I woke up this morning prepared to write something completely different for today’s newsletter, but as it turns out, when I’m stressed and cold, my brain just thinks about what it wants. So as I sit under a blanket with my coffee getting cold before I can finish it, I would like to turn your attention to the only thing I can think about right now: knitwear. Most of the knit that I own is vintage. The sweater that I will be putting on to get me through the rest of this 25 degree New York day is a v-neck Dior Homme top that my friend found at a Goodwill in our hometown. Its bright turquoise hue has somehow held up for over a decade of washing and wearing, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Still, I often find myself scouring Instagram looking through the dozens of up and coming designers who are at the center of a real knitwear moment in fashion.
Knit, of course, has never gone out of style, as the aforementioned Dior sweater might indicate. But in the last few years, there has been a creative renaissance in the knit community. It’s not just people picking up knitting as a hobby in the pandemic – that is great, but we’ve been dissecting that movement for about two years now. It’s also young designers who are upcycling old knitwear into new designs, creative manufacturers creating different knits that are breathable for year-round use, and artists creating made-to-order pieces that are so beautiful you could hang them on the wall if you wanted to. It’s one of the most exciting movements in fashion, from my perspective, because not only do many of these designers prioritize the art of fashion in their work, they are also often almost accidentally prioritizing sustainability. It’s pretty much the utopia of design where the baseline is creating long lasting investment pieces using eco-friendly materials and having transparent manufacturing.
YanYan, a knitwear brand founded by former Rag & Bone Director of Knitwear Phyllis Chan and designer Suzzie Chung, creates pieces that are exactly that. They use upcycled knits left over from factories to create their designs. In a similar way, a brand called PH5 that was founded by Wei Lin, the daughter of a large knitwear manufacturer, uses exact patterns to create their pieces, and will reverse and reuse them if they aren’t used. Yarn is often less wasteful than cut and sew because there aren’t as many scraps if it's planned correctly.
Made-to-order designers like Hope Macaulay are also part of this sustainable movement in fashion. Besides the low-waste by nature manufacturing, her chunky knits are often statement pieces, something that you would keep forever as a unique piece in your closet. Designer Lulu Kaaland also maintains the fashion-as-art perspective in her work, sometimes in an even more literal way. While many of her pieces are wearable, uniquely patterned sweaters and tank tops, some of her crocheted work is made into pieces that make for excellent wall art.
Because of how dire the sustainability problems are in fashion, we can often become a little cynical and ignore the creative small designers who are keeping the industry a place that we all love. While we all need to shop less, investing in pieces that you will keep and designers who will use care when they create can be a great thing. Seeing that we are only halfway through January, checking out some of these creative knitwear designers might just be the way to go.