From heritage and history to textile innovation, the knitwear industry continues to offer up amazing designs, says Genevieve Sweeney
Knitwear is having a huge moment right now; ideal for embracing both our dark winter mornings and cosy evenings in. Genevieve Sweeney is one of the designers who is winning in the UK knitwear market, WGSN catches up with her to discuss this timeless textile.
After discovering her love for knitting as a teenager, Genevieve went about building her brand. Whilst studying for her degree in Fashion, Knitting and Textiles, she amassed experience from New Look and Marks and Spencers and her final collection was so popular, she was invited to showcase her designs at Spin Expo, a high-profile yarn trade show in Shanghai. Since then she has worked for the likes of Hugo Boss, Burberry and Lyle and Scott.
“I have been very lucky to have had the chance to travel to factories in Europe and Asia, working closely with the suppliers, I have formed great relationships and have learnt a lot from them about production and negotiation,” says Genevieve, “My role at Hugo Boss was incredibly broad, touching on design, development, programming, garment technician and production; I have benefitted greatly from these opportunities and it gave me the knowledge to set up my own brand.”
Genevieve’s impressive career history demonstrates she has the winning formula to creating an accomplished knitwear brand. “The way a length of yarn can be created into a 3D form, the textures, the yarn innovation, the complexity. I love processes and within knitwear there are so many, from the spinning of the yarn, knitting and fashioning to shape, linking and milling. These are incredibly skilled processes that take a time to learn but will leave you with the most beautiful product.”
Why is the UK proving to be the ideal location for both upcoming knitwear designers and established labels? “I love being a knitwear designer in the UK as there is an incredible variety of inspiration on your door step; art, music and design. It is a fantastic platform for a creative to grow and explore there discipline. I am also fascinated with the heritage and history of the knitwear industry in the UK; it was one of the key drives of the business to help reinvigorate the British Textile Industry by working with micro mills and manufacturers within the UK. I also look towards innovation with machinery and yarns to see how I can fuse this together with a contemporary design.”
Consumers are often oblivious to the skill that goes into producing knitwear pieces that are both fashionable and durable. “Until you have visited a knitting factory it is hard to understand how many processes and time that goes into making one jumper. By manufacturing in the UK there is an increased unit cost due to higher wages but lead times are shorter and minimums are more flexible therefore I can get my product to the customer much faster. I have a short video on my website that showcased how some of my garments are made in Scotland, I have received great feedback from this as the customer can connect with the manufacturing and the specialism of the pieces.”
Genevieve is always thinking of how to innovate Brand Sweeney, learn and keep growing. “I have many friends in the UK knitwear scene within a variety of positions, from high end to high street. Many of us moved abroad to the USA, Europe and China, so it’s great to share our experiences and lessons learnt now we are back working in the UK.”
We can’t wait to see what she does next…
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