The same thing that happened to avocados is happening to knitwear. And by that I mean just as avocados have evolved past their humble identity into something of varied and prolific cultural significance, knitwear is starting to explode well beyond its relegation to sweaters and not much else. No longer confined to cardigans and cable-knit crewnecks, it has become fodder for so much more — outfits, aesthetic identities, entire brands. It’s everywhere these days, a statement that seems obvious since knitwear has always been a staple of getting dressed, but in 2019, its ubiquity is evolving into something entirely different.
Yan Yan, a new direct-to-consumer brand from former rag & bone Director of Knitwear Phyllis Chan partners and Hong Kong designer Suzzie Chung, is a delightful byproduct of this shift. Their debut collection deftly demonstrates what knitwear can do when permitted to color outside the lines. A creamy sweater dress embroidered with tiny 3-D flower clusters and overlapping pockets offers an appealing take on a tired silhouette. Lime green bike shorts give the Instagram trend a refreshing, delicate spin. Cheongsam-inspired closures and short sleeves turn a cardigan into something more expansive — perhaps, even, a “going out” top.
While Yan Yan is the latest in a cohort of brands transforming knitwear from a utilitarian source of upper body warmth to a style statement worthy of wearing head-to-toe, L.A.-based brand Elder Statesman is an obvious candidate for ringleader. After winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2012, Elder Statesman has grown into a leading purveyor of luxury knitwear. Their signature coordinating cashmere sweaters and sweatpants make the case for knits not simply as an extra layer, but as a bonafide uniform. Knit blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and even mushroom toadstools tell a new story about knitwear’s potential, positioning it as the stuff of lifestyles.
Other offshoots of this movement include Giu Giu (with incredible ribbed sets rendered in various saturated shades, unitards, knit underwear and other enchantments), Live the Process (with workout-appropriate knits that make me want to drop everything and become a ballet dancer) and Naadam (with a mission to democratize cashmere). Each of these brands makes a compelling case for swaddling yourself in knits like an adult baby, proving that comfort does not come at the expense of looking “put-together.”
But it seems to me that this new frontier of loungewear, if it’s even fair to call it that, goes beyond comfort. Perhaps it is a symptom of “sleepleisure,” the term Leandra coined to describe the growing phenomenon wherein clothes you might have previously worn privately to curl up on your couch for a nap are now fair game for public consumption. Perhaps it is an answer to consumer desire for more outside-the-box originality in the age of viral Instagram trends. Perhaps it is a manifestation of our collective craving for total body coziness amidst an era of political consternation. Perhaps it is a derivative of wellness culture.
Whatever the reason, I know at least this to be true: There are few sartorial pursuits more pleasurable, more relaxing, more self-care-inducing, than wearing knitwear head-to-toe. So what are you waiting for? Go swaddle.
Feature image via Yan Yan.