Style

Fashion Has Found An Alternative to Doomscrolling

Songs, memes, and listicles have all been known to go viral—but a sweater? After Harry Styles wore one of JW Anderson’s patchwork knit pieces and fans began re-creating it en masse on TikTok, the designer decided to release the pattern and instructions to the public. The idea, Anderson explains, was “to help promote this idea of craft and making during a period when everyone was stuck at home with nothing to do.” His theory as to why an art form with definite granny associations has taken hold with Gen Zers and millennials? “People are looking for connection,” the designer says, “and not just via their phones.”

Indeed, the craft movement that has bubbled up in recent years—from the resurgence of quilting via designers like Bode to the rise of handmade crochet at Altuzarra and Isabel Marant—has exploded during quarantine. Perhaps you’ve seen someone you know breaking out their knitting needles and yarn on Instagram, or curling up in their own hand-dyed sweatshirts. As Anderson makes clear, craft offers a way for us to connect—whether to the hands of its makers, age-old traditions, or simply our own humanity. Knitting, crocheting, quilting, and even weaving are making a major comeback, not just on social media, but in the realm of high fashion, where handmade fringe, tie-dye, and beading have hit an all-time high.

chanel métiers d'art 2021

A look from Chanel’s 2021 Métiers D’art show.

MARIE ROUGE/Courtesy of Chanel

For spring 2021, Fendi showed artisan-made bobbin lace, quilted satin, lace-embroidered linen, and fisherman-woven willow. At Valentino, caftans, little jackets, sweaters, and cape dresses were punctuated with delicate crochet and macramé, and creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli reworked embroidered flowers atop lace. Delicate handiwork is always on display at Chanel’s annual Métiers d’art show, where the house’s artisan partners showcase their extraordinary talents, but the brand has doubled down on craftsmanship lately. This summer, it’s scheduled to open a new multistory space, Le 19M, that will bring together 11 Métiers d’art, comprising about 600 artisans—allowing Chanel closer contact whenever it requires their expertise.

harry styles wears jw anderson's viral tiktok sweater

Harry Styles in the TikTok-viral JW Anderson cardigan.

NATHAN CONGLETON/NBC/GETTY IMAGES

Slowing down has given us “an opportunity to reconnect with the little things,” says Carlotta Oddi, founder and creative director of Alanui, the Italian luxury knitwear brand. “We’ve been able to direct our attention to details. Something that in a normal busy lifestyle, most of us cannot do.” This season, she dreamed up embroideries from India, crochet cardigans and shirts, and handmade raffia bags and AirPod cases. “The hand is so important to me,” she says. “It is what gives a soul to our pieces.”

fendi spring 2021

Backstage at Fendi spring 2021.

Adam Katz Sinding/Fendi

As it turns out, fashion-conscious women are flocking to the soulful qualities of craft with as much enthusiasm as the knitters on TikTok, and are seemingly just as content to buy as to DIY. Natalie Kingham, the fashion and buying director at MatchesFashion, rattles off best-sellers: Gabriela Hearst’s hand-knit cashmere; Bode’s patchwork jackets; Marques’ Almeida’s homemade repurposed fabrics; Vita Kin’s vyshyvankas, or traditional embroidered shirts, from her native Ukraine; and Lauren Manoogian’s homey knits. “Handcrafted pieces have a sense of individuality,” Kingham says, “and the connection to something that is lovingly made feels personal, which is more important now than ever.” Roopal Patel, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, notes that with stay-at-home recommendations in effect late into last year, “it’s no wonder that designers returned to crafts and techniques that originated from doing just that—staying at home. There’s something nostalgic and comforting about handmade items, which is what makes them so appealing to customers in our current environment.” Patel is particularly drawn to Hearst’s crochet gowns and Brunello Cucinelli’s knits, with their handmade touches.

alanui spring 2021

Alanui spring 2021.

Courtesy of the designer.

The tactile feeling of a lush, hand-knit sweater or an embroidered top provides a bit of comfort in an increasingly unpredictable and progressively digital world, where even socializing takes place onscreen. Sitting down with a pair of knitting needles and fluffy merino yarn sparks a deeper connection than mindless scrolling ever could.

This article appears in the March 2021 issue of ELLE.

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