We knitters think that our craft transcends mere trends, and we are right, of course. Sometimes we forget how important knitwear is to high fashion, what a canvas it is for a designer’s imagination. Luckily, we have well-informed friends like Amanda Carr to give us a peek into the latest from London Fashion Week. Amanda gets into some amazing events, and has a sharp eye for the details of what she finds there. We are thrilled to welcome her to our pages today, with, of all things, a letter! To us!
–Kay and Ann
Greetings from London, Kay and Ann, where we fashion trend forecasters recently finished trawling London Fashion Week for inspiration. And guess what? Hand knits took centre stage at the best event of the week, Burberry’s Makers House. I couldn’t wait to tell you!
For those not following fashion’s every footstep, Burberry are the hottest brand in London, not just because the clothes are lovely and creative director Christopher Bailey looks like the kind of nice chap you’d want as your best boy-mate, but because it embraces creativity and craftsmanship in everything it does.
And there’s always good cake at its events.
This season, Burberry presented a week-long, catwalk-cum-art-gallery pop-up at Makers House, its London event space, featuring the beautiful, knitwear-heavy, spring collections alongside giant sculptures from artist Henry Moore, whose work inspired the clothes. Everyone was talking about it.
Image: Rosella Degori/TheSpaces.com
The setting was inspiring (think industrial chic meets the Cotswolds via New York’s Chelsea gallery style) but my eye was drawn to the amazingly detailed and staggeringly gorgeous array of 78 couture capes, many of which were hand knitted. I am not even going to bother you with the prices of these one off, atelier made items, you would only laugh, but I’m putting my forecaster hat on here and saying, “capes – hand knitted – are going to be a thing.”
I thought you two might like to get up close and personal with some of the designs. I am no knitter, as you both know, but my fingers began to twitch at the sight of these sculptural shapes created from yarn. How quickly can you learn exactly? And capes! No sleeves, no seams, smallish, how hard can it be?
Henry Moore’s sensual, sculptural forms were the inspiration behind the collection, and many of his massive, curvaceous works were positioned alongside the clothes, to connect the two visually. His sense of abstract proportion, from his reclining figures to his use of holes in forms to connect one side to another was artfully demonstrated and made the knitwear, in particular, look amazing.
But what I loved was the cabinet of collected ‘things’ that Moore used to inspire him – stones picked up from the beach, shapely bits of coral, decayed wood, the odd animal scull and so on, stuff we all have on our desks to remind us/inspire us/help us dream. It made you feel like you were halfway to being a creative because you too had a similar pile of weird stones and broken mussel shells sitting beside your computer. (It’s not just me, is it?)
But back to the knits, just look at the way that oversized yarn (I think it’s cotton) makes the hooded cape look so cool. And I can only imagine the size of needle one uses to make those giant stitches. But, here’s what I’m thinking, there aren’t that many stitches, right? Although they do look darn complicated.
The pompom cape was joyous, so uplifting in its oversized balls of creamy fluffiness. I can make a pom-pom; Kay once showed me how. There were capes with tassels, fringing, ruffles and one with tiny crocheted flowers in metallic-speckled yarn. Knitters, I think you would have swooned at the selection and approved of the elevation of the craft to fine art. Each cape was lit and presented like a gallery piece, and touching was strictly forbidden (yes I was told off, maybe more than once), a mean restriction because all you wanted to do was stroke and smooth and connect with these deliciously tactile clothes.
But capes, I can hear you say, how the heck do you wear a cape in today’s busy world? It’s true that capes have a bad rep for being ‘a struggle’, but Christopher, crucially, has designed short capes, which are so much easier to handle. I am not sure quite how this look will go down in Nashville, Ann. I reckon you could play a guitar wearing a short cape, although admittedly maybe not the pom-pom one. And remember, as Miranda Priestly more or less said in The Devil Wears Prada, what you dismiss one minute as a crazy idea on a catwalk turns up faster than you can blink in wearable charcoal at Eileen Fisher.
Alongside the capes was the ready-to-wear collection for Spring/Summer 2017. I can’t afford this range either, but let’s leave that aside and look at the way these machine knits were influenced by Henry Moore’s processes.
The asymmetric, cut and sew-back-somewhere-unexpected look is going to influence every knitwear designer in fashion. At the moment I’m just trying to get my head around it. I’m working hard not to use the word ‘wonky’, but I’m sure your readers, with their huge knowledge and experience, will look at this and invent a pattern while thinking about what to eat for supper.
The look is hot for menswear too. Sideways knitting, anyone?
The styling on the catwalk of mannequins was glamorous and elegant and, somewhat impractically, very antique-white, definitely more suited to a world where subways, rain and fiddling about with children’s lunch boxes didn’t feature highly.
But ignoring this, layering knits and capes over white broderie anglaise-trimmed, oversized shirts is do-able, and pretty. Obviously in real life you’d pare the look back, but you can get an idea from these shots. I am a big lover of lace, but it’s going to take a while to get my head around wearing a lace dress over a white shirt topped with a cape. But hey! We’ve learned ‘Never say never’ in fashion.
So there we have it. In London, knitwear is Hot Right Now. Handknits have never looked more gorgeous, and oversized everything is the key styling tip to take away.
Until next time!
With love from London,