The superfine storytelling in Laura Newton’s knitwear
‘I’ve always been drawn to knitwear because it can tell a story,’ says the Los Angeles-based British knitwear designer Laura Newton. ‘Knitwear is so affected by the designer and the maker, and you can feel that energy through its tactility and craftsmanship. It makes you feel like you’ve picked up something special.’
Newton realised her fondness for a knit as a teenager, when she would naturally gravitate towards woollens when shopping in vintage stores. But she never thought such sartorial affection would lead to a career. ‘I wanted to be a painter originally,’ says Newton. ‘I studied it at school and worked in oils a lot, which inspired a deep interest in colour and texture.’ It was during a stint of research while studying at Central Saint Martins that led her to the textiles department and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward a couple of years and Newton is now a senior knitwear designer at Yeezy — a chance opportunity that came about after ‘a random phone call one day’ — as well as the founder of her namesake label that has its studio in London. ‘It’s definitely an adventure,’ she says, of juggling her two transatlantic jobs. ‘Working for yourself allows complete creative freedom, but working for a big brand gives you vastly more experience,’ she says. ‘I enjoy the contrast.’
Each piece of Newton’s knitwear is made by both hand-operated and digitally programmed machines. ‘I wanted to simultaneously showcase the traditional methods of knitting while embracing and exploring modern techniques,’ she says, of her superfine, stretchy knitted pieces that swathe the body and are punctuated with holes in varying shapes and sizes. Each hole is made by picking up each individual stitch and looping it back onto the machine. ‘It’s incredibly labour intensive. But I wanted to push the limits of what is perceived as knitwear,’ she says. ‘By playing around with the tension of the fabric and creating openings to let it interact with the body.’
Newton shares her British studio space — a mezzanine overlooking a concrete factory — with two other knitwear creatives, with whom she exchanges tips and technical information that helps her push the boundaries of her designs. ‘It makes financial sense too as operating knit studio on my own would be expensive to accumulate the variety of machines I need,’ she says.
While much of her material is sourced from Italy, she also likes to work with waste yarns for her own collections. ‘It’s yarns that have been cast aside by other brands and are sold cheaply as deadstock. It keeps production costs down, but it’s also my way of helping the planet. And it means sometimes the pieces are one-offs, as I have a limited amount of fabric to work with.’ It’s one of a kind knitwear, much like the vintage pieces she first fell in love with. ‘You can feel the story and history it has lived. It enriches its meaning,’ she says. §