Hairspray, perfume and frenzied shouts fill the air backstage at the Giles Deacon AW14 show. It’s a hive of activity, but in the middle of it all, standing calmly by a clothes rack, Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner are busy knitting brightly-coloured creations. Jade Harwood, 29, and Aurelie Popper, 30, are on hand to instruct Cara before she’s called to the catwalk, wearing one of the design duo’s beanies.
‘She wouldn’t take it off,’ Jade laughs, recalling last year’s Fashion Week show. ‘She was so much fun – exactly as you’d imagine.’ And with Cara’s endorsement, Instagram and Twitter were flooded with pictures, and the girls’ knitting design company, Wool And The Gang, was on the map. Having graduated with degrees in textile design from Central Saint Martins in 2008, the pair started selling knitting kits online, with step-by-step guides to designing everything from beanies and bags to dresses and tops. They also uploaded YouTube tutorials.
‘I started knitting with my grandma,’ Jade adds. ‘It’s a craft that could’ve disappeared, but it’s coming back.’ Knitters started sending pictures of their creations to the girls who were surprised by their standard and so they decided to ask their regular knit-kit buyers if they’d want to sell their products. Lots of them did. ‘Fashion doesn’t have to be disposable.’ Aurelie agrees: ‘Everyone’s always on their phones, so taking time out to create something is special. It’s an achievement.’
Fast forward seven years and they now have 150 ‘gang makers’ based around the UK, 2,500 on the waiting list and a collection of designs that can sell out in days.‘If we need 50 hats, the gang makers let us know of they can do it, buy the wool from us, make the design and send it to us,’ Jade explains. ‘They can work at home or at our offices. Then they get 78 per cent of the profit.
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’So, what’s next? Well, teaming up with Christopher Raeburn at LFW AW15 this week for one thing. ‘We want to be a global fashion brand that’s locally produced,’ Aurelie says. ‘If you want a hat in New York, we’ll have someone in New York to make it.’
Looks like they’ve got the future all sewn up (sorry).
By Jo Usmar