Despite a showcase for upcoming spring/summer collections, LFW 2023 certainly didn’t neglect knitwear, a true trusty staple of British attire. Hearty woollen pieces not only paraded the streets in the cold nip of London’s February, but also found their footing on the runway itself. Frumpy is an association of the past, as the capital’s fashion collective sought to re-spin wool into couture-esque dresses, statement accessories and something to be considered sexy.
Fashion Scout set up camp in New Inn Yard for the weekend, presenting a selection of smaller designers from all over the globe as part of their extensive programme. Friday’s show treated attendees to a dramatic, monotone grunge collection from Hanqing Ding. Cream laddered shrugs layered over mesh, and fine knit dresses leaving gapes for skin waltzed the runway. Toeing the line between material and merely knotted rope, the looks cultivated a certain sultry punk, made all the more 2023 with the addition of vinyl boots and floral diamantes. It is not only experimental layering, but the combination of different threads—from delicate knit, to sequinned weave, to dishevelled wool – that truly defines the Hanqing Ding aesthetic. Each garment alone seems detailed and diverse, before it is then paired with others of varying opacity and fit to create a complete multi-textured look. Named ‘Rock Poerty’ the collection reinvented the drabness associated with knitwear, it quite literally tore apart the rigidness of cable knit, draping it across the body in a way which is new, exciting and might give a new vivacity to woollen fabrics.
The Mark Fast show later the same day also got experimental with traditionally wintery knitwear. Hats, scarves, and gloves became central to whole looks, and dresses and jumpsuits seemed to envelop the models from head to toe. Draped and layered knitwear added dimension and structure to duplicitous outfits that seemed both apt for the hip of the streets, but ready for the blare of the underground rave. The zealous collection was bright and futuristic, weaved together by flashes of neon green, fiery yellows, and blues. Fast beautifully blurred the idea of what is comfy casual and what is “fashion”, as practical jumper dresses became cut, cropped, and cinched into designer works. The knee-high boot has been a focal trend for a while now, and the leg warmer is making a comeback, as per Fast’s show, which saw mixed textures and colours being crafted into footwear.
AGR Knitwear is no newcomer to modernising and shredding the common jumper. They showcased their rainbow-ed collection of quirky knits at no other than the iconic Fabric nightclub. Famed for its electronic music and vivacious nights, the club scene was an apt setting for this versatile brand, which is dragging the knitting onto the dance floor. Founded by Alicia Robinson in 2019, AGR Knitwear claims to be “quintessentially London”, but perhaps a London after dark. Arresting colours, eye-boggling patterns, and unusual compositions flashed down the runway to heavy music, mirroring the brilliantly euphoric sensory overload that addicts clubbers weekend after weekend. Yet again, leg warmers and tight dresses seemed to be the new thing for making wool that bit more sultry and figure-hugging. However, Robinson’s experimentation with thread and weave has extended to crocheted bikinis, unitards, and jackets. Knitted earrings even seem to be making a feature in some of their recent marketing imagery. Cut-outs, laddering and lacing are intrinsic to the brand image, but, this season, the male asymmetric one-shoulder top was something different. Chopping and changing masculine necklines is perhaps something that might trickle down to the high-street….
Matty Bovan is another designer who is waving the flag for the re-invention of the knit. Having graduated from Central St Martins back in 2015 with an MA specifically in knitwear design, this young designer returned to London for Spring/Summer 2023, having ventured to Milan for his previous showcase. In his own words, his collection is a web between the themes of “baroquee sci-fi hardcore”, and like usual, was intensely unique and unparalleled in its eccentricity and detailing. Closer to artwork or collage, his mix-and-match, upcycled, and clashing looks marched the runway of Langhams. His studio is dedicated to sustainable handcrafting, and all in-house knitting and crocheting is conducted under electricity-free policies by local knitters in York. Despite his creations being rooted in this rustic working idyll, his image-making is anything but. The 13 ornate models, in unbalanced and ostentatiously clunky silhouettes, brought the assumed calm of the world of knitwear closer to the terrain of Metaverse explorers or fantastical characters.
London certainly seems to be giving us a shake and asking us to reassess the aesthetics we traditionally associate with hand-spun pieces. As sustainability factors such as production processes, recyclability and fibre properties are placed under scrutiny, natural yarns and fibres seem to be coming into their own. This Spring, as the weather mellows, but that extra layer remains essential, it will be particularly interesting to see how these runway creations melt into the public, and how knitwear is strutted down the high-street with a new-found fashionableness.
by Hebe Street from GLITCH Magazine