Knitwear Evolves From Comfort to Statement at PFW

PARIS — In the space of a year, knitwear has gone from specialty item to hot topic. Demand has skyrocketed as customers sheltering in place or working from home have flocked to the category for its ease and comfort.

That’s exactly what they’ll continue to find at knitwear specialist Barrie. “The fundamental idea of the house style is offering to everyone absolute ease, to free the body — and the mind,” artistic director Augustin Dol-Maillot wrote in a statement. That was best embodied in the “Ideal Sportswear” line, a range of joggers and sweatshirts in a cashmere-cotton Milan stitch. While part of the label’s menswear offering, it felt unisex enough to appeal to all.

But it was also essential to his more feminine styles, where he distilled a British collegiate inspiration across a complete wardrobe that included traditional Fair Isle motifs on handsome pullovers; a lush sweater using multiple stitches to create textural effects; the suit in jacquard mimicking Prince-of-Wales tweed; and the denim separates developed in past seasons but this time with a distressing effect that revealed a contrasting tone underneath.

Most striking was the shearling jacket that revealed itself to be a small tight gauge “skin” side that evolved to become the characteristic fluffy fleece inner side.

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While comfort is something no one will want to give up when the time comes to dress up to the nines again, beware of banking only on casual styles.

“I think everybody will be fed up with this homewear in six months when things get back to normal, so I didn’t want to make a pajama collection or a knitwear collection for staying at home, because everyone will want to party and go out,” said designer Christian Wijnants, who has long shown that your nimble-fingered, scarf-knitting granny no longer has a monopoly in the striking knits game.

His bold, striped knit dresses and flared trousers, the two-toned skirts and oversize turtlenecks marked a shift from lazy Sunday afternoons at the museum to an evening at the opera.

Kevin Germanier, who introduced vibrant knit power suits — even the shoulder pads are knitted — this season, said that while those styles made up less than a quarter of his collection, they accounted to date for 50 percent of the season’s orders.

An excellent reason to bring knits to the fore, particularly when they are part of the brand’s signatures. Case in point, Sonia Rykiel. The French label, now under new ownership, launched e-commerce last October with a wide assortment of fitted sweaters among the styles it was planning on emphasizing going forward.

For the fall, the label sealed its new start with a sporty, youthful lineup chockablock with knitwear spanning short cardigans, loose sweaters, cropped tops with various renditions of the house’s historic stripes, along with a few lips, hearts and the occasional R for “Rykiel.”

Fascinated by computer-program knitting, Issey Miyake Men alum Yusuke Takahashi offers easy-to-wear knit garments with a genderless spirit at his new fashion label CFCL, or Clothing for Contemporary Life. Mostly made of 3-D, computer-developed knitwear using sustainable yarns, they are seamless, generally with bold silhouettes and solid bright colors winking to nature, with an eye toward being mixed, matched and built upon.

For his Volume 2 offering — CFCL is presented in “volumes” rather than traditional seasonal collections — he had architecture in mind when creating a white sweater with deep vertical ribs that fan out along the wide-shouldered sleeves, or the way the undulating silhouette of black trousers was mirrored on the sleeves of the jacket with which they’re paired.

“I imagined knitwear as if it were armor, which also reflects my desire to distance myself from the relaxing winter image of knitwear and challenge a new image of knitwear,” Takahashi said in a statement.

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