This month, we feature our conversation with Rory Longdon, a British knitwear designer now based in Italy, where he works on the ground with artisan knitwear manufacturers to create his modern, textile-led knitwear collections. Rory talks to us about his journey..
Can you tell us about your background and your desires for setting up your own label?
I graduated from Nottingham Trent University from the Fashion Knitwear course in 2011. Since graduating I have collaborated with various fashion houses in Italy, Paris and New York, working on their knitwear collections. After working inside companies, I soon realised the creative part of knitwear was quite limited. I really enjoy being hands-on when I work, so finding myself in a grey corporate office on Fifth Avenue in New York without even a single cone of yarn…I knew I had to return back to having a knitting machine and being creative. So I returned to Italy and began consulting. Before long I began collaborating closely with a knitwear factory in Italy and spontaneously my label was born.
In 2011, you won the Gold Award at Graduate Fashion Week. Can you tell us about this experience and how this helped you after graduating?
Winning the Gold Award was an incredible experience – I was up against so many talented students from all over the country, I never expected to win – especially with a knitwear collection. I received mentoring sessions as part of the prize, these helped me begin to think about my future in the industry and what paths to take. My mentors helped me make some decisions as to where to take my career at that moment.
You’ve worked with a number of luxury fashion labels during your time in industry. How has your experience impacted you as a designer, and shaped the development of your own label?
Working with luxury labels really helped me learn about high quality knitwear. I have been lucky to work with some of the most beautiful yarn spinners and top factories in Italy. Working at this level I have seen some really interesting techniques and developments and these have later fed into my own collections. The research phase for runway shows let’s you see so much incredible development.
You are based in Italy, where all of your knitwear is made. Why Italy?
Italy was very automatic. After graduating I went straight to Italy to work for MaxMara, where I really started to understand the mechanisms of a knitwear collection. They have an in-house knitwear development department, so it’s a really great school for seeing the whole process. Even after leaving Italy to work in New York, I was back in Italy almost every month to work with Italian factories. So my connection has been constant. I decided to come back as the knitwear industry still has a big presence, many spinners are still there and I guess I had sort of gotten used to the way they work.
Your collections are solely womenswear right now. Who is the woman that you design for?
Our woman is definitely quite savvy – she understands the product she’s buying. It’s for a woman who likes that special piece of Knitwear that you won’t get elsewhere.
You consistently use innovative stitch work and yarn combinations. Would you agree that your collections are very textile-led? What is the starting point for your collections?
My collections are definitely very textile led. I love developing new stitches and interesting techniques with my technician. We are always trying new developments, so they naturally become the staring point to the collections. In the studio we have a series of Shima machines, so I’m constantly hands-on with the knitting machines. It’s great because as we are knitting, maybe I change a yarn or add something else in – it becomes really creative. It’s fun because we get things off the machine that maybe I would never have thought of. It’s quite different from when you work for companies and you launch a tech pack to a factory and you sort of get one chance to get it right.
Rory’s collections are stocked at boutiques internationally. More information can be found on his website.