Monday, January 9, 2012

Intarsia and the Colorblock Phenomenon in Knitwear and Pop Culture

Recently another Etsy member inspired me to get back to color work.  I have to admit I have been a bit jaded lately - for a knitwear designer some things (like intarsia and other labor intensive colorwork) seem a bit gratuitous sometimes.  My short row dress over a year ago was my last real exploration of colorwork (see the first image under Gallery).  I will no longer let it get me down.  Today's fashion proves there is not only a market for it but a force of modern pop culture backing it. Maybe soon you will see new colorwork pieces from Moonkitten! 

Looking back into the modern comeback of intarsia in high fashion, it all started with thrift stores and street fashion - when all of us hipsters  (I use this term loosely to define creative individuals who define their own ideas of fashion on a street level) rediscovered the fascination of the "Cosby sweater" in the early to mid 2000's.  In the 80s and early 90s, COOGI originated this sweater - love it or hate it, they inspired creativity in knitwear that lives on today.

Kanye West 2004 Intarsia Sweater
B.I.G. in COOGI Early 90s
Pop icons and artists such as Kanye West embrace high fashion and especially the colorblock and intarsia trend.  A true men's fashion icon all around, Kanye definitely shows his love for color, pattern and knitwear in a way that makes me feel confident about my work as a textile/ knitwear designer.

In fashion, the chicken and egg question comes up all the time - and in fact, origins of fashion trends are almost always grey areas.  Especially since the arrival of Fruits in Japan in the nineties, street fashion has influenced high fashion.  Now with troubadours such as the Sartorialist, this "influence" has been elevated to a true symbiotic relationship.  

Missoni has always been the royal kingdom of modern high fashion knitwear. Back in 2007 this happened: 
Missoni Mens AW 2007/8
Missoni Mens AW 2007/8
And then this happened:
Kanye West 2007 Intarsia Sweater Vest
Kanye West 2007 Intarsia Sweater Vest
And then this happened in 2008:
Kanye West 2008 Intarsia Sweater Jeremy Scott
Kanye West Heartless Video 2008 - An illustration animated play
 on the intarsia sweater  which is actually a  patterned fabric cut and sew sweatshirt.
And in 2009, this happened:
Kanye West Welcome to Heartbreak Video 2009 - A play on the intarsia
sweater which is actually a  patterned fabric cut and sew sweatshirt.
Kanye West Dec. 2010 - A low key, more traditional fair isle sweater
Kanye West supports some of my favorite designers including Gareth Pugh from the UK and rumors have it, he will start his own line in the UK soon.
Kanye West with Jeremy Scott 2011 - Beautiful intarsia skeleton sweater!