TikTok is largely dominated by trending songs, dance challenges, and overall embracing creativity, but it’s not as well known for its fashion scene. That being said, a stylish community is forming on the app—and Vogue is here to find the most inspiring, and most stylish, creators.
This week’s must-follow account is Elena Naomi Kanagy-Loux (@erenanaomi), a 34-year-old creator based in Brooklyn, New York who is captivating her audience’s attention by hand-making lace on the app. She spends her days as a collections specialist at the Antonio Ratti Textile Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “ The Antonio Ratti Textile Center serves as the study and storage facility for The Met’s collection of over 33,000 textiles, so I get to see a huge variety of incredible textiles up close,” she says. Kanagy-Loux brings that love to TikTok, where she makes bobbin lace, a painstaking process that’s meditative to do and watch, while exploring the history behind it. Her aesthetically-pleasing videos take TikTok users into a whole other world in the process—one that she calls “LaceTok,” as a community of fellow lacemakers is quickly forming on the app.
Kanagy-Loux joined TikTok after a friend of hers convinced her to, and after posting her first video in September, she quickly gained over 100,000 fans. Her first video played off her ongoing love affair with lace, and it now has over 1 million views. “It was kind of a shock to have my first two videos go viral, and I have been humbled by the positive response,” Kanagy-Loux says. Her love of the delicate fabric traces back to her upbringing. “My heritage is Amish and Mennonite, so I learned traditional skills like sewing, crochet, and embroidery from a young age,” she says. “Growing up, my life was divided between the U.S. and Japan, where my mom was born as a child of Missionaries. I spent my formative years in Tokyo and I was hugely influenced by the hyper-feminine Lolita fashion scene in Harajuku, where every surface was covered in frills.” Kanagy-Loux’s personal style—chock full of her own lace gowns, gloves, and hats— reflects this influence and is equally as captivating as the videos of her making them.
She learned how to make lace herself about a decade ago, and enjoys designing different pieces making use of the fabric. Having previously worked in vintage stores, and even as a costume designer to Courtney Love, she says these combined experiences have also made her wardrobe a goldmine for rare lace pieces. “My wardrobe consists of everything from my great-grandmother’s Amish bonnets to decaying Victorian undergarments to PVC fetish garb,” she says. “As for lace, I have become a sort of repository for friends’ grandma’s collections of handmade doilies that they don’t know what to do with, which I’ve welcomed. But my tiny apartment is starting to feel a bit overstuffed!”
Below, Kanagy-Loux discusses her creative process, the LaceTok community, and what video of hers took the longest to make.
1. What’s your process for creating TikToks? Where do you get ideas?
As lacemaking is so time consuming, I tend to make more videos than finished [lace] pieces. I have found that people are mesmerized by watching the process of making bobbin lace. Inspiration often strikes when another creator’s video resonates with me, and it gives me an idea for a version within my own universe. I have found that all of my interests and the things I was already doing have translated organically onto TikTok. I love the storytelling format, and the way it allows you to showcase your aesthetic and vision.
2. How did you learn how to make your own lace?
I don’t remember when I first saw bobbin lace being made, but around 2011 I became enchanted with it and determined to learn. At the time I could not find a teacher in New York City, so I searched online for “lace school” and the first one to come up was in Idrija, Slovenia. I traveled there in 2012 for my first lesson during their annual lace festival and I was hooked. My connection to bobbin lace feels visceral. I immediately connected to the gestures of moving the bobbins and it has become a meditative practice. I do make other kinds of lace such as needle lace and tatting but they haven’t clicked for me in the same way – not yet at least!
3. Do you have many friends who are also into lacemaking? Is there a community?
Absolutely! Lacemaking is often referred to as a lost or dying art, but there are actually thousands of lacemakers around the world of all genders, from Sri Lanka to Brazil. Many lacemakers don’t use the Internet or social media, but that is rapidly changing, and it is thrilling to watch #LaceTikTok blossom and reach a broader audience. Lacemakers are a very generous, welcome, tight-knit community, and once you meet one of us, you can easily connect with more. I’m so grateful to all the lacemakers who have taught me what I know.
4. You’re also the founder of the Brooklyn Lace Guild. Can you explain what this is?
Brooklyn Lace Guild is an organization of lacemakers and scholars dedicated to the preservation of making lace by hand. Traditionally, textile guilds were professional organizations of male laborers, but today, lace guilds serve as gathering places for lovers of lace from all backgrounds to ensure that these skills are passed onto the next generation. We used to meet monthly at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn to make lace, discuss history, and drink wine, but these days we meet on Zoom, which has broadened our audience.
5. Your page dispels the idea of lace as an “old lady textile.” Why do you find lace beautiful and even modern?
I am drawn to the frivolity and even the uselessness of lace. As a textile, lace doesn’t protect or warm the body, it’s difficult to make, and it’s rather delicate. Lace exists purely to adorn—beauty for beauty’s sake—and I love that about it. For all the wonderful support that I get in my craft, I also get a lot of questions about why I would choose to make lace when it can be made more cheaply by machine. In a world increasingly dominated by one-click shopping with same-day delivery, making lace can teach us a lot about patience, going back to our roots, and the value of the handmade. For me, making lace is an antidote to the chaos of the world, and it makes me feel connected to generations of feminine makers who came before me, whose labor has been undervalued.
6. What’s the most special piece in your closet?
It’s really difficult to choose, but the most special piece in my closet would have to be my wedding dress. It is a late 19th century gown entirely handmade of Irish crochet clones lace. Many people expected me to make my own wedding dress, as I was working as a designer at the time, but I wanted to take the opportunity to invest in a rare piece of history.
7. You started a spooky lace series this month. Tell us about the spooky history of lace.
Many people will be familiar with Victorian mourning and the tradition of hair jewelry, but lace made of hair also has a long tradition, dating back to the Renaissance. Queen Elizabeth I was said to have a penchant for lace made of hair, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London has a couple of incredibly rare pieces of hair lace from the 17th century. During the heyday of lace, it was extremely valuable and people went through great lengths to acquire it, including smuggling lace in coffins over international borders.