Knitwear gets a fresh spin for autumn

It may have looked clunky in the past, but a little imagination has put a fresh spin on woollens

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2014, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 2014, 5:02pm

Knits are back for autumn. So while this isn't exactly earth-shattering news, it's worth knowing that this boring staple has been reinvented this season, making it one of the hottest trends out there.

Long gone are the frumpy and chunky styles of seasons past. Now you can expect chic, casual, cosy and - dare we say it? - flattering looks that are all about hi-tech finishes, lush fabrics and unexpected combinations.

"Designers are transforming knitwear into modern pieces by combining different yarn textures as well as woven fabrics, or matching knits with PVC or elaborate brocades, giving it a modern and fresh appearance," says local knitwear designer Johanna Ho.

While offerings run the gamut from sweater dresses to tunics, Net-a-porter's head of global personal shopping, Lupe Puerta, says it's all about layering and oversized shapes. "We saw many designers play with proportions, texture and prints, making their collections feel much more relaxed," she says.

Here are five knitwear looks for sweater weather in style:

Head-to-toe

Sorry, Riccardo Tisci, but a single statement sweater doesn't cut it any more. Designers are experimenting with head-to-toe knitwear, complete with accessories like scarves and bags as done by Stella McCartney. Céline's look is an editor's favourite and consists of a ribbed, long-sleeved tunic with extra-long wide-legged pants made from the same fabric. Marc Jacobs followed suit, though his loungewear-inspired V-neck knit tunic, long pants and skinny scarf had a whiff of '70s retro.

The key to pulling off this style is to choose a more flattering, lightweight knit, preferably with vertical ribbing to create the illusion of a longer silhouette. At Calvin Klein, Francisco Costa used an open weave to create fluffy and airy tunics and matching skirts. If you are piling on items, stick to matching shades, preferably in a palette of neutrals such as grey, beige and winter whites.

"Matchy matchy is the bold way to go; it's braver than clashing prints and textures," says Puerta. Ho recommends knit culottes, as spotted at Acne.

Under cover

With global warming showing no signs of slowing down, a knitted cover-up is a much better alternative to a statement coat this season.

"Blanket wraps, scarves and capes are key investments. They'll update your look instantly," says Puerta. Almost every editor and celebrity has been spotted wearing Burberry's cashmere blankets, which can add your initials for that luxe touch. Feather-light cardigan coats cut an elegant figure at Valentino. Capes are another option and add plenty of drama. Choose voluminous styles such as The Row's cashmere piece, which is luxe, yet understated.

If you are looking to make more of a fashion statement, then head to Japanese brand Sacai, which is known for transforming expected silhouettes and fabrics into something unexpected. Designer Chitose Abe created a hybrid leather jacket featuring contrasting panels of cable knit for serious fashion cred.

Get sporty

Knitwear is the foundation of any sporty look, be it cropped sweaters (Alexander Wang) or rounded shoulder tops. This season there were also plenty of sporty details, such as exposed zips or sailor ropes, which double as embroidery on Stella McCartney's sweaters. Technical fabrics also play a starring role. At Balenciaga, a simple cable-knit jumper comes with a lacquered finish for a modern, utilitarian look.

Because sporty silhouettes tend to veer on the masculine side, balance the look with feminine pieces such as pencil skirts or cropped leather trousers. Also remember that the right styling goes a long way.

"Sporty knits go very well with baggy ripped jeans and high heels," says fashion stylist Grace Lam. Trainers are also a no-brainer, and appear in almost all designer collections from Chanel to Dior.

Alpine chic

By making Fair Isle prints modern again with new silhouettes and pairings, designers are bringing the snow-capped mountains back to Paris' catwalks. Maison Martin Margiela's sweaters were cut close to the body and came with peaked shoulders and belted waists. Rag & Bone's were transformed into cropped, zip-up cardigans, and Pucci's fringed cape was uber-chic. Forget jeans and go ladylike with tailored trousers and pumps. Or take cues from Nicolas Ghesquiere at Louis Vuitton, who matched his cropped Fair Isle sweaters with short leather skirts in bold colours such as red and orange for a super-contemporary look.

One word of advice: "Like the sports theme, don't take it so literally. Stay away from chunky hiking boots and matching pom-pom knitted hats," says Ho.

Sweater dressy

The sweater dress makes its biggest comeback since the '80s, although this time the look is loose and relaxed, as opposed to tight and clingy. There are as many chunky dresses as there are fine knits, but most come in three-quarter lengths so you can show off knee-high boots.

Some of our favourite styles appeared at Michael Kors, including the oversized button-up cardigan dresses and ombre cable-knit dress with long fringes at the hem. While bulky shapes hang well on supermodels, real bodies will prefer Stella McCartney, which wraps around the body for a more fitted silhouette. Lam also recommends wearing a belt to break up the silhouette. Finish it with ankle boots to take the look from girly to edgy.