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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KNITWEAR Chanel To Westwood

19.09.2014 | Culture , Fashion | BY:

KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood celebrates the evolution of woollen garments this autumn at The Fashion and Textile Museum. With over 150 pieces on display, the exhibition features rare crocheted evening dresses, original faire isle jumpers and 1930’s swimwear, from the collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield. Not only will you find designs from Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcon, Julien McDonald, Ossie Clark and Mary Quant, but you will also see the technical innovations taken place throughout the ages.

Accompanying the showcase is Visionary Knitwear, a look at contemporary fashion clothing from established and graduate designsers. Sandy Black, professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technology at London College of Fashion pulls together bold designs from creative talents such as Mark Fast, Sister by Sibling, Lucas Nacimento and Julien Macdonald. Highlighting how knitwear is now daring, bold and has a sense of humour.

KNITWEAR Chanel to Westwood opens today and is open until 18th January 2015 at the Fashion and Textile Museum 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF. 


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Tak.Ori Q&A

18.09.2014 | Fashion | BY:

Ukranian by birth but Italian by adoption, Svetlana Taccori developed a passion for making dresses for her dolls from a young age. Heavily influenced by her family of knitting fanatics, she decided to use the pieces in her closet as the basis for setting up her own knitwear label, and Tak.Ori was born. Her debut collection of knitwear has already been snapped up by Browns, Colette and ModaOperandi, and her AW14 collection will be available from Net-A-Porter and Matchesfashion.com

With knits on the horizon as a key winter trend, Twin chats to Svetlana to find out more about recasting fashion’s idea of the traditional woollen jumper.

What kicked off your love for wool?
I grew up in a cold country so I know the challenges of being well dressed and warm. Knitted items were always in my wardrobe and from a very early age I developed a passion for the softness, the volume and the warmth that comes from it so I suppose I’ve always had a love affair with wool even if I was unaware of it.

What is your favourite kind of wool?
I love merino and cashmere for their softness but in general I like experimenting and mixing the different types of wool. I’m constantly trying out new techniques, which will allow me to mix different wool fibres and colours together to create pieces which are easy to wear and that don’t react badly when washed.

Do you know how to knit? What kind of techniques do you use and which are your favourites?
I grew up in a household of knitting fanatics! I was eight when I had my first knitting classes and that’s when I learned how to turn a heel and make mini socks on five needles. I prefer to knit smooth surfaces using different colours as though I am painting on a canvas. In fact, I would have loved to be an artist and that’s partially due to how much art and literature combined to influence me while I was growing up, but my career path always seemed as though it would involve a needle and yarn. My love for fashion won out in the end!

Many people regard wool as quite casual and traditional – how would you dress it up?
I agree, knitwear was traditionally considered casualwear and at the beginning of the last century, it ended up in our closets because it was comfortable and cozy, making it a redundant textile in high fashion. But that’s an outdated concept for me. Wool is sustainable, renewable and eco-friendly, it’s also one of the most versatile yarns out there and it needs to be celebrated. I want to show that high fashion can be both beautiful and comfortable. I want to use its wholesome and pure image but add a rebellious and seductive element that’s both elegant and fun. In a way, I want to revolutionise the fashion knitwear scene and this is my way of rewriting the story of wool by showing that even an evening dresses can be knitted and look amazing. Wool pieces give you a freedom of movement that you don’t always get with other fabrics.

Who are your style icons?
I’m inspired by a bygone era of bold, outrageous women. Women who were intelligent, bright, charming and eccentric, yet elegant and chic at the same time. No doubt this is because we don’t really know them personally, and don’t see them in everyday situations which means they can’t disappoint. Today we seem to live in a society that favours exhibitionism over substance – I call it the Herostratus effect! My AW14 collection is influenced by the Marchesa Luisa Casati. She had a strong personality, she was charming, shocking and had a certain je ne sais quoi that made her the most fascinating and fashionable woman in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. I also love Nan Kempner. Her style is timeless but also very appropriate for today.

Where did you learn your craft? Have you worked with other designers?
At thirteen my grandfather gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. My parents had mentioned to him in passing that I was hand-sewing dresses for dolls. Every time I was given a doll, actually, the first thing I would do was to rip the clothes it came in off and make new outfits for them. So when I received my sewing machine there was no stopping me, and I moved on from making clothes for dolls to making clothes for my mum, sisters and school friends.

What prompted you to start your own label?
I’ve spent the past 15 years working in the fashion business for some of the most well-known luxury brands in the world, but I always felt it was inevitable that one day I would set-up my own label. Since my teens, I’ve been collecting hats and scarves everywhere I go (I have over a hundred hats and seventy scarves). It was after a trip to Cortina that I finally found the courage and felt that the time was right to go and do my own thing.

What inspired your SS15 collection?
As I mentioned earlier, knitwear and jersey came into our lives and into our closets in the 1920’s and this was a time of major change for women. I am intrigued by the way the suffragettes used their clothing as placards to fight for the vote. I wanted to dedicate my collection to that era and I wanted to celebrate and thank those women who made the freedoms many women enjoy today possible. These women were bold and, if you like, revolutionaries. So for my spring summer 2015 collection I wanted to create a modern interpretation of their strength and femininity as well as a contemporary view of the clothing worn by them. By using knit and jersey, which at the time were considered second-class fabrics and used solely for underwear and sports clothing, I feel it embodies the spirit of the suffragettes.

Are you influenced by your dual nationality?
I think we’re all influenced by our environment but our childhoods no doubt have the strongest influence. I can honestly say I feel very comfortable wherever I am. I love exploring the traditions and history of all the countries I visit – I will read the literature, listen to the local music, visit the art galleries, watch the movies, look at the colours and talk to as many people, young and old, as I can. I feel this willingness to learn helps to influence me in creating collections that appeal to people from different countries and continents. Of course it’s inevitable that I am also influenced by my Ukrainian roots and Italian adoption and, although I don’t rely on these elements for direction, I think you can see the bold, vibrant but traditional Ukrainian fused with the well cut, urban Italian chic in my designs, but luckily I’m a fan of dualities.

What can we expect from you in the next year?

I don’t know what to expect from myself! My main objective will be to continue to create contemporary, luxurious and innovative garments, and my fascination with fabric and wool technology knows no bounds. My fascination with experimentation helps push me creatively, especially during our spring summer collections as I have to focus on delivering wearable and interesting luxury pieces that are breathable and comfortable. We have big plans though and, I definitely want to improve my English!


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10.10.2013 | Fashion | BY:

Meet Alice Ashby, the designer behind BLAKE LDN. With an impressive resume and thorough understanding of the British craft, Alice founded the luxurious knitwear brand just last year and this week annouced that the designs will be stocked in the French concept store Colette. This is one brand to keep on your radar.

Twin caught up with the designer to find out more…

Having worked as Assistant Knitwear Designer for Rag & Bone, co-founded The North Circular and now BLAKE LDN, when did your love for knitwear begin?

I was taught to knit by my Grandmother one Christmas when I was around 10 years old, so that was when I held my first knitting needles. I was always doing something creative, be it sewing, stitching, anything to do with texture when I was growing up. Then it was not until I was at Central St Martins when I specialised in knitwear that I realised this was what I wanted to do and there was actually a career in it.

How would you describe the BLAKE LDN aesthetic?

It is British luxury design, it is wearable and all about texture, be it the yarn, stitch or pattern. The Blake girl is very effortless in her style and can team a piece with jeans or dress it up.

When it comes to knitwear, quality is key. How do you go about choosing the Merino wool, Angora and Loro Piana cashmere for your collections?

I travel to Pitti Filati in Florence twice a year. It is the tradeshow for yarn suppliers. It is great, as I can catch up with our current suppliers and see their new yarns, textures and colours as well as sourcing new suppliers and fibres from around the world. I use a lot of British lambswool and cashmere as well as Italian yarns for angoras and more fancy yarns like boucle and textured yarn.

What inspired the AW13 collection?

AW13 was inspired by vintage ski images, adapting and creating a modern day take on this traditional chunky knit. Looking closely at the yoke, panelling and racing stripes we modernised this by adding angora and clashing hues of cashmere.

What knitwear staples do you constantly return to?

Our Adelaide is one of our signature pieces, we adapt it each season to cotton for SS and cashmere or wool for AW. It is the perfect slouchy sweater and so comfortable. Other than that, you have got to have a great cashmere sweater – when you find the right one it should last forever. Our Aubrey double ply Loro Piana hits the spot. For beanies – it has to be our cashmere Nova beanies. Perfect simple cashmere beanies, the bonus is that they are unisex too.

Twin loves the Redfern Chunky Sweater and Foskett Beanie from the AW13 collection. Which pieces are your favourite?

The Aubrey is one my favourites, I love the colourway of neon, gold, charcoal framed by rich navy. The Foskett sweater is another favourite, an oversized sky blue angora sweater. Then finally it’s the chunky Redfern in cobalt. I love bright blue and in a chunky knit its just perfect.

You are now stocked at Colette. Where else would you like to see the brand sold?

I would love Opening Ceremony, Matches and obviously Net-a-Porter, to name a few. All stores we are working towards… so watch this space.


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