spark top in pink shimmer trace top in tangerine/white contrast shoulder button-down in sky denim/white contrast shoulder button-down in tangerine/white bi-color sleeveless shift dress in rusty/white sleeveless trails dress in black short-sleeve trace dress in sky denim/white short-sleeve line dress in tangerine line skirt in tangerine spark skirt in aqua grey Puppy love! Alexandra with her beagle, Kinako, in her studio in Antwerp The beginning of a beautiful origami-esque pleated dress... A prototype in the studio Flash forward to Japan! Here's the very serious-looking steamer that presses the pleats in the factory. And here's the custom-made mold that Alexandra designed to create the star-shaped pattern from "Shift." It takes around three days to make one. Up close, you can see each 3-D star Bam! The finished pieces arrive in Hyères, where they go on to impress a panel including Suzy Menkes and Olivier Theyskens, winning the grand prize. Behind the scenes at Hyères

Pleats Please! Introducing Alexandra Verschueren

BY Alice Newell-Hanson | Wed. December 31, 1969 | 7:00 PM | OC
When I hear "pleats" I immediately think of my school uniform. So when our buying team told us that a young Belgian designer had won the super prestigious Hyères festival last year on the back of some incredible pleating, I was happily surprised to see that they looked nothing like my itchy eighth-grade kilt. Alexandra Verschueren's winning collection, "Shift," is her first to sell at OC and it's a masterpiece of out-of-this-world textures.

To produce the springy, featherlight folds on the spark skirt and top, Alexandra had to find a specialist manufacturer in Japan. Which is pretty fitting given that the cut-out dresses and intricate star-shaped pleats were inspired in part by origami. Follow the process from start to finish (with behind-the-scenes shots from Hyères) in Alexandra's pictures, and meet the designer, and ex-Proenza intern, in our interview below.

Shop all Alexandra Verschueren here.

Alice Newell-Hanson: What's the most-worn item in your wardrobe?
Alexandra Verschueren: My Church's shoes.

ANH: If you weren't a designer what would you be?
AV: Probably a librarian.

ANH: What's your most prized possession?
AV: My Christopher Nemeth jacket.

ANH: If you could design costumes for any movie, what would it be?
AV: Anything by Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola.

ANH: What's your all-time favorite collection?
AV: At the moment I like early 90s Vivienne Westwood. It's so personal and timeless.

ANH: What inspired the patterns in "Shift"?
AV: I wanted to transform the idea of a flower, something very organic, into something more geometric. 

ANH: What other themes run through Spring/Summer 2012?
AV: "Shift" is about change, the transition from one thing to another. I found images that focused on overlapping, and applied those ideas to the garments, by using inverted pleats that open up while walking. The idea of transition can also be found in some of the fabrics that are vegetable dyed. They'll fade beautifully over time.

ANH: The pleating is so incredible! Did you struggle to find someone who could make what you imagined?

AV: Before this year, I did all the pleats by hand. But to actually put my ideas into production there are a lot more criteria: the mold can only be a certain size, the pattern mustn't curl upwards, and the main fabric has to be 100% polyester. We found a great company in Japan that was willing to help us out. It's a family business that has been making pleats since the 1930s—and they usually only manufacture them for furniture.
First, they have to make a paper mold, which is folded manually (it takes up to three days to make one). Then the fabrics get pressed inside the mold and it gets steamed at a really high temperature. That part is crucial. After that, you end up with pleats that will last, and you can even wash them. It's a time consuming process. Even though it looks quite high-tech, it's still a very manual and artisanal process in the end.

Shop all Alexandra Verschueren here.