By Smitha Sadanandan
One minute it’s freezing, then the sun makes an appearance and you’re boiling. You leave for work in the chilly morning hours and by lunchtime you’re regretting the heavy jumper and wool trousers you put on earlier. Welcome to spring dressing!
The best solution for avoiding these problems is, of course, to dress in layers, so this season, we’ve chosen five sumptuous eco knitwear brands that are perfect for this in-between weather.
These styles truly celebrate innovation and sustainability, and are comprised of some of the most sumptuous fabrics around.
Best known for their wonderfully rustic Berber handbags, hand-made in Morocco using ancient nomadic techniques, German brand Abury has expanded its range to include knits made from Equadorian alpaca.
The knitwear line, called Kuya, is made by South American “highland herders who share a kinship bond with their alpacas and llamas, a bond cemented by tradition, religious devotion, genuine affection and harsh pragmatism,” says Abury’s Eric Hoffman. “The Andeans had bred wild forms of native camelids centuries before the Incas came into power. The Spanish conquistadors discovered that the Incas status and wealth were measured in cloth, most of which came from the alpaca”.
Today, rather than wealth and stature, it could be argued that one’s dedication to sustainable fashion is shown by wearing this light, animal-and-planet-friendly wool.
UK-based Arlette Lee creates Andean style capes called Ruanas and SnugaLees for her namesake line. The collection is crafted in baby Aplaca yarn by traditional Peruvian craftsmen.
Arltette Lee’s SS14 collection has a palette of brighter colours in shades of blue and purple as well as classic earth tones. Arlette has been inspired by cities like London, Italy and Peru with the classic and eclectic mix of colours that people wear everyday.
Lee says “We work exclusively with 100 per cent pure organic, certified, fair-trade Alpaca from Peru to create timeless wardrobe staples. Designers often use Alpaca yarn in their garments but only as a blend and marketed it as an ‘Alpaca coat.’ Our focus is on creating authentic capsule wardrobe pieces that last and feel so good on you that you don’t want to leave home without them, be it a SnugaLee or a Ruana. The challenge is to educate people to buy quality pieces, rather than fast fashion which has little intrinsic value – less is more.”
US-based Myrrhia Resneck uses organic merino wool from Australia, US-ranched wool, California-grown foxfibre cotton, and sustainable Tencel from Lenzing to create eco-knitwear for her label Myrrhia.
This season, Myrrhia gets inspired by Dilma Rouseff, the President of Brazil who embodies the designer’s aesthetics: polished, put-together and authoritative with colourful fabrics and textures reflecting a creative rebelliousness.
“Ours is a brand that strives to serve a need. People need well-made, comfortable clothing that makes them look and feel wonderful. We don’t make hand-knitted, embroidered, beaded pieces for royalty. Nor do we make ‘basics’ or apparel commodities. Our collection is something you can wear everyday and is ‘unique.’ We use eco-fiber, (and these are luxury fibers in a day and age when many clothing seems to be made of petrochemicals like acrylic and nylon) and make clothes in an efficient manner, which respects the value of labour,” states the designer.
She’s a fan of her own work, and says: “I love wearing knits all year round. So, I focus on sweater knits. This means I don’t have to worry about making the cut and sew or woven garments which the knitwear is to be styled with. I can make some lacey layers and dresses in cotton and other plant-based fibers for spring. It is really fun to design with some lighter textiles.”
This Polish brand is growing globally in popularity. Using the finest natural Italian wool and cotton to create unique, chic looks, Pitchouguina (shown below, but also in our main image) has recently become a hit in Russia, and is rising in popularity in Europe, too.
Patagonia-born Adriana Marina is the driving force behind Animanà. Her inherent fascination for the beauty of natural fibers from Cordillera of the Andes grew over the years. She founded Animanà as an attempt to revive and strengthen the skills of local craftsmen adept at working with guanaco, alpaca, vicuna, llama and merino yarns.
The brand is firm about not using chemicals or synthetics, so the fibers retain their natural properties. The alpaca, llama and guanaco fibers tend to keep you warm when cold and release heat when the temperature goes up.
Animanà’s modern ponchos, scarves and shawls are organic; made of natural fibers. And to add a splash of colour, the brand uses only traditional vegetable dyes from the Andes.
Ancient Argentine techniques are behind the designs, and Adriana says: “Animaná products – sometimes spun by hand, always woven or hand-knitted – strive to renew ancient techniques. Our biggest challenge is to treasure the traditional methods whilst adapting to modern designs. Through collaborations with fashion consultant Dominique Peclers, Animaná has created its own style and contemporary design, along with truly timeless pieces.”