The standing of knitwear certainly has its ups and downs. Experiencing seemingly temporary renaissances, either thanks to the odd knitting needle featured on Sex and the City and in the hands of Victoria's Secret models, the trail-blazing designs of the Julien Macdonald, or indeed the resurgence of Fair Isle thanks to Scandi drama 'The Killing', its popularity is far from consistent. Nevertheless, its significance in the world of fashion is vast.
And paying tribute to its manifold influences, the Fashion and Textile Museum have come up trumps with an outstanding exhibition exploring the best of this art form and its highlights over the past century. Presenting more than 150 pieces from the remarkable collection of renowned vintage clothing dealers Mark and Cleo Butterfield, who've been collecting fascinating knit pieces since the '60s, the result is inspiring stuff.
Visitors are invited to observe how shapes and styles in knitwear have changed over the decades, from Coco Chanel's revolutionary jersey creations that blew the collective minds of the couture industry and demure '30s woollen swimwear, to conceptual garments from Comme des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood; the latter two (plus many others of course) providing ample evidence of the movement of talented and truly innovative '90s designers. Feast your eyes on glorious '70s knits from Kenzo and delicately embellished cocktail sweaters from the '50s and you'll start to understand the painstaking stitch-by-stitch efforts invested into each and every piece - quite possibly more than in any other genre of couture. Dusting off knitting's stuffy stereotype, the show demonstrates the relevance of the craft to high fashion, and in the words of the museum's curator Dennis Nothdruft, strives to fight the trend of the 'basic functionality of knitwear' losing out against the glamour of haute couture.
Imaginatively and expertly curated, the showcase is a real think piece, placing modern knitted pieces next to hand-knitted vintage creations, comparing and highlighting the powerful influence of the past on the future, all tastefully laid out on giant wooden crates. And with a section dedicated to 'Visionary Knitwear - new directions', no stone is left unturned, as even the future of knitwear is carefully considered.
As Nothdruft says of the exhibition, 'I hope it inspires people to try', so make sure you don't miss this immensely impressive new exhibition, and you'll be digging out those knitting needles in no time.
Fashion and Textile Museum
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am–6pm, Thursdays until 8pm, Sundays, 11am–5pm, Closed Mondays
|What||Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood|
|Where||Fashion and Textile Museum, 83 Bermondsey St, London, SE1 3XF | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Acton Town (underground)|
19 Sep 14 – 18 Jan 15, 12:00 AM