FABRIC OF LIFE: Kvadrat invites 28 Designers to Reimagine Knits
The world feels particularly hard and inflexible, at the moment. So maybe it’s time to rethink the knit, that softest and most agile of constructions. To acknowledge its history — as with so many technologies we now take for granted, Africans invented the craft, which then spread throughout the world — and also to conceive of its future, discovering possibilities beyond chunky sweaters, durable upholstery, Pussyhats, or crafty ways to kill time on a commute.
The Danish design company Kvadrat has been pushing the boundaries of textiles since the late 1960s; its recent acquisition, the Dutch firm Febrik, has investigated what knits can do for over a decade (they’re the proud inventors of stretch velvet). Together, they’ve launched Knit!, an online exhibition with real-world presence at Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design which challenged some 28 designers to take a piece of fabled Kvadrat fabric and see what can be done with it.
The project — curated by Kvadrat’s Njusja de Gier along with Anniina Koivu, Jeffrey Bernett, Johanna Agerman Ross, and Renee Merckx — was more or less complete before the pandemic, but a few designers seem to pay tribute to trappings of the industry that at the moment remain in the (social) distance: Australian furniture designer Adam Goodrum fashioned Victorian-inspired seating with bold stripes evoking the fabric sample books stacked around a materials library, while the British-Chinese material scientist Elaine Yan Ling Ng reconceptualizes sample displays entirely, presenting pinched and twisted fabrics which manifest their innate possibilities.
“We were looking for designers who either had a good feel for colors and crafts,” says de Gier, “or who were known for working with totally different materials and could have an interesting interpretation.” The multidisciplinary British-Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori is a bit of both, notes co-curator Johanna Agerman Ross. His cross-shaped bench can be configured in a multitude of ways, then “infused it with a number of these lovely, caring vignettes where he upholsters the leg, crossbars, things that aren’t normally covered in textiles. I thought that was a nice hint towards knitting as something that envelopes us and makes us feel cared for.”
Other designers looked for ways to care for the body itself: Giulia Chéhab rigged a pocked strap to ease the shoulder-load of tote bags; Wataru Kumano manifested the most blissed-out hammock chair imaginable; and Marie Sloth Rousing fashioned garments that blur the line between couture and furniture covering, as if the body could be its own support structure — just the kind of place to contemplate our uncomfortable future.