Balsa Wood & Chanel


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Balsa wood & fashion

  •  Chanel’s Spring/Summer 2016 Haute Couture collection was inspired by what Karl Lagerfeld called ‘high fashion ecology’ with the use of natural palettes and materials including wood, hemp, linen, raffia and recycled paper. 
  • Some garments were completely covered in tiny wooden sequins cut from the balsa just like this jacket and skirt  (Image source Chanel News).

This video shows how Chanel used balsa wood in their collection as shavings, fragments, sequins and pearls. 


  • Experiment with some of the ideas in the video. What are the properties of the material when used in thin layers? 
  • Try using very thin layers of balsa wood in the sewing machine (you can buy it from Hobbycraft amongst other places). It has a soft feel when you machine it almost like foam. 
  • Thin balsa wood can splinter easily. Experiment with this property by adding rows of stitches and then deliberately splintering the wood. The balsa is already quite bendy and flexible but this allows you to shape it even more. 
  • Try adding iron on interfacing on the back of the balsa and then stitching and splintering it. The interfacing controls the splintering more and whilst still giving a flexible fabric. 
  • Use bondaweb instead of the iron on interfacing. This will allow you to stick the wood onto another textiles material to create a laminate. 
  • Teachers: This is great inspiration for getting students think about materials in a broader sense and how non traditional materials can be used in a creative way in textiles. 

Other links

See more about the collection, and to see other uses of wood and paper in the collection, in an article in Vogue 

Visit the ‘Wooden Embroideries’ page on the Chanel news website 

Take a look at the work of Elisa Strozyk who creates wooden textiles

Practical activities and ideas are provided as a starting point only. Students should use these as inspiration as part of an iterative design process developing the idea further themselves. Credit should be given to the original source where appropriate.

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