6 Cozy-Centric Brands To Spice Up Your Sweater Drawer
Get your knit on.
Cooler temperatures have finally arrived — meaning now is the time to start thinking about your sweater game for the season ahead. So if you are currently going through your collection and seeing some holes (hopefully metaphorically, and not from moth damage!), consider it a sign to acquaint yourself with some of the best knitwear brands out there right now. After all, finding just the right knit — be it a ‘90s rom-com-worthy cream pullover or a slinky, stretchy dress — has the miraculous, style-enhancing power to transform all manner of basics into a look.
Of course, a well-designed knit piece can provide a sense of refinement. But for many, there is also a nostalgic component to the medium. “As most of the kids in Northern Europe, I grew up wearing knits handmade by my grandma or aunties,” Danute Rasimaviciute, co-founder and chief brand officer of The Knotty Ones, tells TZR. “It's really a cultural thing where gifting a knit you made to your friends or family is a very common custom in the Baltic region. So for me, [knitwear] has a lot to do with the environment I grew up in.”
For Marta Bahillo, founder and creative director of babaà, sweater dressing is soothing on myriad levels. "It is comforting both in a physical and emotional way,” she says. This overwhelming sense of contentment resonated with many of the designers TZR spoke to. “When I think of knitwear, I think of pieces that are almost protective,” Chloé Harrouche, founder and creative director of Loulou Studio, explains. “Something infused with emotion, as it sits very closely to the skin.”
Gigi Hadid, creative director of new cashmere brand Guest in Residence (just launched in September), had a sense of home on her mind while conceptualizing her line. She was inspired by the secondhand cashmere sweaters her parents gave her when she moved to New York. The knits were cozy, portable keepsakes for her while on the road — and a starting point for creating thoughtful knitwear that anyone can wear, style, love, and ultimately pass down to their loved ones.
Investing in labels that care about carefully sourced materials and thoughtful production means your purchases are more likely to last through many years (and trend cycles) to come. “Quality and craftsmanship are paramount and I feel [my] pieces are created to not only withstand the test of time, but [they are] pieces you keep forever and cherish,” Henry Zankov, founder of namesake label Zankov, tells TZR. This simple design philosophy should be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to shopping, as well.
To that end, keep scrolling for six emerging and established knitwear brands to have on your radar this season.
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Guest In Residence
Gigi Hadid is no stranger to great design. Alongside her extensive experience modeling with the biggest houses in fashion, she’s partnered with other labels on many capsule ranges over the years. So launching Guest in Residence in early September 2022 just made sense. The line consists of luxurious cashmere knit styles in timeless silhouettes (from classic cardigans to ribbed polos) in an assortment of neutral and bright colors — bubblegum pink and neon lime, to name a few. Focusing on a direct-to-consumer model with more affordable pricing (most pieces are under $300) and high-end quality, the lineup elevates everyday style.
“The genesis of Guest In Residence is to honor past heirlooms and give life to new ones spanning generations,” says Hadid. “We partner with the most reputable certified cashmere mills with strict animal welfare standards, environmental protection, and sustainability.” The hope is that these pieces will be worn and enjoyed now, and someday passed down to the owner’s loved ones. The attention to detail and quality are very much present in the look and feel of the cashmere, which is sourced in Inner Mongolia and made in China. “So far, the bestseller is the ‘Everywear Cardigan,’ which I literally wear every day,” continues Hadid. “All the pieces I put out there are my favorites, and I can style each of them in 100 different ways.”
Lou Lou Studio
Loulou Studio was established in 2019 in Paris by Chloé Harrouche, (who you may recognize as a regular fixture in the street style set), as part of her search for timeless, elevated wardrobe essentials. “I wanted to make everyday life easier and more fluid for me and for the women around me,” she says. “I wanted clothes that will accompany me as I travel but also during different moments of the day, from running errands to sitting down for work dinners.”
With this intention in mind, Harrouche debuted her line with two sweaters — the Bruzzi crewneck and the Zanzibar cardigan — that have both proven extremely popular to this day. And while she’s since expanded her repertoire to include other styles, customers still flock to the brand for its sumptuous knitwear. Another draw? The thoughtful way in which it’s produced.
“Sustainability is one of the main pillars of the Loulou Studio DNA,” Harrouche says. “For Fall/Winter 2022, we were able to secure several ecological certificates for our pieces like the Responsible Wool Standard, OEKO-Tex Standard 100, and The Good Cashmere Standard for our knits and tailoring.”
Topping Harrouche’s fall wish list? “For transitional dressing, I love the Emsalo cashmere sweater,” she suggests. “The tangerine orange is a great color for fall and the loose cropped shape goes well with high-waisted jeans.”
New York-based Henry Zankov founded his namesake label Zankov in 2018 after pinpointing a vacuum in the fashion industry. “I felt there was something missing in the knitwear arena,” Zankov tells TZR. “In particular, knitwear with a gender-neutral perspective which focuses on a strong use of color, bold pattern, and incredible craftsmanship.” Inspired by art, architecture, sports, and streetwear, the designer combined these elements into a unisex collection of bold and bright pieces.
“I really love creating something from scratch,” Zankov says. “I love the idea that you can take a fiber or yarn and design your own textile, stitch, or pattern.” This artful design philosophy has brought about some seriously happy-making sweater styles: think geometric prints, in primary shades, and a whole lot of stripes. “I feel what makes ZANKOV unique is that we have established a strong visual identity,” Zankov explains. “I truly believe in longevity and so the visual language of ZANKOV is a system with room for evolution and collaboration.”
Zankov is equally clear-eyed about his approach to manufacturing. “Since we are a new brand, we are poised to start implementing sustainable practices from the get-go,” he tells TZR. “The majority of our fibers are truly responsibly sourced. We work with smaller family-owned mills in Italy, factories which have been passed on from generation to generation as well as introducing heritage wools from a women's cooperative based in France.”
This autumn, the label has a whole lot of new styles to get excited about. “I really love the hand-knit heritage wool cardigans and our new brushed alpaca rugby sweater,” Zankov says. “I think these pieces always look great with a black wide-leg trouser or tucked into a cool pair of vintage Levi's.”
TL 180, a Roman-based brand from co-founders and creative directors Antonine Peduzzi and Luisa Orsini, is known for its contemporary handbags and knit garments, all expertly made in Italy. Producing knitwear came about in a serendipitous way for the duo. “We started it all by chance during our first RTW show five years ago,” Peduzzi tells TZR. “We had knitwear outfits made to match our bags, without thinking that a new passion would be born.” Since then, the co-founders have shifted the ready-to-wear side of their business to focus exclusively on knitted garments, ranging from slinky lurex dresses to striped, long-sleeve minis and coordinating separates — all alongside their handbags.
“Knitwear allows us total control over what we do, from the choice of yarn to the finished garment,” Orsini explains, citing their own atelier in Rome as their ticket to total creative freedom. “We can create new garments more spontaneously, without following the seasons of fashion.” This method of production allows for a more sustainable approach to design and consumption that, in the owners’ opinion, is the future of fashion.
“Our knitwear is all made-to-measure to meet everyone's needs and avoid overstock and waste,” the duo tells TZR over email. “Our knitwear is hand- and custom-made. We adapt to every body shape.” This couture-like approach makes each TL 180 piece extremely special and unique to the client. Currently, the dresses are the company’s bestselling items, but the creative directors don’t want shoppers to sleep on their dégradé knitted top and skirt in kid mohair for fall (a must-have set in this writer’s opinion, as well).
Having studied textile design with a specialization in knitwear, Marta Bahillo, founder and creative director of Spanish brand babaà, has always been passionate about knits. And while the company was founded nearly 10 years ago, babaà has started gaining major traction and developing a cult following on Instagram due to its beautiful product shown through equally lovely photography. “babaà is [all about] life and honesty and that comes from many special people and honest relationships that have been sustained throughout the years,” Bahillo tells TZR.
These relationships and the community created are of utmost importance to the brand’s unique DNA. For instance, babaà has been working with a family-run factory in Barcelona since day one. Owned and operated by Josep, a second-generation knitter with extensive knowledge and interest in the field, with his wife Carola and sister Eva, the family oversees their local factory. Garments are assembled by hand by a team of highly skilled and knowledgeable female artisans. Babaà also uses custom-made yarns, produced from wool ethically sourced from a well-maintained flock, to cotton grown in the south of Spain, that is sent to family-owned mills for spinning, all under the close watch of Bahillo and her team.
Something the founder loves about her craft? “There is room for opportunities. It is not fixed and totally measured and there can be lots of surprises,” she says. “The fact that you create a shape from a simple yarn, from the very beginning. You do not need cloth to shape into something, you just take the yarn and start sculpting. It is total magic.” Magical, indeed: The line is rife with minimalist, chunky pullovers and cardigans, cut to perfection, that will keep in your closet for a lifetime.
The Knotty Ones
The Knotty Ones was born over brunch by three business school friends, Sandra Pangonyte, Akvile Meskauskaite-Dobrajs, and Danute Rasimaviciute, who all were disgruntled by the uptick in fast fashion and the dying heritage craft of knit-making in their home of Lithuania. “Starting a business as three best friends was definitely an adventure. We all are Lithuanian natives and the idea for the brand was really born one day over brunch,” Danute Rasimaviciute, co-founder and chief brand officer, tells TZR. “We all were just getting so frustrated and worked up about the fact that in the Baltic region we have such a deeply rooted connection to knitting, but no one was making any knits that looked cool and contemporary while still honoring those traditions.”
So the trio created a knitwear brand with intention. “Our design process itself is very collaborative, and our product designers work very closely with our artisans to make sure we use authentic techniques or authentic Baltic patterns, often relying on their advice,” Rasimaviciute explains. “A good chunk of them are stay-at-home moms in rural areas of Lithuania that learned the craft from the grannies, when they were just kids themselves. Making sure our design feel contemporary and cool is so important, but we don’t want to lose that authenticity along the way.”
This unique artisanal touch can be experienced through the smallest of details on each garment. “A very big part of our brand is making sure that you as a consumer know who made your piece. All items can be traced back to the exact person and come signed by a woman who made them,” Rasimaviciute says. “We as consumers often forget that there are real people behind our clothes, with their lives, dreams, and hopes.”
Traceability also allows the brand to offer truly sustainable products. “From the very start, we made a decision to use only natural, 100% biodegradable yarns, always cruelty-free,” Rasimaviciute mentions. “It definitely makes the process more complicated, as we have to make our designs work for the yarn, and not the other way around, but we gladly take on that challenge.”
It is hard to narrow down your options from the brand’s offerings, but Rasimaviciute offers a few good places to start. “My personal favorites are the Pasaka knit, designed in collaboration with [model] Giedre Dukauksaite, in sage, and the Barbora in grey. Both look so great with a pair of oversized, beige jeans.” She also notes, “The Pasaka knit is slightly more fitted, so definitely works under a blazer as well. I've seen Giedre constantly wearing it with blazers, so I'm copying the look from her this season.”