01.04.2016

For the love of knitwear

This season’s knitwear silhouettes are getting us all emotional

Words: Rosie Goddard | Photographs: Sabrina Scott | Styling: Chicara Bruseke 

For as long as I can remember, I have been in an intense relationship with my knitwear collection. During the British summers of my childhood, I could be found roaming the far corners of the garden in my favourite pale blue jersey – on swelteringly hot days and overcast ones alike. For years it stretched as I grew, until the age of 12, when I became partial to dessert and finally, it could stretch no more. There were the grandpa jerseys of my early varsity career, full of personality and carefully chosen to let the world know that I had spent many an afternoon thrifting in local second-hand shops (and by second-hand shops, I mean my sister’s cupboard).

Then there were the polo necks I swore by during my first job, worn to give off the air of professionalism and to assure my colleagues that I knew what I was doing – the jury’s still out. Last year, I even went so far as to colour coordinate my collection when I moved into my apartment (I promise I have friends). It stayed like this for one week. Whilst visually satisfying, this was not a realistic dream for someone who can’t seem to hold on to a single pair of matching socks.

From Missoni to Chanel, knitwear has also been a staple in designer collections for the better part of a century, but only recently has it been getting the recognition it deserves. We only have to look to local knitwear designer Laduma, who’s received international acclaim for his collections inspired by his Xhosa heritage, to see that this is true. Then there are the up-and-coming talents such as Xiao Li, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, and a highly sought-after designer thanks to her innovative and futuristic creations, described by British Vogue as “marshmallow chic."

While knitwear is busy making its mark on the world of high fashion, what’s all the more appealing is its ability to operate at either end of the scale, from the luxurious cashmere cardigan you covet to the holey old favourite you reach for first. What other item or genre of clothing can adapt to almost any occasion whilst simultaneously fulfilling the role of heat giver, companion, confidence booster, comforter and protector?

In celebration of all things cosy, a small team of us ventured onto a Scottish-looking, not-so-pedestrian-friendly beach to capture this season’s favourite knitwear silhouettes. Being the tallest and obviously the strongest member of the group, I was appointed to help carry the clothes over the boulders and onto the rocks, whilst defending our small set-up (and Sabrina’s sandwich) from waves, seagulls, and nosy passers-by.

The knit dress

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A transseasonal must-have, the knit dress is to 2016 what the knit tracksuit was to 2015. While the urge to pull it on, sushi roll yourself into a duvet and order pizza for one might seem overwhelming, this high-fashion favourite will have you hitting the streets in no time thanks to its flattering fit and rustic look-at-me-lounging-in-a-French-field aesthetic.

Wear it… to any kind of occasion located in a field, at a market and/or at the beach.

Style it.... with white sneakers to put a streetwear spin on a countryside-inspired design.

Layer it… with a contrasting, longline cardigan, shrugged casually off the shoulder.

The sweater

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As dependable as a good pair of spanx, the classic jersey almost never lets you down, whether in ribbed, plain, patterned or cable-knit form. Once you’ve settled on a style (or seven) the success of your knit lies in the cut. Choose a jersey that hits your hips in the wrong place and you’ll be tugging at that hemline for the better part of the day. You'll also try to catch a glimpse of yourself in any and every reflective surface, including (but not limited to) your friend’s sunglasses, the microwave door and your black phone screen. If you pull on a jersey and see yourself looking mushroom-esque, opt for a different size or style.

Wear it… just about anywhere.

Style it… oversized, with a midi skirt and heeled ankle boots.

Layer it… over a thin polo neck and under a classic trench on cold days.

The longline cardigan

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So much more than a casual cover up, the cardigan has spent the majority of its life being grossly overlooked. But no more shall this injustice prevail. This season’s favourite, the longline cardigan, has upped the ante with its streamlined silhouette and flattering drape. Use it to pull together a lacklustre ensemble in an instant, or as a statement piece in its own right.

Wear it… when you need to look like you’ve got your life together.

Style it… with a graphic tee and your favourite jeans, or a floral mini dress and lace-up boots.

Layer it… with tonal separates for a refreshing take on A/W style.

The cape

To the untrained eye, a cape might resemble a blanket, flung nonchalantly across the shoulders for extra warmth, but to those in the know, it is so much more. With the ability to hold its own at a log cabin whilst simultaneously drawing envious stares at a fashion week, the cape is a force to be reckoned with, albeit a cosy, cuddly one made out of wool.

Wear it… to a candlelit dinner in the city.

Style it… with your favourite jeans on a lazy afternoon indoors.

Layer it… with a polo neck, flared trousers and heels.

The polo neck

It hasn’t always been plain sailing for the polo neck, oh no it has not. Cast into exile after the 90s due to various fashion crimes, it has since made a comeback, and it’s sleeker, cosier and more appealing than ever before. Take your inspiration from 70s style icons, such as Steve McQueen or Diane Keaton, and start a collection featuring different styles in various shades.

Wear it… when you need to channel Diane.

Style it.... slouchy over a pair of fitted skinny jeans and flatform creepers.

Layer it… under a 60s pinafore dress or dungarees for a retro daytime look.

The coatigan

The coatigan

Combining the comfort of a cardigan with the warmth and structure of a coat, the coatigan is not only fun to say, it’s the ideal interseasonal cover up for people with commitment issues.  A bold print will lend statement status to this silhouette while plain styles bring a minimalist edge to everyday outfits.

Wear it… when you feel like being the centre of attention.

Style it… with brogues, a classic white shirt and tapered trousers.

Layer it… with cigarette-cut pants and a lightweight knit.

Olive

Whilst not a style of knit, ‘olive’ is deserving of an honorary mention in this story. A younger sister to the classically cool khaki, olive recently appeared on the fashion scene and is fast becoming knitwear’s latest colour obsession. Much like the Olsen sisters, the Hiltons or Tia and Tamera, these shades are similar in appearance yet bold and appealing in their own ways.

Wear it… when you feel like being the most stylish person in the room.

Style it… with military-inspired looks and leather.

Layer it… with all things olive.