Alice Archer – Confronting Technology in Craft

Alice Archer – Confronting Technology in Craft

Although my mantra has long been “hand made is the best made,” coming across this op-ed by designer Alice Archer in the Business of Fashion has begun to open my eyes to the possibilities of utilizing technology and digital design in 21st century craft.

Coming from a design background myself, I have been on the lookout for the right way to translate my designs into fabulously handcrafted products. I have plans! They are just sometimes hard to execute to my envisioned standards. Trying to produce anything 100% handmade on a “medium” scale is challenging in the current manufacturing landscape. Although I still believe that handmade is the best made, I have been grappling with how difficult a reality that can be. Which is why I was so inspired and relieved to read Archer’s open and honest explanation of how she has utilized technology in her design process. She talks about how she designs each individual stitch on the computer, just as she would do in a sketch or sample. Then the computer translates those stitches into an embroidery machine to create the actual fabric. With a machine able to recreate the same nuanced pattern over and over, it really changes the game!

“I want to evoke this atmosphere of historic and textured embroideries in my designs using modern age technology, allowing the workmanship to be fully industrialised.” – Alice Archer

The results are stunning. Alice Archer’s designs are so detailed and elegant. I first came across them on Instagram and had to find out more. Her amazing collections are available at Browns (which happens to be one of my favourite stores), and The Place London, a new concept shop by Simon Burstein that serves as both a studio and retail space for Archer’s designs.

The detailing achieved through her digital embroidery is quite impressive.

I would love to see this piece in real life. Must be lovely!


Of course, there is so much to be learned from traditional handmade crafting techniques, but there is also room for development between digital design and traditional craft. As Archer says, “the use of computers and mechanical processes are not antithetical to my craftsmanship, but essential to it.” She goes on to point out that it is in this way that she is attempting to “push the potential of traditional embroidery techniques and make embroidery relevant and desirable today by combining new technologies with that spirit of traditional handcraft.”

One of Archer’s chic kimonos.

Ohmygosh, I just love this! It has totally inspired me! Despite the challenges, it is a very exciting time to be creating things in this world, and now I have a different outlook on how to bring my own designs to life. Such a fascinating perspective. It is always so important to consider all your options, isn’t it? Looking forward to where this kind of openness in my thinking will take me. Perhaps where it took Alice Archer…