Spinning Yarns with Katie Jones

21.03.2016 | Fashion | BY:

There’s a new generation of British designers making a splash on the scene with bright, bold and idiosyncratic designs. Amongst these rising stars is knitwear sensation Katie Jones. Graduating fro Central St Martins in 2013, her instantly recognisable aesthetic combines playfulness with artisan craft; breathing fresh life into a British style which has for years been dominated by homogenous items from high street chains. Each piece is hand-made in the UK too, meaning Jones is also carving a path for mainstream, ethical fashion.

Currently a part of Selfridges’ Bright New Things series, we caught up with designer Katie Jones to discuss knitting Elvis, crocheting for Craig Green and spinning yarns.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a designer?
Not really, I always liked to customise things as a kid and the obsession just grew from there.

Can you recall your first serious design? What were you doing and being influenced by at the time?
The first time I actively designed anything was a hand knitted jumper with Elvis on the back. It was supposed to be sexy young Elvis and I messed up the pattern and it became fat old Elvis, it was for a sixth form Project based on ’50s rock & roll.


Your aesthetic is very distinctive, where did it come from? And what was it about knitwear that you were drawn to?
My Gran used to embellish everything and only wore pink or bright prints I think this really influenced me as a child. All my family knitted but I think I then became really drawn to it as you can control the whole make process. As you make the whole fabric from scratch you choose colour, texture everything – that’s amazing as a designer.

You’ve worked for John Galliano, Mark Fast and Diane Von Furstenburg, what made you want to start your own label? 
I never set out to run my own label. It was a small portfolio project in between seasonal crochet showpiece work I was doing for Mark Fast at the time; it just snowballed after that.

How would you describe the industry at the moment, is it a good time to be an emerging designer? 
It’s exciting, there’s lots of change at the moment and it’s hard to guess how it will affect young designers with this move to instant selling after shows. But on the plus side with the growth of social media and Instagram you can really reach such a big audience as an emerging designer and control so much of your PR- it’s really cool to be able to make your brand more of an experience.


Katie’s window at Selfridges in London

How long does it take to make each piece, what’s the process? 
All our pieces are handmade so they are pretty laborious taking between 10-100 hours to make. For me its all about the craftsmanship and detail. We dye our yarns and also source colours from designer surplus. I like it as it makes designing more of a puzzle and pushes our designs forward. I like to work with what is most available at the time while having control of picking and hand dying our colours.

Do you ever get halfway through a collection and wish you’d opted for something simpler, like cotton dresses? 
Making a cotton dress sounds more stressful to me! I’m a knitter and crafting the collections as we do feels second nature to my design process.

What has been your most ambitious design to date? 
Designing and making our Selfridges window for me was the most ambitious and fun project we have done. It was really amazing to be able to make a world to invite people into. We built it all in my tiny kitchen so it was quite a task. The donkey lived on my dining table for a month.

When you’re working, are you designing as Katie Jones or for a particular element of your personality?
I like to think when I design that it’s for myself. I think this is really great as you understand your target market. I usually create a character and a story each season and the collection embodies what they would wear but I think they are a form of alter ego of myself.

What’re the challenges of having ethical and sustainable fashion at the core of your brand? 
For the brand I feel our challenges have just been the same as any new emerging designer: production and growth. The only difference is we are finding ways to grow the brand in London rather than abroad and picking our resources consciously.

What was the inspiration behind your AW16 Highland Fling collection?
It all sparked from an image of John Lennon donning an Afghan and sporran and I loved the combo. Highland Fling then became a celebration of traditional Scottish textiles like Aran and Argyle knits, Tweeds and the 60s. We wanted the pieces to empower the craft and pay homage to the babe power of the icons of the era!

You collaborated with Kit Neale how did that come about, and how was it working with a menswear designer?
Kit got in contact telling me he was a fan of my jewellery and it would work for his upcoming season and it went from there. He’s super fun to work with! I just got to play with his fabric scraps and he let me go off and come back with my creations. It was a really great project – how can dressing boys up in big dangly earrings not be fun. I love working with menswear designers, it’s such an exciting time in menswear. That season was really fun and a bit of a menswear focus for me as I was also working for Craig Green crocheting pieces.

What’s in store for the rest of 2016?
This year we are launching our online range, which I’m really excited about working with our Golden Girls Nana Knit Squad on!


Photo credit: Kevin Mason

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