A new era of needle-wielding designers has transformed the traditional knitted jumper into a directional, flattering and statement piece. These cross-generational 'It knits' appeal to mother as much as daughter, from slogan sweaters and Scottish-spun wool cardigans to flamboyant cashmere co-ords. Plus, with many employing sustainable and eco-conscious production and dyeing methods, you can get cosy without the guilt.
Alex Gore Browne
Alex Gore Browne creates timeless knitwear with a playful sense of charm and drama. The Central Saint Martins graduate previously worked with Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson before launching her own eponymous collection, flourished with buoyant ruffles, bows and sparkly accents. Jumpers are designed in Gore Browne's Cotswold studio and made in the UK and Italy, in an appealing palette of oatmeal, navy, caramel and punchy pinks. She also offers detachable collars, cuffs and bows, which are perfect for adding a pinch of character to your favourite knitwear staples or hairbands. Laura Bailey, Martha Ward and Irene Forte are all part of Gore’s gang, as well as mother-in-law Carole Bamford.
Knitwear brands don't come much more British than Herd – in fact, the label was founded with the express mission of reinvigorating the wool production industry in North West England. All fleeces are sourced from Lancashire and Yorkshire, with the brand using only fine Bluefaced Leicester wool, which is of comparable quality to cashmere and merino but without the carbon footprint. No toxic chemicals are used in the cleaning or dyeing process either; this really is as sustainable as knitwear comes. Which isn't to say anything has been sacrificed by way of design. Herd offers everything from classic cable knit jumpers, hats and cardigans to vibrant leg warmers, shorts and pretty puff sleeve blouses.
HADES' candy-colored jumpers for men and women are emblazoned with the names and lyrics of founder Cassie Holland's favourite bands, including Joy Division, Devo and X-Ray Spex. Alexa Chung is regularly spotted wearing The Smiths jumper, while the Alphabet knits are a favourite among fashion editors. Jumpers are handcrafted in small batches in Hawick, Scotland, using hardwearing merino and lamb’s wool, which is milled in Yorkshire – demonstrating the brand's commitment to supporting British manufacturers. This season, chunky cardigans are finished with surrealist buttons that refashion Greek gods, galloping horses and oversized beetles in brightly-hued 3-D resin.
Chinti & Parker
Founded in 2009 by London-based cousins Rachael Wood and Anna Singh (founder of Pout beauty), Chinti & Parker can arguably be credited with kick-starting the rise of the fashion knit. The British brand's playful cashmere jumpers are boldly spun with stars, neon stripes and zigzag intarsia designs, worn by a phalanx of A-listers including Gwyneth Paltrow, Sienna Millar and Malia Obama. The brand has expanded its repertoire to include slouchy cashmere joggers, fluid wool trousers and slinky rib-knit dresses in neutral colourways, as well as tactile accessories.
Madeleine Thompson’s trophy knits and cardigans look as much at home on the slopes as they do in the city, designed with a distinctly retro sports-luxe vibe. Thompson, who splits her time between London and Hong Kong, cites Bridget Riley paintings, traditional Chinese silhouettes and American summer camps among her eclectic references and all of her cashmere creations are sustainably produced.
Last of England
All-singing, colourful knitwear is not for everyone. If you prefer your cashmere relaxed and understated, then look to Last of England. Founder Tom Heber-Percy launched the brand after failing to find a contemporary knit that matched the enduring quality of a decades-old piece from his father’s wardrobe. The British brand creates unisex jumpers that are designed to be lived in and worn for decades, with a wistful, nostalgic aesthetic. Heber-Percy's sweater-wearing muses include Anna Karina, Gary Cooper and a windswept Brigitte Bardot, perched atop a cliff edge in a man's woolen jumper. Knitwear is made in Scotland in a rich yet low-key palette of grey, bottle green and burgundy and collections are often woven with historic references. Case in point: the laidback Teba jacket, which is inspired by a look originally tailored on Savile Row for King Alfonso, later gifted to the Count of Teba.
Knitwear veteran Bella Freud needs no introduction. The daughter of artist Lucian Freud and a fixture in London’s creative circles, the British designer worked as a stylist and designer before launching her cult collection of slogan knits in 2007. Freud cooly captures the free-wheeling spirit of the seventies through pop culture references spanning Jane Birkin and Allen Ginsberg, spun with a signature dash of wit. The cult 'Je T’aime Jane’ and ‘Ginsberg is God’ slogan jumpers remain bestsellers, worn by everyone from Alexa Chung to Kate Moss and Laura Bailey.