Knitwear Lab produces innovative and sustainable knitwear products that challenge the waste typically associated with garment making. They make use of cutting-edge knitwear techniques such as 3D knitting, and ensure their materials are cruelty-free and regenerated. Their exciting designs are mostly made from one piece too, meaning almost no waste! Already growing in their collaborations – in which they develop knitwear solutions for designers, brands, and technical companies – we are excited to see what Knitwear Lab has in store for 2022.
Tell us a little bit about Knitwear Lab – what is the main philosophy behind the brand?
KNITWEAR LAB is a research, design, and development centre for innovative, sustainable, and aesthetic knitwear. At KNITWEAR LAB we get the opportunity to develop knitwear solutions for designers, brands, and technical companies that are at the forefront of innovation. But apart from technical masterminds our programmers are also creative designers with an inspiring vision on the zeitgeist. We teamed them up with our trainees and design assistants and let their imagination flow. Under the devoted guidance of our creative director Cherish Brouwer and our general manager Thijs Verhaar, our team experimented with the technical tour de force of our machines.
KNITWEAR LAB – PRODUCTS is a collection of knitwear products designed, developed, and produced in-house. The products will showcase a taste of what we can do with knitwear. Leading-edge knitwear techniques are combined with regenerated and cruelty-free materials, resulting in a collection of functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing accessories and lifestyle products. The first product collection consists of scarves, socks, and bucket hats that are enriched with smart technical details. Besides the seasonal collections, KNITWEAR LAB will drop unique products throughout the year.
What practises has Knitwear Lab implemented that foreground sustainability?
KNITWEAR LAB has environmental and animal welfare at heart. The collection is made with sustainable production techniques: most of the designs are knitted out of one-piece, creating almost no waste. An inspiring example of this is the bucket hat which has been knitted with a special technique in order to create a 3D shape. All woollen scarves are knitted from extra-fine merino wool, derived from farms that do not use the cruel practice of mulesing. For the foulards we use Bemberg™ Cupro. This regenerated fibre has been made from cotton linter, which is a waste material created during the process of manufacturing cotton.
What do techniques such as 3D knitting entail, and how are they better than traditional knitting techniques?
Currently you’ll find two movements within 3D knitting on flat-bed machinery. Firstly, with ‘Wholegarment’ knitwear by Shima Seiki and ‘Stoll-Knit and Wear’ technology, you can knit and connect pieces with only one machine within a single process. The result is a seamless knitted garment almost ready-to-wear. The other technique, which we also used for KNITWEAR LAB – PRODUCTS, is creating 3D shapes from scratch by using a combination of Gore technology, shaping, and relief. Compared with traditional knitting techniques such as “fully fashion knitting” and “cut & sew” techniques, fabrics also come from circular knitting machines – our knitting techniques allow us to knit complicated designs entirely out of one piece, without producing any waste. By reducing the number of components, we can shorten the production chain considerably and production on-demand becomes feasible.
You state that ‘it is our responsibility to educate our clients on the impact their production will have on our ecosystem’ – can you tell us about your most exciting projects that have served to educate?
On all projects we advise our clients on sustainable design, materials, and production methods. We always aim to design beautiful and innovative knits in the most efficient way, while minimising our ecological footprint. We share our knowledge and craftsmanship, inviting our clients at our LAB to involve them in the making process. Besides developing knitwear for our clients, we also organise courses for designers and brands. The more knowledgeable designers become about the endless (sustainable) possibilities of knitwear, the more durable they can design their products.
The most exciting of all is that we can serve our knitwear specialism to a diverse group of disciplines. Besides our focus on apparel, we work on developments for the automotive industry, medical applications, body protection, smart textiles, architecture, and other disciplines for which it is required to create complex shapes in a precise manner. We love to develop innovative knitwear that challenges the industry standards on design, technology, and durability. Throughout the years we have brought many boundary-pushing circular initiatives to life, to both new designers and bigger brands. With every project we increased our knowledge on sustainable design techniques and production methods. Collaborating with other industries means you learn from one another, and together with our clients we invest in creating true innovation with knitwear – that keeps it exciting!
What are the most challenging aspects of creating your “Sustainable Projects"?
As a company, we have a progressive vision on sustainability – At KNITWEAR LAB we are constantly developing ethical knitwear made from biodegradable materials and regenerated and certified yarns. Moreover, we place a high emphasis on zero-waste production methods – including for our own KNITWEAR LAB – BRAND. The biggest challenge at the moment is that we are part of a huge industry, with many facets, parties, and suppliers involved in the chain. The industry is changing, willing to do better, but it will take a period of time, effort, knowledge, technology, and money. Sometimes, wishes can’t be financially and aesthetically accomplished because the industry is not there or ready yet. It’s very good to see that a lot of our clients (KL company) or customers (KL brand) do want to make changes by making more and more sustainable choices. This will hopefully help to speed up the processes within the industry.
How important is transparency when it comes to your brand?
Very important. We are an open and fair company and proud to make nice and honest products. We at KNITWEAR LAB care about the environment and do our best to create innovative and sustainable products with as little waste as possible. We research and select our yarns carefully and always try to get the best quality of certified yarns. We take great care that we produce everything according to our special standard: treat everybody like you want to be treated 😉! We love to show how we work, with who we work, and with what we work – besides, you are always welcome to visit our LAB.
What is one of your favourite products to make and why?
We are a fan of developing merino wool scarfs. They come as one-piece from our machine and the material is super soft, strong, long lasting, and eco-friendly – a sustainable product – besides, it is a nice knitwear accessory. But we do love our Bucket Hat as well! It is a new development, a new evolution of knitted headwear – a 3D shaped hat entirely knitted out of one piece. It is an air-permeable and lightweight hat executed in playful colours.
What does the future of Knitwear Lab look like? What do you envision for the brand?
Working on the forefront of innovation, we want to elevate the current level of knitwear design and inspire people (designers, brands, companies, the industry) with the endless (sustainable) possibilities knitwear has to offer. We want to challenge the industry standards on design, technology, and durability. Our aim is to build our community to inspire, collaborate, educate. Besides this, we aim to offer an extensive range of products made with leading-edge knitwear techniques, which results in a collection of functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing accessories and lifestyle products. We would love to collaborate with different kinds of disciplines in the future too; together we can invest in fundamental research projects, design, development, and production with the aim of creating true innovation with knitwear.
Last but not least, what is your view on cooperating with stakeholders like Fairbee to generate positive change?
For us it is great to be part of a platform like Fairbee, to show our honest made knitwear products. It is great that we are not alone, but next to other brands with a shared ideology as well. Also, we love to give customers transparency about our brand by informing them and offering sustainably made products. This is so that they can choose consciously and wear with joy!