Fashion

This Winter is the Season of the Kn(it) Girl

In conversation with emerging designers on fashion’s long-term love affair with knitwear — which continues to dominate runway and niche internet trends.

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This Winter is the Season of the Kn(it) Girl

In conversation with emerging designers on fashion’s long-term love affair with knitwear — which continues to dominate runway and niche internet trends.

This season is without a doubt the winter of the kn(it) girl. Chunky knitwear and upcycled knit accessories and garments have prevailed over the past few seasons, coining the terms “knittok” and “grandma core” on TikTok, spurring a resurgence of nostalgic trends from fuzzy legwarmers to balaclavas. But this year’s hottest DIY-inspired trends are world’s away from your grandma’s knits…

Fashion’s infatuation with knitwear is a long-term love affair. If we rewind to about a century ago, we’d find that most people dressed purely for function and pastimes, and so knits or crochet were rarely taken beyond the domestic space. Crochet and upcycling designer Ella Wiznia of The Series began her brand as a means of restitution: “Because these are crafts that have historically been considered ‘women’s work,’ the craftsmanship involved in their production is often undervalued. Taking these pieces out of the home and giving them new life is meant to be a reclamation of the invisible contributions that women have made and continue to make to society,” she shared.

The act of reclaiming feminine styles or trends is also on the rise, influenced by brands like Miu Miu and Sandy Liang. Knitwear allows many to tap into that side of themselves, including ready-to-wear designer Elizabeth Shevelev. “People crave intimacy and uniqueness from their garments now,” she explains, “The intentionally messy knit is currently very in…it feels more organic, more human. Embracing the imperfections in my work has brought me closer to my femininity.” As new trends and perspectives emerged, we later witnessed fashion transform into a medium of expression for those who choose to wear their hearts — and their personalities — on their sleeves.

A Deep Dive Into the Knitwear Trend and How It's Evolved Over Time

For Alexis Douge, founder and creator behind NYC-based label Maddi and Danii, knitwear encourages her to tap into her artistic side. “Personally, making knitwear helps me express myself to the fullest because it combines my two loves: fashion and art,” she continues, “Knitwear for me is wearable art. It helps me feel limitless when it comes to expressing my own creativity.”

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Knitting has been practiced by artisans and passed down as a heritage craft for centuries. Because of its historical relevance, many knitwear lovers, especially those who engage in the craft themselves, interpret it as a way to connect back to their heritage, like Jennifer Chun. Chun has a background in wovens and is the designer behind UNIFORMED, a ready-to-wear brand that pays homage to her Korean background.

“Working with Korean artisans through this endeavor has sparked a renewed interest [in my outlook on fashion.] I was lucky enough to not only learn the natural dye process firsthand, which has been a part of Korea’s tradition for generations but also collaborate with them in other ways.” Even as knitwear evolves through more contemporary silhouettes, it continues to bring a sense of whimsy to fashion. Now major ateliers such as JW Anderson and Gucci are bringing forth cardigans, sweaters, balaclavas, and more, made with love.

A Deep Dive Into the Knitwear Trend and How It's Evolved Over Time

Lounge-ready sweats and cozy co-ord sets definitely shined during the pandemic, but post-lockdown, many of us looked to playful trends to bring the vibes back up. Even amidst whispers of quiet luxury’s dominance, it’s safe to say maximalism is here to stay. This resurgence of fashion’s “more is more”mentality has allowed knitwear to remain relevant even as social media-driven “cores” and “aesthetics” rapidly evolve.

At its core, knitwear is also inherently reminiscent of the clothing we grew up with — like adorable bunny-print sweaters or pom-pom hats. In many ways, the persisting reign of knitwear can also be attributed to fashion’s referential nature. We all like to find ways to connect to our inner child and conjure nostalgia — and what better way to do so than by sporting a whimsical jewel-toned mohair sweater? Jamie Lerner started knitting in 2021 as a means of connecting to her inner child, creating handmade pieces decorated with bows, flowers, and more. “Piecing together soft wool and fluffy mohair with unlimited freedom is pretty similar to [kids'] uninhibited play,” she says, “Kids don’t worry about fingerpaint getting on their face or clothes. Creative projects like this undoubtedly come from the heart.”

 

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Gabriele Skucas studied at Central Saint Martins and went on to collaborate with knitters in Lithuania to bring her visions to life. She enjoys the fact that knitwear, being a legacy craft, has distinct foundations, but similarly uses these guidelines as a framework for her out-of-the-box artistry. “Rather than being restricting or ‘boring’ — those very rules indicate my designs, [but] I have a say in how pretty or fancy I want to make something,” she reflects.

Both emerging and established designers’ pull away from rapid production has also allowed for knitwear to take center stage, since this craft places a value on handmade items, buying into Gen Z’s affinity to gravitate toward investment pieces that can, hopefully, be passed down to the next knit-obsessed generation. “As fashion consumers consciously make more environmentally responsible choices in their purchasing decisions, there has been a growing demand for garments made in a slow fashion manner, utilizing recycled fibers that are both gentle on the environment and the body,” says New York-bred knitwear designer Nia Thomas. Thomas designs handcrafted knit pieces that empower her wearers, “Personally, one aspect I truly admire about hand knitting is its ability to emit zero carbon emissions, aligning perfectly with our brand’s commitment to sustainability.”

 

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A post shared by Nia Thomas (@niathomas.co)

Knitwear has even made waves in popular culture, influencing generations of fashion lovers who take endless outfit inspiration from past eras. The ’80s, ’90s and early ’00s knit trends remain to be the most sought-after thrift finds for the girlies who consistently look to the past to inform their wardrobes. Today’s tastemakers, from Emma Chamberlain, who loves layering with a staple vest or cardigan, to Gigi Hadid, who can often be spotted hitting the streets in her own sustainable knitwear brand, Guest in Residence, continue to indulge in eclectic knits to spice up their street style ensembles.

Throwing on a funky handmade scarf or beanie is an effortless way to elevate an outfit from blasé to full-on slay, but the coolest thing about knitwear is that there truly are no rules. For the DIY queens out there who love to incorporate distinctive pieces into their everyday looks, this trend allows for carte blanche. Especially for designers who implement upcycling into their production processes, the practice of knitting allows space for even the craziest design concepts to come to life, and many times these lighthearted designs are crafted from materials that are just as unexpected. Many knitters use natural or found fibers in their craft, making up their own rules as they go.

Echoing these sustainable sentiments, Lottie Bertello, founder and designer of upcycling studio LOTI celebrates the exploration that this medium allows. She shares her plans to apply her ethical production approach to knitwear, a new endeavor for the brand: “We are currently exploring various methods to repurpose waste in the form of yarns. Upcycling is a beautiful way to marry both the desire for a more responsible and more soulful industry, while retroactively undoing some of the damage it’s caused.”

When it comes to knitwear, there are also never-ending styling possibilities. “My favorite way to wear knits is to add a pop of texture or color. For example, through little coin purses I make, yarn in my hair, leg warmers, hats and skinny scarfs.” Douge expresses. And now that the fad as a whole has ushered in a more nonchalant, fantastical approach to fashion, the trend is being applied in new ways with each new runway season. Loewe’s Spring/Summer 24 collection boasted fairy-tale-esque oversized knits reminiscent of a wacky Studio Ghibli character, while Bottega Veneta’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection interpolated chunky, multicolored sweaters amidst more structured, traditionally tailored looks. We’ve even brought knitwear beyond seasonal confines, with brands like Nia Thomas, Verconiik, and Wiznia’s The Series debuting knits to be worn even poolside.

 

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With the many creative liberties knitwear allows both as a craft and as a trend, it can be said with confidence that it will reign supreme for many seasons to come. As we continue to see hyper-feminine references in womenswear collections, as well as a shift toward slower, intentional fashion, and many creators’ yearning to express themselves without limits, we’re likely to see this craft grow to incorporate even more inventive shapes and forms — adapted by both independent brands and major houses alike.

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