Sweaters take the spotlight this season. The Telegraph rounds up the styles to know – choose your squad wisely
Want to know what to wear on your next wintry weekend walk? A chunky-knit jumper and jeans. Your new FBF (that’s Fashion Best Friend) to throw on under a smart suit? A fine-gauge slogan knit. Christmas cocktail party coming up? Try an embellished sweater over that sequinned skirt. Similar guidelines apply to high-level meetings, brunches with friends, school sports days, etc – for autumn/winter, wear anything you like, as long as it’s a knit.
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It’s sweater weather in a big way, with knits moving from wardrobe workhorse to many an outfit’s main event. ‘This season has been a standout for knitwear,’ says Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-Porter. Sales of knitwear at the luxury e-tailer have risen by a third since this time last year, something she attributes to the runways. ‘Designers have really updated this everyday piece, with bold colourways, abundant stripes and attention-grabbing textures.’ Gucci’s puff-sleeved, sequin-embellished creations, Dries Van Noten’s pearl-swathed crew necks and Balenciaga’s swallowtail polos were just a few a/w 2016 styles that upped the knitwear ante.
Leithen sweater, £380, Genevieve Sweeney
A great jumper can be a hero piece, but it can also satisfy in a quieter way. Ultimately a jumper’s appeal comes down to the sensory appeal of its materials. ‘Putting on a beautiful piece of knitwear should feel like receiving a big, warm, cosy hug,’ says Mandy Watkins, founder and designer of loungewear brand Hush. ‘There’s a real sense of comfort and security. The world seems a bit crazy at the moment, with Brexit, Trump, Russia and Syria. Perhaps we’re all seeking refuge.’ And a ravishing new jumper, no doubt. To help you choose your sweater style, here are the main contenders…
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The brights sweaters
While many engineers of the new knitwear avow an abiding belief in the perfection of a navy jumper, exceptions must be made. A heart on your sleeve sounds nice, but how about a rainbow? At Wyse London, stars, stripes and snowflakes tumble across bodices and sleeves. Genevieve Sweeney creates complex geometric intarsias in alluring colour combinations, and bright hues are the starting point for each of Makeda Matheson’s designs. ‘People want a bit of fun and colour,’ says Susanna Adam-Bassoe, co-founder of Edamame London, whose colour-blocked sleeves add zing to classic cashmere pieces. ‘Sometimes one needs a lift – especially in winter.’
Few garments offer a shortcut to wardrobe wit as readily as the word jumper. New line Lingua Franca features classic hip-hop phrases hand-embroidered on to vintage cashmere sweaters. British brand Hades lets the wearer declare fealty to her rock group of choice (Alexa Chung rocked its The Smiths jumper at Glastonbury this year). Then again, the words on your sleeve (or chest) don’t have to mean anything at all. ‘I like the idea of it just floating independently in space somehow,’ says Bella Freud of the messages on bestselling styles like ‘Je t’aime Jane’ and ‘1970’.
Knit-wits know that sweater mecca is Hawick, Scotland, the centre of knitwear production for many venerable British brands. There’s nothing like the soft water of the River Teviot for milling the fibres, and the legacy of craftsmanship in the area is unparalleled. So it is that even young designers eager to do something new with knits are falling for heritage techniques. Pringle of Scotland’s cardigans, &Daughter’s Aran knits and Last of England’s unisex basketweave jumpers (seen on Edie Campbell and Poppy Delevingne) all make a case for space on your sweater shelf.
Alex Gore Browne calls her refined, ruffled designs ‘cocktail sweaters’ to reflect their dressy air. ‘Knitwear is a modern way to dress for evening – it gives women the opportunity to look elegant and still feel comfortable,’ she says. The Cotswolds-based designer, who also consults for Alexander McQueen, loves to wear her pieces with fluid floor-length dresses or fuller ball skirts instead of a more predictable black-tie gown for formal occasions. ‘There’s comfort, it’s warm, but it’s also a bit different… If you look great and feel great when you go out, you’re going to have a much better time.’
Zigzag wool and cashmere-blend sweater, £645, Alex Gore Browne at Matchesfashion.com
A cashmere hand-knit may be a thing of beauty, but sometimes you just want a dependable – affordable enough to bulk buy and not so precious that you live in fear of accidentally throwing it into a warm wash. Days like those call for a trip to Toast or The White Company (the high street’s cosy capitals), Topshop or even the M&S menswear department – the secret source of roomy V-necks for more than one member of Stella’s fashion team.
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