Dear American knitting friends:
Greetings from London Town, where some of us beleaguered Brits are coping with Brexit chaos by immersing ourselves in feel-good, craft-heavy environments to keep cheerful. And there is never a more joyful or uplifting space to do just that than at a brightly hued Kaffe Fassett exhibition. Luckily, there’s one currently enjoying a month-long run in my local Anthropologie store, in conjunction with London Design Week.
Kaffe and his magical way with color and print are not just a soothingly creative balm for our current political madness, he’s also currently Hot in fashion circles, having collaborated with Coach’s head designer Stuart Vevers for AW 2019.
Google Kaffe’s name today and interviews with Vogue pop up above the expected knitting and sewing references you and I will have read. Coach’s gorgeous collection features Kaffe’s heritage prints and is launching in shops this month. If you are a Kaffe fan, it’s well worth a look. (Festive Season self-gifting is just around the corner, just putting it out there.)
His new exhibition, The Wonderful World of Kaffe Fassett, is on at the Anthropologie in Chelsea’s Kings Road, which has seen many a fashion girl walk its pavements since it became hot in the ’60s.
Needlepoint cushion + needlepoint chair: that’s so Kaffe.
I feel a little inner smugness when the shop assistant tells me in a hushed voice that “Kaffe is, like, quite a big deal in creative circles.” I want to add that, yes indeed he is, and I’ve been one of his devoted disciples since before the internet actually existed. Instead I just nod, and gaze admiringly at the selection of works, which hang, jewel-bright, around the room.
A little knitting project.
Having been a fan of Kaffe’s style since he first emerged as Captain Color back in the ’70s, working with Missoni and Bill Gibb, I love that he’s now influencing younger generations. There’s something luscious about Kaffe’s work, from the blousy brilliance of his Peony flower needlepoint chair in vintage-pastel hues, center stage of the shop’s gallery space, to the super-saturated primary colors used for the knitted wall hangings that line the walls.
Kaffe speaks fluent crochet.
With such depth and texture to each stitch, there’s the inevitable urge to stroke everything, despite the polite signs saying “do not touch.” The zigzag blocks of mid-tone brights used in a scalloped knitted throw positively hum with velvety zing. It’s hard to imagine Kaffe could ever be in a bad mood using such a paintbox of upbeat colors. No wonder he’s having renewed influence now, when life seems to be more turbulent and challenging than ever. No one could be unhappy wearing one of his button-beaded hats in fuchsia, orange and turquoise, or be anything other than cheery wrapped in his knitted paisley throw.
The collaboration with Anthropologie’s gallery is a clever one. As well as bringing Kaffe’s work to a younger generation, the collaboration fits comfortably alongside Anthropologie’s stylish bohemian aesthetic, lending Kaffe some of-the-moment cool. Not that he needs it.
There’s also the visual thrill of seeing the exhibits positively glow through the store window onto the high street, with Kaffe’s glorious quilts creating a stimulating, upbeat vibe for shoppers as they walk by—who doesn’t need a shot of colorful joy in today’s world?
Always unexpected, never matchy.
As we’re all reconsidering what and how we buy, trying to buy less and buy better, the exhibition demonstrates that Kaffe is a lifelong embodiment of the concept. He’s the perfect example of slow fashion, encouraging us to knit or sew our own clothes and home textiles, creating something that is beautiful, artful and considered. Some of the pieces on display were created decades ago. Like Kaffe himself, they are forever young.
British knitters and sewers think of Kaffe as one of our own, our adopted American creative with a gentle, hippie style. (He settled in London in 1964 and even has an honorary MBE for services to the crafts of knitting and needlework.) You could say he anchors a craft-based “special relationship” amongst us all. Long may that last, I say. Kaffe’s ability to bring a touch of optimism and cheer with every jolly juxtaposition of his bold print and color combos is absolutely Hot Right Now.