LH: I start my day with a large cup of super strong Italian Espresso coffee, then spend the rest of the day sipping peppermint tea. Very zingy ‘get up and go’ on one hand, very creative and artsy on the other….
MM: In the world of design, your name is synonymous with luxury yarns and feminine knitwear. Where did it all begin?
LH: Ever since I was little, I have always made clothing and had a strong interest in fashion. Growing up in the centre of London, I had access to all the wonderful museums, and spent my school holidays doing costume and fashion workshops. I studied Art and Dress at school, learning to cut and grade patterns then went on to take a degree at Brighton University in Textiles and Fashion. This was in the mid 80’s when all the ‘ready to wear’ designers were showing handknits on the catwalk. As a result, we had projects sponsored by yarn manufacturers. I became very interested in hand knitting, loved the discipline. Unlike any other garment construction, this is the only one where you can control the shape of a garment by the stitches you choose. During my third year at University, I spent a three month placement at Rowan Yarns, and had two of my earliest designs published in Rowan Magazine 6. After completing my degree, I spent three months working for an American designer in Montreal and then returned to England, and worked with Rowan Yarns for eleven years. I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
MM: Wow! What a whirlwind. Any idea where you might be today, if you had not chosen this path into the world of knitwear design?
LH: Now, that is a very interesting question, and one that I have just begun to contemplate myself. My career has been sort of a whirlwind, not much space in between each stage to take a breather, so I have never taken any other avenues. However, there are a couple of paths that sometimes I dream of taking. I would have loved to be a travel writer, as I do love to travel, but am not very good at written prose. I would also love to have a shop, a little boutique selling lots of lovely things. Ideally, it wouldn’t have to be commercial, more an extension of my wardrobe and home, full of exquisite garments, accessories and furnishings, all beautifully designed or vintage pieces each with a hidden story. Despite the dreaming, I am always drawn back to knitwear design, an idea starts to take shape and my fingers begin to ‘itch’, and the needles and yarn come together. I think the path chose me.
MM: Are you a ‘doodler’ or a ‘swatcher’ first, when you begin a new knitwear design?
LH: Both- sometimes its the yarn, sometimes its the stitch, so then I swatch, sometimes its the garment shape, so then I draw. I start designing my collections by taking ideas from an inspiration source. It is integral to my creative process, to have a starting point to which the collection refers, whether it be a visit to Venice or a classic children’s story such as Alice In Wonderland.
MM: Canadian knitters are naturally drawn towards the British influence in knitwear. Is there one thing you feel sets Canadian knitters apart from British knitters?
LH: I think probably all knitters are similar, if you were to sit a group of knitters together in a room, gathered from all around the globe, their similarities would far outweigh their differences. Knitters are creative souls who understand the gift of time, how important and amazing it feels to create something from a ball of yarn with two needles. To have it appreciated, and appreciate the creative talents and skills of others is priceless. It is a similarity that is for the most part unspoken.
MM: In your latest Spring Collection, the knitwear styles embody a genuine lightness and free spirit, in a shade range of deep, stunning jewel tones. Where did the inspiration come from for this current collection?
LH: My newest collection is inspired by the East, entitled, Chinoiserie. Having a design theme ties all the creative elements together from the sourcing of the yarns, selecting of the colours, the stitches used in the patterns, the shape of the garments, to the look and feel of the photography and printed publications. I am incredibly lucky to be able to oversee all these elements, ensuring that my vision is as true to my original inspiration as possible. While researching ideas for the collection, I looked at Chinese proverbs, my favorite- “Patience and the Mulberry leaf can become a silk purse”. I think this is so apt to the art of hand knitting.
MM: Now can you give us a hint of what is to come for next season?
LH: I am just beginning to work on the Autumn Winter 2010/11 Collection and my main intention is to have fun. At the moment, I am really inspired by the idea of the artist- creative mind and spirit. I have two new yarns that I am so excited to be working with. I am always drawn to the lace patterns which I am sure I will continue to experiment with, yet challenge a bit more the proportions and traditional garment construction.
MM: What is inspiring you today as you gaze outside your window?
LH: Well……we have snow again. We have had snow almost continually on the ground now for over two months, which is highly unusual for UK. As I gaze outside my window, there is a blanket of white, gleaming and pure, reflecting light and lifting the dark winter mood. I can’t see them yet, but I know just under the snowy surface, the snowdrops are waiting to burst into bloom, so today I am inspired by the idea of new life, light and…… Spring.
(images courtesy of Louisa Harding)