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British diver Tom Daley knits at the Tokyo Olympics. His and other celebrities’ affinities with knitwear has caused it to surge in popularity recently. Photo: Getty Images

Harry Styles and Tom Daley have made cardigans cool again. Meet the designers using technology to fuel a knitwear renaissance

  • Celebrities’ affinities with cardigans and jumpers has led to a surge in the popularity of knitted clothes, to which fashion labels have responded
  • Designers are using merino wool, said to be ‘the original eco fibre’, and new technology to push the boundaries of knitwear, creating footwear, suits and more

Between Harry Styles’ rainbow cardigan viral moment back in 2020, British diver Tom Daley’s adorable knitting kits, Katie Holmes’ continued elevation of the cardigan, and the slew of Scandi “It” girls wearing kooky knits at Copenhagen Fashion Week earlier this year, knitwear has had a resurgence over the past few years.

The first chills of autumn have never felt more exciting as we dig our knitted clothes out from the back of the wardrobe.

What’s more, knitwear has now moved well beyond the humble jumper. According to John Roberts, CEO of The Woolmark Company – the global authority on wool – this is particularly true when it comes to merino wool.

Since the The Woolmark Prize was launched in the 1950s as a way to promote Australian and New Zealand wool, it has been won by fashion designers from Karl Lagerfeld to Gabriella Hearst.

Harry Styles’ rainbow cardigan gained a lot of attention on social media. Photo: Getty Images

The purpose of the prestigious prize is to celebrate designers thinking up ingenious ways to work with, and wear, wool. This year’s winner, British sportswear designer Saul Nash, created a range of cool active- and compression wear with wool for his winning collection.

It’s this thinking, aligned with shifts in values around craftsmanship and environmental preservation, that Roberts says is pushing the … er … needle on knitwear.

A jumper by Saul Nash.
British sportswear designer Saul Nash.

“The global trends of casualisation and activewear have breathed new life into knitwear,” Nash says.

Merino wool performs beautifully for soft tailoring, active and lifestyle products, thanks to the fibre’s innate benefits such as incredible next-to-skin softness, superb breathability, holistic durability and resistance to odour.”

“Merino wool is also the original eco fibre, being 100 per cent natural, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable,” he adds.

A jumper by Australian label Nagnata.
Roberts lists Saul Nash and fellow 2022 International Woolmark Prize finalists Australian activewear label Nagnata and Chinese label Rui – known for its sexy, asymmetrical knitted pieces – as labels that are particularly interesting in this space right now. He says there’s much more innovation to come.

“Knitwear continues to move into exciting spaces, progressing to more than just the humble jumper,” Roberts says.

“We have partnered with state-of-the-art machinery companies – such as Stoll, Shima Seiki, Santoni and Karl Myer – to push the boundaries of knitwear and create Merino wool knitted products that have been previously not possible to achieve,” he says.

This includes knitted footwear, suits and activewear. “[T]he future of Merino knitwear has never been brighter,” he says.

“There is also a great deal of advancement in yarns suitable for knitted products, with yarns becoming finer, softer and stronger, allowing for a greater variety of knitwear to be created.”

A dress from Chinese label Rui.
Designer Rui Zhou of Chinese label Rui.
New Zealand designer Wynn Crawshaw, founder of the label Wynn Hamlyn, has earned a loyal following among young women for his cool, chic and colourful knitwear, which includes his signature accordion knit dresses, tops and skirts and macramé tops.

“My design philosophy is inspired by ‘work of the hand’ and all manner of ‘making’ – collection after collection, we work closely with our incredible Chinese manufacturers to reimagine our knitwear pieces with the youthful, experimental spirit that Wynn Hamlyn has become synonymous with,” says the designer of his approach to knitwear.

Crawshaw reveals that his accordion knits are among the brand’s bestsellers, and agrees the knitwear renaissance can be attributed in part to advances in knitting technology.

A look from New Zealand designer Wynn Crawshaw.

“I believe that the technological advancements in knitting machinery capabilities, and the emergence of new yarn compositions are driving the knitwear renaissance. The opportunity to showcase innovation, with the superior comfort and texture that knitwear offers, is super exciting,” he says.

“Moving forward, I expect to see some interesting design accents and innovative blends.

“Recently, we introduced macramé and bungee cord detailing to a selection of our knitwear – this design directive has elevated the pieces with texture, movement, and intrigue.

A green knitted top and matching bottoms from Wynn Crawshaw.

“I’m excited about some forthcoming pieces that integrate aloe vera fibres into our knitted pieces – launching this November,” Crawshaw says.

The broad appeal of knitwear, flattering to most and with endless capacity for reinvention, creativity and versatility, is something the designer values too.

“The advancements within the knitwear category have been so inspiring – our customers love the texture, comfort, and the assortment of silhouettes (body-hugging and relaxed) that we’re able to offer.

A look from Wynn Hamlyn. The designer behind the label, Wynn Crawshaw, says that advancements within the knitwear category have been inspiring.

“Experimenting with different tensions and quality knitting structures is something I plan to develop further for the label’s ongoing collections,” he says.

If you find yourself inspired to experiment with knitwear, here are five labels that craft loud, boldly coloured jumpers, cardigans and more.

Chet Lo

Knitwear from Chet Lo.

Kooky and futuristic, London-based Chet Lo’s colourful pieces will brighten anyone’s day – especially the spiky Glacier styles.


PH5 was founded by Wei Lin, and its collections are designed by Zoe Champion, who was trained at New York’s prestigious fashion school, Parsons. The brand offers wavy print and ombre hue pieces that are seriously cool (and fun).
A look from PH5’s spring/summer 2023 collection.

Isa Boulder

Isa Boulder champions craftspeople and works with artisans in Bali, Indonesia, to create cute woven swimsuits and crochet-knit maxi dresses that are perfect for transitioning between the beach and the bar.

A dress from Isa Boulder.


Founded by stylist Carlotta Oddi and her brother Nicolò, Alanui makes luxurious jacquard-cashmere blend belted cardigans, with each taking 11 hours to create.

The brand also now offers knitted skirts, bralettes, shorts, and jumpers with the same boho luxe aesthetic.

Cardigans from Alanui.

The Elder Statesman

Forget sensible cardigans in neutral colours. The Elder Statesman, founded in 2007 by designer Greg Chait, offers a fun, California-dreaming vibe in its range of quirky yet super-luxurious cashmere knits.

Looks from The Elder Statesman.
A look from The Elder Statesman.