Emerging Designer Jeanette Au: “The Future of Fashion Design Is In Knitwear”
Emerging designer Jeanette Au dishes on all things knitwear, her inspirations, and how she hopes to make the fashion world a better place.
When most of us think of knitting, a grandmotherly figure wielding a pair of needles next to the fireplace comes to mind. But when Academy of Art University student Jeanette Au gets her hands on yarns and fine threads, she proves that knitwear is anything but boring.
Inspired by beloved artwork and today’s hottest designers, Au can make magic out of materials most designers pass over. And now, her work will be showcased at her university’s Fall 2012 Fashion Show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Friday, February 10th. If you’re not in New York City, don’t fret. Check out the livestream here and Tweet about the looks you love by using the #AAUfashion hashtag!
We chatted with Au about her inspirations, how she started out, and the big plans she has in store for the fashion industry.
Betty Confidential: How long have you been designing knitwear pieces?
Jeanette Au: I have been designing knitwear for four years over the course of my studies in the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University.
BC: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in knitwear design?
JA: I realized that I wanted to design knitwear when I learned to knit and found it to be very tactile and creative. I felt that there was an infinite space to be very inventive and experimental. Plus I feel that the future of fashion design is in knitwear – the technology is very sophisticated and continues to advance and production can incur with minimal waste through fully fashioning.
BC: How is knitwear different from other types of clothing design?
JA: Knitwear is very special in that both the fabric and the garment are designed simultaneously. The fabric and the trims have been customized specifically for the design. Knit fabric drapes differently from woven fabrics, and there is the stretchiness to consider as well when designing.
BC: What was the most challenging part of creating this collection?
JA: The most challenging part of creating this collection was meeting the deadlines, as there were so many steps involved in the design process and execution. I made about a hundred swatches before deciding on the final fabrics; then I experimented with the fabric to decide how to use it and created more samples. Lastly, there was so much handwork involved that could not be hurried.
BC: What was the most important lesson you’ve learned from the Academy of Art University knitwear design program?
JA: It’s really important to be able to multi-task and manage time efficiently. Not only do we as students learn to design, create textiles and construct garments, we must also illustrate, research, and design layouts and graphics – and usually all at the same time.
BC: Sergei Daighilev’s Ballet Ruses and the paintings of Leon Baskt inspired you. Why are these works such an inspiration to you?
JA: Daighilev’s Ballet Ruses rounded up so many talented artists such as Stravinsky, Bakst, Picasso and Nijinsky together with dance, music and visuals to create the grand spectacle. This inspiration had me thinking about designing in a multi-sensory way. The patterns of the fabric also dance and I hear Stravinsky’s chords of dissonance from “Le Sacre Printemps” playing when the sharp changes in color occur. Leon Bakst’s paintings and set designs are so dreamy, lush, rich, decadent and sensuous – all the things I want to convey in my knitwear collection.
BC: Who are your favorite designers and how have they influenced you?
JA: I love the work of Nicholas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga, Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and Giambattista Valli. But seeing the work of Swedish designer Sandra Backlund, whose sculptural knit forms are created with only her hands, simple materials and her imagination, was very inspiring.
BC: What are the next steps for your career in knitwear design?
JA: I will be working in the industry, continuing to work on my own designs and also collaborating with another designer on eco-friendly accessories.
BC: How do you hope to shape the industry?
JA: I hope to help the industry take more responsibility for some of the problems it’s facing, and I think addressing with the way we design is an important starting point. I hope that I will have the opportunity to create social change for communities whether it’s starting a cottage industry that helps women to provide for their families or providing work or training for those who have been incarcerated. In addition, I would like to promote local production and source a portion of materials locally directly from farmers and mills.
Be sure to catch Jeanette’s work during Fashion Week on Friday, February 10th!
Diana Denza is a regular contributor to BettyConfidential.