Four years ago, the London-based marketing executive Cassie Holland set out to make pure wool sweaters for herself and her close friends. As a rock music fan, she strove to channel the D.I.Y. ethos laid out in the self-taught musician Viv Albertine’s 2014 feminist punk memoir “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.” The resulting pieces — a collection of youthful, boldly hued knits made from merino and lamb’s wool and adorned with the knitted names of beloved bands such as Devo and Joy Division — quickly found a following on Instagram. Last year, Holland won the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Potential Award, and while the brand’s international profile is growing, she is committed to working with British and family-run businesses, both in the Pennine mountains of Yorkshire, where her yarn is milled, and in Hawick, Scotland, where her sweaters are crafted by hand. For recent collections, she has drawn inspiration from sources including Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel “Mrs. Dalloway” (which prompted woven slogans like “melancholy” and “true self”) and the colour combinations found on old covers of The Paris Review. This season, a holiday in Greece was her starting point: While in Athens this past summer, she recalls, “We stayed with friends in the historically anarchic suburb of Exarcheia.” The collection’s standout piece, the Carrington cardigan, plays with the same fusion of tradition and rebellion. The V-neck style comes in British postbox red, navy and black and fastens with oversize mythology-themed buttons: the heads of Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus and Medusa, 3-D-printed in resin.
The Parisian fashion consultant turned designer Chloé Harrouche thinks of knitwear as “armour,” providing comfort and enabling women to feel their strongest and most secure. With that in mind, she founded Loulou Studio, a line of low-key and distinctly Gallic sweaters, earlier this year. Exemplifying the brand’s minimalism is an elegant long-sleeved white cashmere bodysuit with a clean-lined silhouette that calls to mind the crisp wardrobe staples of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. Indeed, Loulou Studio’s pared-back aesthetic centres on classic ’90s-era cuts and oversize knits with thick ribbing and sculpted silhouettes that place the focus on the garments’ materials (either cashmere from Mongolia or cotton from Portugal). The label’s palette — which abounds with organic tones such as cream, taupe and oatmeal — is inspired by elements found in nature and architecture that protect and fortify: shells, plaster, concrete and stone. Ultimately, says Harrouche, the simplicity of her knits serves to celebrate their wearers most of all: “I love the fact that the clothes let women’s personality speak.”
Earlier this year, Phyllis Chan, the former director of knitwear at the New York-based brand Rag & Bone, moved back home to Hong Kong and teamed up with her high school best friend, the print designer Suzzie Chung, to create a line of knits inspired by their grandmothers’ lighthearted take on fashion. “They don’t care about what people think or what’s trendy,” says Chung. “They just wear whatever makes them happy. They mix and match crazy prints and dress for comfort.” Yan Yan, which means “everyone” in Cantonese, offers knitted designs that range from loose flared pants to fuzzy cardigans and fluid button-down dresses, all brought to life with an eccentric mix of fluorescent rosebud appliqués, ’70s-inspired gradients that fade from ocher to rust and Chinese woodblock motifs woven in bright blues and limes. The duo takes particular delight in the garments’ smaller details: Exaggerated stitching, cheongsam-style necklines and Chinese knot closures elevate casual pieces to statement-making separates. Though they have released just one collection to date, the pair’s playful style, inherited from their beloved family muses, has already won over a subset of granddaughters.
The London-based designer Buffy Reid grew up wearing quality cashmere pieces handed down over generations. For more than 40 years, her father, Columba, worked in knitwear manufacturing in England and Ireland. He began humbly, she explains, “selling Irish Aran knits and Donegal tweeds out of a suitcase to London stores like Liberty and Harrods.” Eventually, he became one of Europe’s biggest exporters of cashmere, with clients such as Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom. In 2013, Reid joined forces with her father to create a knitwear line of their own, & Daughter; he looks after production in Ireland, and she oversees the design and branding from London. Together, they have created a range of boyish sweaters and cardigans in rich neutrals such as navy, grey, biscuit and caramel. They offer styles in wilder shades, too: an acid yellow roll neck, for example, or a lime green rib-knit pullover. The label uses just five different yarns for their collections and works closely with a handful of manufacturers from across Britain and Ireland. The mill that produces the brand’s cashmere, for example, is situated on a nature reserve in the Scottish Highlands and washes its yarn with the pristine waters of Loch Leven, which opens up its fibres, allowing for stronger colours and an extra-soft feel. Each piece of every garment is knitted individually and then linked together and finished by hand. “It’s a slow approach designed for longevity,” says Reid. “We call them ‘forever sweaters’ because, if treated well, each knit should last a lifetime.”
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