potential.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Ryan Travis Christian
Naughty by Nature
A Certain Southern Gothic
What a Day for a Daydream
Cool, Calm Composer
Shannon T. Lewis
A Performance of Many Lifetimes
A Not So Subtle Rebellion
The Bare and Bold Truth
A Most Happy Balance
Through the Wire
GEOLOGY 101 Columnar Basalt
A distinctive volcanic structure found throughout the world has been given fanciful names: “Organ Pipes” in Namibia and Victoria, Australia; “Kilt Rock” and “Samson’s Ribs” in Scotland; “Giant’s Causeway” in Northern Ireland; “Thunderstruck Rocks” in Romania; “Devils Tower” in Wyoming and “Paul Bunyan’s Woodpile” in Utah, USA; the “Baigong Pipes” in China; and the “Cliff of Stone Plates” in Vietnam. High-resolution satellite images have even shown similar as-yet-unnamed structures on Mars.
Can An Unlove Child Learn to Love?
Thirty years ago, the world discovered tens of thousands of children warehoused in Romanian orphanages, deprived of human contact and affection. They’re adults now.
Revel in the newfound energy and vibrancy of Romania’s capital.
The Vampire Trail
Immerse yourself in ancient myths and one of the last refuges for Europe's wolves on a hike throughthe Transylvanian Alps
10 Best Places To Visit This New Year
The where, when and why of your next globetrotting adventure begins right here. These unspoiled and unexplored destinations will be hot property soon (according to The Lonely Planet Best In Travel 2016 guide), so get packing.
NIA recreates CSMT scene with Waze
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), along with a forensics team, on Monday reviewed the spot at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) from where arrested assistant police inspector Sachin Waze was caught on CCTV camera taking a train to Thane on the day of the murder of Mansukh Hiran, the owner of the explosives-laden Scorpio found near Ambani’s residence. Sources said the NIA team took Waze to CSMT late at night to recreate the scene to avoid crowds.
Fire at Romanian hospital treating COVID patients kills 5
BUCHAREST (AP) – A fire early last Friday at a key hospital in Bucharest that also treats COVID-19 patients killed at least five persons, authorities said.
Time to stop humiliating sides at the World Cup
World Cups produce non-playing “villains” as well as rogues of the on-field variety.
Don Hahn’s Hand Held
‘Adopt' a museum artefact, save history this festive season
Know someone who would like a sixth-century ‘Head of a Damsel’ for Christmas? Or maybe a 400-year-old silk thangka painting of Chundhaa, goddess and protector from epidemics and diseases?