istyle: Spin us a yarn

Brands have gone back to school, working with students to celebrate wool, says Rebecca Gonsalves
  • @R_Gonsalves

Sarah Lund’s traditional Faroe Island sweater may have caused a stir in fashion circles, but the knitwear traditions of the British Isles are just as important. Indeed, next Monday sees the start of the fourth instalment of the annual Wool Week, a celebration of that natural fibre and all it can create.

Apparel is a focus of The Campaign for Wool, patronised by HRH the Prince of Wales – a chap who may not be the most trend-setting, but certainly knows how best to get longevity from his clothing. Through his involvement, he hopes to highlight the “tragedy” that “a wonderful, versatile and sustainable solution was being ignored in favour of fabrics made from non-renewable fossil fuels. The fossil fuels, of course, are gradually running out.”

Carrying on from the success of last year’s Wool School initiative, thousands of students entered a competition to design for a host of big name retailers. Out of the multitude of entries, one student per retailer was chosen and the results go on sale next week with a commitment to reinvest 5 per cent of sales revenue in fashion education programmes across the UK.

Knitwear is one of the most technically challenging aspects of fashion, so a chance to have their work appraised by professionals will be an invaluable experience for students. Indeed, the judging panels for each brand provided both positive and critical feedback which will be sure to impact on the fortunes of the shortlisted entrants. “We need to motivate the students and give them confidence,” said Sheila-Mary Carruthers, a knitwear adviser to the campaign. “Young people can’t apply themselves. Brands need to support young people to give them experience.”

Winning designs have gone into production for British brands such as Topman and Topshop, Christopher Raeburn, Barbour and Margaret Howell, reinforcing not only the adaptability of wool but that it’s not just for knit-wits.