Today, we are pleased to bring you the first instalment of Bubble and Speak, a recurring column penned by Susanna Lau, also known as Susie Bubble, on the young design talents on her highly attuned fashion radar.
LONDON, United Kingdom — In 2010, London’s Central Saint Martins Fashion MA course produced a new wave of minimal designers, such as Thomas Tait, Matthew Harding and Jackie J.S. Lee. But the following year, the graduates were decidedly more eclectic. The 2011 CSM runway show opened with Jenny Postle, a knitwear designer who had sourced yarns from all over England, patchworking a peculiar cacophony of the rough and the smooth, to come up with artisanal knit pieces that had real personality. Seeing Postle’s collection left me with the distinct feeling that she was someone who could come into a fashion house and, for want of a better word, spice up textures by doing knitwear and textiles research. If her graduate collection was evidence of what she could do with low-grade yarns and fabrics from Shepherd’s Bush, she’d surely have a ball with more resources at her disposal.
In their grand tradition of picking up the work of young fashion graduates right from the beginning, iconic London boutique Browns made a beeline for Jenny Postle’s patchwork mayhem. Then, after graduation, Postle joined up with fellow Saint Martins classmate Sam Leutton to form Leutton Postle, where they have been designing joint collections for three seasons now, based on their mutual love of knitwear experimentation, pushing the boundaries of both hand and machine knits and fusing the two together to create unique textiles that could potentially be as recognisable as, say, a Missoni knit. But so far, the duo have been showing their collections off-schedule, as part of the Vauxhall Fashion Scout initative, which goes to show that the British Fashion Council’s NewGen scheme doesn’t necessarily reflect the full breadth of talent that is currently active in London.
Creatively, one of the challenges that Leutton Postle faced was figuring out what silhouettes and shapes worked best with their freehand textiles, something which they have overcome with their Spring/Summer 2013 collection, their most polished yet in my opinion. “We made a very conscious effort to work on our shape and our finish so that the collection wasn’t just about the textiles,” Postle told me. “It’s been a real learning curve for us. We worked with shape and fabric in a completely different way and challenged ourselves by creating a knitted tailored shirt, something which we never would have embarked on a year ago.”
There’s real joy in looking at Leutton Postle’s latest collection, for which they mish-mashed traditional Scottish argyle, Japanese street style and motifs from the African Ndebele tribe. The balance between hand-crafted elements, as seen in the beading and tassels, and the precise machine-knitted triangular motif addresses another of Leutton Postle’s challenges — how to go from operating a small scale in-studio production to outsourcing their complex textile creation.
“We were using very time consuming techniques in order to gain maximum patterning and texture in each fabric,” said Leutton. “Now, that we are working with the technicians at Stoll UK in Leicester, we are able to get that high level of patterning with a much more professional finish. It’s been really interesting to test these computerised machines, push them and come up with new textiles that still reflect the Leutton Postle aesthetic.”
In recent seasons, knitwear design has seen a wave of renewed vitality in London. Lucas Nascimento, Brooke Roberts and Mei-Lim Cooper are all flouting the conventions of knitwear to carve out their own aesthetics. Leutton Postle wave the flag for handcrafted experimentation. But it’s their curiosity to continuously seek out new techniques to work into their knitwear matrix that makes them so exciting to watch.
Susanna Lau is a writer and editor living and working in London and the blogger behind Style Bubble