This Winter collection took flight when designer Shanshan Ruan found herself in the spacious, labyrinth-like warehouse of her pleat supplier, in northern France. Despite knowing each other for almost two and a half years, this was her first time stepping into their atelier.

Taking this opportunity, she was able to see how the pleats were made up close. Modern machines are only capable of making basic pleats, but more elaborate work is only achievable by hand. The métier (two pieces of cardboard that enclose the fabric) is drawn and cut manually, and the fabric is then inserted panel by panel into the métier to be folded one pleat at a time. This is then fed into a steaming machine to be “cooked” so that the pleats become fixed.

Shanshan has always had a fascination with the art of pleating, as it demonstrates the magic that hands can perform. Since her first collection she has designed and manufactured her own garments, simply for the joy of simply creating things. However, handling fabric and thread has helped her gain a deeper understanding and experience with the details in her clothing.

This Winter collection highlights the pleating detail and how it changes the look of the garment. Take for example:

  • Combining soft and fluid silk pleats with knitted fabric.
  • Inserting pleated panels into an athletic-style hoodie, sweatshirt or denim jacket.
  • Hiding pleating under layers of organza to volumise the structure.

During the research for this collection, Shanshan came across a pleated cotton jersey fabric from a Japanese mill. The textile is set by hand, giving it an uneven texture with great natural elasticity. The combined properties of pleats and jersey cotton have enabled her to develop slender and more delicate garments.

All pleats from the Autumn-Winter 19/20 collection are “plissé sur métier” – hand made.


All images are shot and provided by Daria Svertilova.