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Friday, 8 November 2013

INTERVIEW - Michele Wang

Michele Wang
It is always exciting to see another designers vision for our yarn. To find out what it is about a colour or texture that speaks to them and evolves into a beautifully finessed item that knitters across the globe decide they have to knit. Michele Wang, of Brooklyn Tweed fame very kindly agreed to talk to us about her love of knitting, fashion and her latest sweater design using MillaMia Limited Edition Lime.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a knitwear designer.
Hello! I live in New York City with my husband and precious pug, Brigitte. I can't imagine living anywhere else even though as I'm answering these questions two people are screaming at each other on the sidewalk and there's been a jackhammer going since 7:00 this morning. I'm not sure I know what quiet is. I have found that the more chaotic my surroundings, the more settled I seem to be.You should see my desk - it's like a tornado moves over it every night.
I came to be a knitwear designer serendipitously. I started knitting a few years back to try to rest my body after some intense marathon training. I searched for a sedentary past time. Since I had always been interested in fashion and textiles, a friend suggested I take up knitting. Long story short, I ended up being referred to Shirley Paden by Mari Tobita (through Lisa Daehlin) to do some sample knitting. One thing lead to another, and I was fortunate to have my first published design in Vogue Knitting's Fall 2010 issue.

2) What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a few things. Most importantly, I've just finished working on a design for MillaMia. It was such a great opportunity to work with a different yarn, and in such a vibrant color. Belesama just launched on Ravelry yesterday, and has had lots of really positive feedback already - I'm so excited for this piece!


I'm also working on two special collections for Brooklyn Tweed. One I should definitely keep the lid on, and the other is a collection designed entirely by me. It's terrifying. You begin to really doubt whether or not you can handle such a large project. But, I'm just trying to take it one piece at a time.


3) Which designers inspire you?
Wow... which designers don't inspire me?! I love Yohji Yamamoto, because who doesn't? He's a genius, full stop. I know he hasn't been very popular these past few years, but his pieces are timeless. I love Alexander McQueen, or Sarah Burton for that matter. I would wear that all day and all night if I could, although grocery shopping with that diamond encrusted head cage would be impractical. And I really appreciate Prada - there's always something that sparks in her collections. It never fails - about two years after one of her collections comes out, I want it all. It's like she knows what the masses will love before they do. She plants the seed. And Jil Sander! I think I did a little dance when I heard she was coming back to design for her eponymous label and it's been glorious. I could go on and on - aren't you sorry you asked?!!


4) In relation to the last question – which up and coming new designers have you got on your radar?
Baja East is a label that just hit my radar. I've been seeing a lot on Instagram, and I love the cool effortlessness of it. I think culturally people are looking less to tailored clothing, but more people are concerned with their clothing and appearance. It's an interesting crossroads. I think historically we think to look nice, we need to "dress up", but that definition is so different now. To think about the impact that "Grunge" made more than 20 years ago, is mind-blowing. Why was that so shocking? Now, everything goes - it's how you wear it, how you dress it up, and of course, your attitude. Like I love seeing girls wear stilettos with sweatpants, an old t-shirt with a fur jacket. It's fun!

5) What trends in knitwear in the US are you seeing for A/W 13?
I feel like I've been seeing a lot of treated knitwear. Knits that have been felted with metallic pieces in spots, or plastic melted on it, or yarns that are neoprene. I think textile designers are having a lot of fun with knits these days, and the technology never stops. I can't say that I've seen a definitive trend in terms of silhouette this season, but looking forward to F/W 2014, it's all about oversized. Huge, mohair, mid-thigh bulky sweaters. It's looking like a nice interpretation of 80's knitwear... without the patched letters and puffy paint. I would love to make a super huge sweater in neoprene!


6) Can you give us an insight into your creative process – where does a design come from and how does it evolve?
Generally a design comes from the material and color I'm using. Since my work is primarily for Brooklyn Tweed, I have very specific visions for a tweedy, woolly yarn with those deep rich colors. So, my process usually begins with swatching. If I'm unfamiliar with a yarn, I'll just knit something simple like stockinette and block it to see how it behaves. Then I play with the swatch, feeling it, pinning it to my dress form to see if anything calls to me. Of course, I scour pinterest, tumblr, and the streets of NY to find inspiration for design elements. Then usually a design starts to form in my head and I start swatching ideas, and very rarely do I get something on the first go. Or I like a swatch, and my initial thoughts on the design are all wrong. So, the design is fairly amorphous in the beginning. From there, I'll start to sketch to try and get down proportion and the "feel" of the design. I always think of the evolution of a design as a sort of pinball going back and forth between yarn, color, pattern and silhouette. All of those things have to make sense, and changing one changes the other until they all come together.


7) Which of your own designs is your favourite, or the one you’re most proud of?
I really don't know. Designs are like memorabilia or keepsakes for me. I look at them and I see where I was, or how I was feeling at that particular moment and it's hard for me to see the actual piece. Or I obsess about what I could have done differently. If I had the time, I would work each piece like a illustrator, painter or photographer does as a study - 1/100, 2/100 -  and see how it evolved. Observe the differences in each piece even if I were to use the same pattern every time, or make very minor changes with each one. That would be so much fun, and so interesting!


8) What is it about MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino that has inspired you to work with it?
I came to know MillaMia through your beautiful pattern booklets. It's a shame, but most knitting publications tend to look somewhat similar. MillaMia really stood out. The styling and colors are so sophisticated. I fell in love with the Limited Edition Lime colorway as soon as I saw it! And then when I met you Max, and Helena at TNNA, I knew I had to work with you. I know it seems crazy to want to work with a yarn because of the people behind it, but it's the truth. Having had many careers and done so many random things in my life, I know the most important thing in any business or creative endeavor are its people. It's the bottom line.

Huge thanks to Michele for this indepth and incredibly accessible interview - meeting with her was truly one of the highlights of my summer. If you want to keep abreast of what Michele is doing you can find her on Pinterest, Ravelry and her Blog.
(posted by Max)

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