Given the pervasiveness these days of fast fashion (and already-fast fashion that only keeps getting faster), a garment that's touted for its lengthy production time is what really stops us in our tracks. London-founded, Berlin-based menswear brand AMH — Ashley Marc Hovelle is championing this type of production with its latest project. The brand launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund what it calls its "most detailed garment yet" — a sweatshirt that contains over a million stitches and takes 12 sewing machines and 24 hours to produce. Designer Ashley Marc Hovelle started his namesake label in 2009. His work primarily falls under the menswear category, but the line's specialty is contemporary streetwear, which can be worn by anyone — think jersey sweatshirts and tees with graphic detailing against a clean, monochromatic slate. Hovelle recently moved the brand from England to Germany, and works with a manufacturer based in Portugal. He didn't exactly set out to create a 1.5 million stitch garment. Rather, the goal was to make "a beautifully appliquéd sweatshirt inspired by M.C. Escher and ancient Japanese art," Hovelle tells Refinery29. The motif he and his team landed on is a golden sun slightly obscured and surrounded by fluffy, translucent clouds with an almost drawn-in finish created by individual stitching. AMH's fall '15 collection, which the 1.5 Million Stitch Sweatshirt is a part of, is titled "Covered in Daydreams: the Space Between Our Thought." The clouds represent "a thought that is always changing, yet always dispersed by the suns' light," Hovelle says. There are six items in the Covered in Daydreams range (all of which are available for pre-order on Kickstarter). Two of them feature the all-over sun-and-cloud motif that racks up the million-plus stitch count. Every square meter of this fabric contains 760,000 stitches, Hovelle explains. Because both the T-shirt and sweatshirt with the all-over pattern require at least two meters of material, that raises the number of stitches to at least 1.5 million per garment. (On his Kickstarter page, he boasts that every sweatshirt does, indeed, contain the number of stitches promised.)
After talking through the concept, Hovelle and his producers realized it would take 12 hours to embroider every square meter, meaning a single item would take a full day. The designer had already been working with an embroiderer in Portugal, and their shared appreciation for high production standards made the partnership "a natural fit," Hovelle says. And so, for 24 hours, 12 machines work simultaneously to create the hand-drawn embroidery. You can check out videos of the process on the campaign page, as well as on the brand's Instagram.
Hovelle is only making 27 pieces of each design, which you can pre-order on the brand's Kickstarter page. Pledge 185 euros (about $200) or 285 euros (about $308) to the campaign, and you can get a 1.5 Million Stitch T-shirt or Sweatshirt, respectively. (On the brand's website, the T-shirt is listed for 390 euros, while the sweatshirt goes for 535.) He likens the sweatshirt to body armor. "The embroidery changes the drape and feel of the garment in a structured way and reminds you that you are wearing something very special," he describes. At press time, the Kickstarter, which ends on January 20, is halfway to its goal of 10,000 euros (about $10,798). "We have received a lot of love for our efforts, in terms of the art direction on the photoshoot, the thought-provoking video, the interesting patterns and the impactful concept," Hovelle says of the campaign so far. "I have learned that we should have started promoting this months in advance to our launch; better fashionably late than never."
An outstanding amount of detail is something we see (and admire) regularly on the runway — in the beaded beauty of Balmain, in the elegant ruffles of Rebecca Taylor and Zimmermann, and, of course, in the show-stopping atelier creations of couture. What's cool about this endeavor is not only the craftmanship it brings to everyday items, like a T-shirt and sweatshirt, but also how it quantifies it (and gives its wearer a major talking point). This type of fashion, Hovelle believes, aims "to get beyond the basic and transcend into a reality where time spent well equals quality." This type of design, which requires more time, investment and meticulous, individual attention, in a way, is "anti-fashion," he says, because "it can be worn for many seasons to come" and thus goes against the transient nature of seasonal trends. The rest of Hovelle's collection offers a similar escapism to the daydream-inspired million-stitch garments, using artful details like "fine digital prints, detailed hand-drawn embroidered applications and brushed fleece fabrications," as well "as laser-cut heat-pressed satin, matte finish applications, and new abstract logo forms," Hovelle says, to "distract our minds from reality."