One of the better things about Melbourne weather, we tell ourselves while fleeing, helter-skelter, through driving rain and clawing winds in our billowing plastic ponchos, is seasonal dressing.
With this in mind, knitwear has moved to the sartorial forefront like no other textile in recent years. While we love it for its homespun qualities, high tech machinery has allowed for experimentation, including whole garment knitting, lace-like effects and way-out conceptualism. That said, designers are also embracing hand-spun yarn and natural fibres, and are producing a range of avant-garde construction patterns in the process.
Ever versatile, knitwear is fashion’s equivalent to slow food – a reaction to disposable consumerism. Here are some inspired ways to ward off those rain squalls and southerlies.
Having relocated to a remote coastal town on New Zealand’s North Island, Nikki Gabriel has the pick of the crop, sheep-wise. The locale, while sounding as wild as Wuthering Heights, is also home to small spinning mills. The visionary designer has access to raw wool, which is specially spun into bulky yarn for her collections. Hand knitting with big needles, the work is shaggy and open, allowing the beauty of the wool to talk. Her pieces are lightweight, yet warm and comfortable. “My visual inspirations were traditional nomadic dress for protective winter clothing,” says Gabriel. Her must-have winter item? “A chunky hand knitted scarf made with my own bespoke wool.”
The collection is available at RPM and Alice Euphemia.
During the State of Design Festival, Nikki Gabriel will be hosting construction knitting workshops at Harvest Workroom, July 24–28.
Cold weather classics like scarves and cardigans carry old Hollywood royalty names at Ella Sanders. The Audrey cardigan, for one, is a popular choice. Tight loops keep out the breeze while warming palettes of crème brûlée, orangey red, chocolate and classic navy dominate her winter 2011 collection. Striped mini dresses, teamed with well-structured jackets, are pretty and preppy, but thankfully Ms Sanders graduated from “wacky ‘80s” mum-made jumpers to go onto study knitwear and textiles in Finland. Her favourite things about winter? Rugging up in layers, being able to transform outfits with a great scarf or wrap, wearing pure wool everyday and cups of chai tea.
Otto & Spike
An Otto & Spike piece is almost like taking everything you love about Brunswick, spinning it to a soft yarn, then knitting it into one cosy beanie that you can wear on your head wherever you go. This knitwear is ethically produced from surplus and recycled wool on a small scale using salvaged vintage machinery. The end products pay homage to the best bits of mid-century fashion: op-art, folk, bohemian and even happy ‘50s inspired bonnets. There are scarves, hats, gloves, cycling gear and homewares to cocoon oneself in. They’re collaborations with designers are nothing short of wearable art.
During the State of Design Festival, between July 20–27, you can visit the Otto & Spike studio to see where design and machine come together for Process and People in Constant Motion.
Producing quality knitwear is an involved process, from choosing and commissioning hand-spun yarns, meticulous dyeing, signature stitches, not to mention designing. At this all Melbourne-made label, the knitwear is the equivalent of a blue chip investment. Designer Georgina Sutton creates timeless shapes in trans-seasonal colours to ensure wearability over several years. There’s something reassuring about that. The designer fell in love with wool when she was gifted a cashmere jumper for her fourteenth birthday. She still wears it to this day. In wearing knits, Sutton says, “layering is key but be careful not to overdo it”.
Designer/maker Wendy Voon has travelled as far as Afghanistan to source ideas and material. The fearless Ms Voon works both by hand and machine, knitting on the latest equipment from her studio in Collingwood. The drape of her designs are elegant. She says a garment that considers and flatters the body is key. Charcoal and fawns for winter 2012 are clever colours that can be carried through the seasons. The look is often architectural and smart. Think Virginia Trioli, whom Ms Voon would love to see in her designs (“Got to love a woman who is caught on air making crazy motions about a politician”).
Wendy Voon is stocked at Tiger & Peacock, Lee Mathews and Verve.