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Five subversive designers spicing up knitwear

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From Rui Zhou’s Solange-approved bodysuits to Ravid Haken’s sexy, gender-skewing crocheted underwear – meet the rising creatives taking knitwear far beyond boring sweater

And just like that winter is upon us again, bringing with it the near impossible task of keeping warm while still turning a lewk. Okay, so we might not be going anywhere thanks to lockdown 2.0, but that’s besides the point. As per every year, as the temperature continues to drop, our attention has turned to knitwear – but boring polo-necks and chic but dull cashmere cardigans just aren’t cutting it. We want something more

Luckily a new gen of rising designers are bringing a fresh perspective to knitwear, allowing us to relegate the Christmas jumpers we begrudgingly wore to please our grandmothers and countless moth-eaten, seen-better-days sweaters to the back of our wardrobe. 

In the hands of Ravid Haken, fine-knit, barely-there underwear flashes ample amounts of skin, while Lou de Bètoly’s embellished shredded tank tops and tights offer a subversive take on your everyday essentials. Rui Zhou’s signature second-skin bodysuits, meanwhile, have found fans in Rina Sawayama and Solange. As the colder nights draw in, say goodbye to your shapeless sweaters and hello to something a little sexier with these five designers reimagining everything knitwear can be. 

RUI ZHOU

Even if you don’t recognise Rui Zhou by name yet, it’s highly likely you’ve seen her work on an endless list of celebs. The NY based designer counts Solange, Chloe x Halle, Teyana Taylor, and Rina Sawayama among her fans – and that’s just to name a few. Founded by Zhou in 2019 after she graduated from New York’s Parsons University, the label’s ethos centres around finding the beauty in what is deemed imperfect or unfinished. Her deconstructed bodysuits and dresses feature unexpected cut-outs and amplify body parts that are not typically the central point of focus in a garment – think the point where the upper-thigh meets the hip and you’ll get the idea. 

EMMA GUDMUNDSON

Having just graduated from the fashion design program at The Swedish School of Textiles this year, Emma Gudmundson is ready to make her mark on fashion. Her no-waste philosophy is an integral part of her brand and a key component of her graduate collection. Entitled Floats, the offering explores the relationship between the body and the effect of lines. Through the use of experimental knit techniques, made with a domestic knitting machine, Gudmundson was able to create unique and futuristic silhouettes, which come alive through an intense neon colour palette. 

HKN BY RAVID HAKEN

The face of lingerie has been going through a transformation in recent years, and, thanks to Ravid Haken, you can now add knitted thongs to the list of what that entails. Born and raised in Israel, Haken self-describes their work as ‘inspired by nature and its marvellous palettes, and their encounter with the human body’. Dismantling the gendered stereotypes attached to underwear, Haken merges traditionally feminine and masculine silhouettes to create a collection of gender-neutral knit garments. Each piece is hand-crafted to individuality with knitted jockstraps and matching knit tops finished with gemstone and fringe embellishments. 

LOU DE BÈTOLY

With a keen interest in turning crochet into couture from the age of five, Berlin-based, French designer Lou de Bètoly has an approach to craftsmanship unlike any other. Launched her label three years ago, de Bètoly draws inspiration from chaos, surrealism, nostalgia, extravagance, and decadence. For her last collection, de Bètoly used completely upcycled materials to show the duality of knit – creating softer cashmere looks, as well as extravagant woven pieces highlighting the endless possibilities one can create with knitwear. Over the years her looks have been seen on the likes of Dazed 100 musician Lava La Rue and model Jazzelle.

NAMITA KHADE

Born in Wigan, a Northern town in greater Manchester, 23-year-old Namita Khade’s work is centred around identity politics. Currently on a placement year away from Central Saint Martins, the up-and-coming designer has already developed her own unique stance on knitwear, creating distinctive patchwork knit garments. Inspiration from her Indian heritage is constantly drawn and highlighted in her work, such as her fitted silhouettes made to emulate the shape of a traditional sari.