Designers put knitwear back in the autumn fashion loop

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 September, 2010, 12:00am

Knitwear always gets a bad rap in men's fashion. Dusty old professors in worn-out pullovers with patched elbows or argyle sweater-clad geeks who get shoved inside their lockers often come to mind. Hardly the stuff fashion dreams are made of.

But this season, knitwear is unravelling some of its layers to get in the fashion loop. Labels from Alexander McQueen to Yves Saint Laurent have woven a cool and hip factor into this stodgy garment. What was once reserved for librarians and geeks is now set to envelop the fashion-forward as soon as the temperature dips. Who would not surrender to a plush cashmere knit sweater as opposed to a stiff jacket?

Brunello Cuccinelli is the king of cashmere sweaters. Any man who reads this column regularly and who considers himself a wee bit stylish should already own a V-neck cashmere sweater. It is for this reason that I choose to focus on the other incarnations of knitwear this season.

One of my favourites is from Salvatore Ferragamo (4). It's a play on the belted cardigan that was a hit last autumn. This purplish-blue chunky ribbed knit is long and robe-like. It hangs just below the knee and drapes beautifully on the shoulders. The shawl collar gives it just the right amount of dressiness to make it appropriate to wear over a suit or as another layer over a V-neck sweater and dress shirt combo.

The belted cardigan has not been forgotten, however. Last season it came in navy, grey and brown; this autumn it has more design punch to it. Milan Vukmirovic, the man behind the resurrection of Italian label Trussardi 1911, showed it with a Fair Isle theme in black, grey and red (6). The cardigan comes with a triple-looped scarf.

A Fair Isle sweater is far from being a must-have purchase as it is rather old-fashioned. But by reimagining it and reworking the shape as seen in the Trussardi 1911 version, it can be current and desirable. Ralph Lauren is a master at refashioning traditional clothing into more contemporary pieces. His Fair Isle sweater (5) is an excellent example of his genius. By keeping its shape slim, working solely with a black and white palette, and limiting the pattern on the shoulders and upper torso and arms, he's managed to blow off the dust and make it something cool and desirable.

Soe, a relatively young label available at Harvey Nichols, updated the Fair Isle sweater by blocking it with solid colour on the neckline, upper arms and hem.

Chunky sweaters are also a big trend. In fact, the bulkier, the better. Valentino (1) showed a relaxed and almost deconstructed cable knit sweater, which hangs loosely on the body. Cable knit sweaters bring to mind the country club style, but this piece from Valentino has none of that uptight feeling. Because of its worn and sort of dishevelled look, it is more in keeping with the rebellious attitude that is in fashion right now rather than being WASP-y.

Thom Browne, the designer who likes clothes a size or two smaller, showed a chunky, body-hugging turtle neck sweater for his Moncler Gamme Bleu collection (2). The sweater barely grazes the waist and the cable knitting comes in various widths. It also comes with a matching beanie hat. I imagine wearing this grey sweater with black trousers and a nice pair of black loafers. Of course, worn with ski pants, boots and a Moncler puffer vest thrown over, it would make it a great alpine adventure outfit.

But of all the knitted looks this autumn, none has me more excited than H&M's approach (3). While its knit is basically just a thick buttoned up cardigan with a shawl collar, its styled perfectly. Wear it over a chambray shirt and top it with a chocolate brown leather jacket paired with subtle pinstriped grey trousers. The look is European and modern, a little tough and with a hint of geek chic. I'll copy this look using pieces I have in my closet. But as it's H&M, I could buy the entire look and it would still be cheaper than a pair of designer shoes.

Shopping list:

H&M at Elements Mall, Kowloon, tel: 2196 8391

Moncler Gamme Bleu and Trussardi 1911 at Joyce, Queen's Road Central, tel: 2810 1120

Ralph Lauren, The Landmark, Central, tel: 2869 0388

Salvatore Ferragamo, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Central, tel: 2523 0899

Soe and Valentino at Harvey Nichols, The Landmark, Central, tel: 3695 3388