Sift through your memories, and knitted sweaters conjure up images of your grandmother squinting and doing intricate needlework, her deft fingers deftly sewing a sweater for you.An ancient technique passed down from generation to generation, especially in India, it is no longer a leisurely pastime.As a category that cannot be ignored, knitwear is in the midst of a renaissance led by young designers specializing in handmade knitwear, while established brands expand their knitwear portfolio.
The pandemic has had a powerful impact on its revival.Comfortable knitwear headlined our WFH collection, sparking a casualwear craze, and brands took notice of this often overlooked technology.It also draws attention to our wasteful consumption patterns, shifting attention to clothes that are made consciously.Together, this knitted sweater was pushed to the forefront.Knitwear fits in with the fashion industry’s efforts to accelerate sustainability – it’s not just about garment design, it also requires technical knowledge about making fabrics.Designers and brands are exploring responsible materials and processes to weave their knitwear, highlighting transparency and quality.
Dispelling any seasonal associations that knitwear brings, a group of emerging designers is pushing the boundaries to create non-seasonal staples and year-round pieces that enhance their viability.We spoke with four such emerging knitwear designers about why tactile and timeless knitting is “IT”.
Tight knits, unfinished skirts, and flattering exposed cuts form the basis of Namita Khade’s experimental knits.A British-raised designer of Indian origin, Khade straddles different cultural identities through her designs, without referencing her heritage through clichés.”Growing up in the North West of England as a brown woman and my two older sisters in a predominantly British atmosphere shaped my process in ways I didn’t always realize. We both had a rebellious spirit, But we also love our heritage and our culture very much.”
After landing Kim K and Kylie-Jenner, we talked to the designer about her unexpected foray into knitwear and her upcoming debut collection.
Why Knitwear?I accidentally put on a knitted sweater.When I went back to fashion research, this was suggested by one of my foundation mentors.I didn’t realize the textile I was creating was a form of knitting when I initially applied for the other avenues, as it was never the “traditional” knitwear I was used to seeing.My degree at Central Saint Martins helped me see what’s possible in knitwear and what you can create through trial and error.Often, mistakes end up being the main textile in my work.
Knitwear renaissance: When I started my degree in 2018, I realized the potential of knitwear – you develop the fabric from scratch, and then the silhouette you want to create.It’s a fun and exciting process, and you can do a lot with it.It has become popular during the pandemic because it can be done at home and is an ancient craft that is often passed down from generation to generation.Great to see how everyone interprets the craft.
Conscious choice: With so much clothing consumed and wasted, it’s hard not to feel like what you do has a huge impact as a designer.Ultimately, no fashion brand is 100% sustainable, but here’s what I’ve realized and I’m still learning new ways to reduce my influence.Now, however, it ends up working slower than most designers, launching new pieces less frequently than fitting into the fashion week schedule, while also being conscious of the materials and craftsmanship I use.
Design Process: Much of my design comes from experimentation and interesting handling of body materials.Some may take hours, while others may take weeks and weeks.My design research has always been personal.It’s a way of connecting my family lineage and the history of my heritage, especially the villages in Maharashtra, the cultural pockets I have where I grew up, and my parents’ immigration to the UK In the 70′s and 80′s.
Looking to the future: I am currently working on a number of fiber, textile and material developments that excite me.I have taken a short break from university and will be returning in 2023 to complete my bachelor’s degree, where I will launch my first series.
An eco-conscious human clothing brand, Margn is defined by deconstructed uniform-like silhouettes with nuances of rebellious elements.Led by Ranjit Yadav and Saurabh Maurya, their hand-woven ikat has become a staple.”It’s classic, functional, and layered easily,” says Maurya.Believing that gender is not a binary construct, Margn creates clothing that is masculine rather than gendered.
Half of the two, Saurabh Maurya, spoke to us about the importance of community and the sustainability lessons he learned growing up.
Why Knitwear?During my graduation, I worked with a community in Kullu on knitwear and loved every part of it.So, when we launched our brand, we didn’t think about specializing in anything other than it.We also realised that not many brands in India combine menswear and knitwear.So, this is where our passion for knitwear begins.Handknit will always be part of our collection, and we’re constantly striving to innovate it.
Knitwear renaissance: The knitwear craze started three or four years ago, especially hand knitwear, and is here to stay.People are becoming aware of the concept of communities and how brands can have an impact in working with those communities to make things better.Knitwear made from natural materials is leading the way, also because most brands are currently striving to be sustainable.
Conscious choice: We grew up in rural India – Ranjit in Bihar and me in Singrauri, Madhya Pradesh.Growing up, we knew very little about fashion.What we see is the authenticity and handcrafted thought of the clothes that people around us wear.I remember seeing my mom quilting us out of old sheets and reusing every single plastic, and my dad was a farmer who was connected to nature.Today, I realize that these are the sustainability lessons that really impact our work.
At Margn, we take a holistic approach to sustainability.Since our inception, we have partnered with smaller farmer communities to source raw materials and local artisans, such as our all-female team living in Kullu for hand knitting.
Conscious of our carbon footprint, we use less energy-intensive materials and processes as well as organic and recycled materials.Finally, we pack the garments in upcycled sacks.
Design Process: I start with a concept that revolves around our idea of human nature and create work.Then I sat down with Ranjit and confirmed the final idea with swatches, fabric types and physical samples of non-garment.Then comes the form of fitting, toiling and exploring the human body – which takes the longest because it comes from our deep emotional understanding.Post this, we source the fabric and start sampling.The whole process takes about six or seven months.
Looking ahead: We hope to expand by increasing our distribution channels in both domestic and international markets.We also have exciting artist collaborations this year.Currently, we are working on S/S 2023, which will be shown at Pitti Uomo in Florence.We have been selected and invited to be a part of Sustainable Style June 14-17, 2022.
Rescha is Charlotte Chowdhury’s collision of two conflicting cultures – Indian and French.”The cultural differences that I grew up with were at the heart of what the brand represented,” said Chowdhury.”With Rescha, I wanted to prove that two worlds can coexist. From gamcha designs woven through traditional French intarsia to embroidery that embellishes classic knitted lace dresses, both cultures find references in our work.”
Fabric is the foundation of all her designs – how and by whom it is developed, how it touches and responds to movement and light.”These guided the styling of the garment, so it was an overall cohesion of visual and physical style, inspired by my Indian and French heritage.”
We chat with Chowdhury about her early appreciation for knitwear and her thoughts on Rescha’s future.
Knitwear Revival: I could appreciate the creative power of knitwear very early on through the Sonia Rykiel pieces my mom bought at the vintage store.While studying at Central Saint Martins in London, I realised the limitless potential of this technology, which prompted me to specialise in it.Working with fashion brands in the UK and France, it became clear that there was a lack of a proposition in the overall knitwear space that combined high quality fabrics, a strong artistic identity and consistent prices.I wanted to fill that void by creating a knitwear-focused brand that would also shake up the conventional notion of knitwear as a classic pullover technique.
Conscious choice: At Rescha, we want to address sustainability issues by carefully choosing the source of our yarns and consciously adjusting production quantities to ensure waste is minimised.We work with factories that demonstrate strong employer ethic and prioritize support for independent, small workshops that have unique know-how but are underappreciated.
Design Process: The first step is to select fabric samples.I developed it myself from scratch, or with inspiration from vintage archival research.Then I define the garment design and look for artisans to work with the prototype.This is the most important part of the process when we decide how to use the traditional textile techniques we want to highlight.It takes at least 2-3 months from fabric selection to prototype finalization.
Looking to the future: Our main near-term goal is to expand our collaboration with artisans and sources of inspiration in France and India to continue cultivating the values that Rescha wants to represent.We are developing our second series and look forward to releasing the first pieces in a few months.
Muskaan Soni’s epidemic baby Khajoor aims to create garments that explore the mix of traditional and modern India.”I was born and raised in Jaipur and have always been surrounded by Rajasthan traditions,” Soni said.”I’m obsessed with colour, place, people and Indian materials, and I’m translating that into minimal yet detail-oriented pieces. Linking Indian craftsmanship with modernity, she calls it “contemporary India expressed through our country’s textile craftsmanship” The juxtaposition of folklore”.
We talked to Soni about three of Khajoor’s core values - the use of artisanal craftsmanship, ethical raw materials, and the use of eco-friendly technologies.
Why Knitwear?I have always been intrigued by the endless possibilities of Indian skilled textile craftsmanship.I graduated in Knitting Design and have been working closely with knitting artisans with a strong interest in hand knitting and hand knitting machines.I started Khajoor after seeing a gap in the market in India, working with artisan clusters on knitting projects and gaining experience in the industry.I wanted to bring knitwear to the forefront, while appealing to modern consumers, using local raw materials and abundant craftsmanship.
Knitwear renaissance: The renewed interest in knitwear in India is noteworthy and I sense a shift in perspective.Like hand knitting, knitting as a textile requires further exploration.This is a beautiful technique not many people know about whose repetitive and rhythmic movements are often equated with meditation.I am excited to experience and contribute to the development of knitwear.
Conscious choice: Our designs are made by skilled textile artisans.They follow the guiding principles of responsible production while using traditional techniques to achieve superb quality.Our eternal goal is to empower women craftsmen and create a positive impact for them.One of the best parts of hand knitting is zero waste.Knit only the required amount of yarn into the garment.Our first collection saw hand-spun Indian wool naturally dyed by artisans from Himachal Pradesh.We strive to use sustainable raw materials, processes and alternatives that are in harmony with nature.
Design process: From ideation – I draw inspiration from cultural elements I have experienced.Expressing this into garments that match the sensibilities of the modern consumer, while evoking the joy of Indian craftsmanship, required a lot of sampling.We experiment with colors and techniques with multiple samples.Our handwovens are handcrafted with love by artisans and take about three weeks to complete, depending on the level of complexity.
Looking to the future: As we prepare to launch our summer collection, I’m experimenting with recycled yarns, cotton knits and 3D hand knitted details.You’ll also find handmade jersey in our Fall/Winter 2022 collection.I want to explore collaborations with artisan groups and expand Khajoor’s global reach.
Post time: Jun-15-2022