Published on November 19, 2013 | by Holly Gilbert

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Hitting the big time in the world of wool

Kate Annis, CSM graduate and winner of the Lyle & Scott 2013 Campaign for Wool (Wool School) competition [Mary Clarke]

Kate Annis is a Central Saint Martins graduate whose knitwear designs have seen her work selected for manufacture by famous menswear brand Lyle & Scott through Campaign for Wool. Not only is she talented, her passion for knitwear is second to none and shows that nothing in your wardrobe can compete with a well-loved woollen jumper.

The brief given to the CSM students last Easter was to design a woollen garment inspired by the Great British Isles. The Campaign for Wool (an initiative of Prince Charles) does its upmost to showcase this very British traditional textile which makes up so much of our industrial history.

Tradition

Annis wanted her design to use much of the traditional yarn techniques and design, whilst incorporating an element of contemporary to produce a jumper to be cherished. Her love of colour is intrinsic to her winning design. With its modern take on a traditional tartan front with neon pops of colour which marries well with the signature Lyle & Scott bright woollen golf jumpers.

The tartan is a knowing nod to its links with the Royal family whilst retaining a contemporary style that refuses to become dated. Annis, 24, reveals she was stunned by the craftsmanship that went into making her jumper. It took five days to merely programme  the machine to make her design a reality and was one of the most complex designs that had ever been made at the small factory in Scotland.

She said: “I was really amazed to see the jumper made, and how much of it was done by hand, it was such a beautiful process. I was so shocked to hear the jumper would be retailing at £160; I’m not out to be a luxury knitwear designer, but after seeing the work and the process I think it makes it worth it. “I think wool is beautiful, knowing textiles and knitting as I do, I can understand why people are willing to pay a bit more for wool rather than sweatshirts or synthetic stuff. “Also, the scope for knitting and yarn combinations to create beautiful and interesting designs is limitless and can be used in a really modern way.”

“I was really amazed to see the jumper made, and how much of it was done by hand, it was such a beautiful process” – Kate Annis.

The tradition of wool production and manufacture is amazing and it would be sad to see it gone.” After graduating from CSM in July, Annis took an internship at Matthew Williamson and has since started interning with Lyle & Scott. Having spent a short time working with the brand, her passion for knitwear has only intensified.

Annis has been working on the technical aspects of the business including computer-aided design work, meeting with yarn suppliers and presentation boards. She found out that she had won the competition through GQ magazine. Her jumper sold out online in the first two weeks and had double the amount made than other companies affiliated with the Campaign for Wool. “My favourite aspect of knit design comes from my love of colour and passion for colour combinations, which isn’t necessarily exclusive to knit. I think the thing with knitting is that you have so many yarn choices: snuggly soft wool and lurex that sparkles. “There is a real scope for different textures and feelings because you can knit with anything.”

Hard Work

It was only towards the end of her degree that the design of actual garments came into play. Annis thrived on the mathematics and technicalities of designing knitwear anticipating the amount of stitches needed to create shape. Luckily the three garments that she created turned out well, which she puts down to ‘flukishness’. However, her creations earned her credit and interest with people looking to buy her work.

Navigating the complexities regarding copyrights, pitching to companies has been a steep learning curve. Annis said knitwear is her favoured design option: “In some ways, I think it’s really hard to break into menswear because it’s extremely difficult to make a man’s shirt different enough from another, but still commercial so that someone wants to buy the shirt you design. Designing garments that are purely knitwear, and being someone that is solely focused on making beautiful knitwear that is accessible, would mean I wouldn’t mind not having massive profit margins if you can get a good customer base. Selling your work at a level that a lot of people can enjoy is what I would like to do.”

Her level-headed attitude towards her craft is both refreshing and comforting. She recognises the importance of being able to be more than just a good designer and believes the jobs available to graduates in the creative field also demand technical and business attributes.

She believes “the work reaches far beyond whether you can make pretty things.” Her honesty is a quality that screams successful designer. Her disinterest in high fashion is a breath of fresh air, revealing how she has always done her own thing.

With her sights set on creating her own company, combining the commercialism that she attributes to her work and the innovative nature of a fellow graduate, it seems like a design tour de force is about to burst on to the London design scene in the near future.

Annis said: “I was so motivated at university and I worked so hard that I found the slowing of pace since then really difficult. “I would love to wake up and work on my own stuff until really late. The internships have been really amazing in terms of what I have learnt, but for now I am really passionate about trying to have my own business after Christmas.”

She speaks with absolute clarity when talking about knitwear: “To make beautiful knitwear accessible for a loyal customer base and to sell it at a level that people can really enjoy, would matter more to me than massive profit margins.”

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