KnitwearLab was founded in 2013 by Thijs Verhaar and Cherish Brouwer to create an open source for knitwear knowledge. Their design studio is located near Amsterdam, in the Dutch town of Almere. Working as a team of eight employees, KnitwearLab’s main aim is to experiment and create, producing knitwear related to design. Primarily their work is knowledge and design based, with a focus on textile development not only in fashion but also in more technical fields.
This month, freelance knitwear designer Katy Grieve sat down with co-founder Thijs Verhaar to learn more about KnitwearLab’s mission and aim to contribute to the industry of knitwear.
How did KnitwearLab develop into a company?
It grew from my desire to explore knitwear, from years of experience in industry. Frustrated not to be able to develop real innovations in knitwear, we looked to set up our own company. Over the years we have extended from one to two knitting machines, which meant more possibilities. Working with Stoll 530 HP flatbed knitting machines and M1 plus programming we are able to meet the interest and demand from the current market. We have many international customers from the US to China – big and small. A few of the types of companies we work with include Alexander Wang, Adidas and Viktor & Rolf, Jack & Jones, Recaro just to name a few, but we also enjoy the opportunity to work with smaller independent designers.
What brought about the name ‘KnitwearLab’?
We are driven by innovation – experimenting and testing as an open source lab where people can feel welcome to come and create new things. We do small productions but our main aim is testing, innovation and design.
What is your background in the industry?
I have a background in production and design, as well as experience internationally in production, design and branding.
What is your opinion on the industry at this current time?
There is a lack of craft knowledge – an international lack from China to Europe to the US – which generates the need for knowledge of dying trades of craftsmanship. Machines get more complex in demand when market is more complex which presents us with a conflict between knowledge and demands. I don’t think production will come back to the developed markets, but I also don’t regret this, I think craftsmanship is stronger in the traditional textile production companies in developing countries. We all like the idea of having production localized, but reality is that people don’t want to work in a factory.
You recently extended into innovative shoe development for companies, what is your mission to achieve in this field?
The mission for knitted uppers is to develop knits with the right properties at the right places to achieve shoes which combine comfort with aesthetics. We developed a course for knitting uppers together with the Footwearist to inform and inspire people, to show the possibilities as well as the do’s and don’ts of knitted shoe uppers.
What is your approach to yarns and materials?
We do a lot of commercial testing, working with mechanical and chemical recycled yarns. We also check properties of fibres and yarns for yarn suppliers.
You do many collaborations with companies, could you mention a few and the types of projects you achieve?
Projects with Alexander Wang and Filing pieces have allowed us to expand our knowledge in knitted shoes, Miss Sixty, Viktor & Rolf and Jack & Jones were all collaborations for knitted apparel, Heist and Atom produced more technical knitted products, and lastly Ecco and Reblend explored sustainability in knitwear.
You also collaborate with many students graduating from Dutch universities. Could you tell us a little more about that?
We work with students in the same way we work with our other clients; design, develop swatches, swatch selection, programme garments and knit them. We try to infuse new knit techniques and push students to do unusual things through the knowledge we can provide. We wish to spread the knowledge, to try to inspire new designers to work in the knitwear field. We are in close contact with design schools and give lectures as we feel it is our responsibility to share knowledge.
What is next for KnitwearLab?
Besides KnitwearLab we have our own knitwear brand – Thijs Verhaar, a brand which communicates our love for beautiful knitwear. It is an accessories brand also expanding into apparel. In addition, having grown as a company from two people into eight people, we have recently moved into a larger studio to be able to handle bigger customers. We are looking to expand the amount of machines to be able to internationalise our partners to bigger brands and companies to build upon our knowledge.