Crochet the Corona Away: Why Fashion is Turning to Handcraft
Over the past year of on-again-off-again lockdowns, I never caught corona. But I did catch the craft-bug, bad. *Enter crochet*. I turned to textiles as a way to release all the pent-up energy I accumulated after lounging on the sofa for months-on-end. Because let’s face it, lockdown is boring, and it’s honestly such a stimulating alternative to doomscrolling.
For those who don’t already know, crochet is a textile-making technique that uses a hook to interlock loops of yarn until a fabric is formed. Cotton or acrylic, layered in rows of double-crochets or rib-stitches, nothing is more satisfying than threading off a garment of your own making.
From the looks of it, big brands have also been picking up the crochet needle and thread. At Valentino, the catwalks came covered in crochet. Think edgy crochet dresses juxtaposed with tops and dusters similarly crafted to give a touch of gothic romance. Meanwhile, Matty Bovan unveiled a plethora of psychedelic patterns and crocheted mesh knits, whilst at JW Anderson’s menswear collection, there were mesh-crochet layered tops and crafted radish appliques, and at AGR, crochet made its way into motley bodycon dresses.
Miu Miu AW21.
Elsewhere, Matthew Williams embraced the craft for cutting-edge horned balaclavas integrating chocolate brown and obsidian for his second collection at Givenchy. Over at Miu Miu, Miuccia Prada made a case for crochet with cosy scarves, balaclavas-cum-facemasks, and even silky slips with crochet bodices. For the AW21 crochet-obsessed season, Chloé had handbags and Eirinn Hayhow took high-vibe granny squares and crafted a T-shirt-cum-jumper.
It’s no secret that crochet is undergoing a full-blown renaissance, but why is everyone so obsessed with this crafty way to make a garment?
The simple fact is that for many designers such as Delsy Gouw of cult favourite crochet brand Memorial Day, Lory Labossiere of Lolo Crochète and Pasta Jesus, the obsession began when coronavirus hit and crochet became their everyday. Like me, they were forced to be creative in the way they handled life in a lockdown.
Fun past-times aside, such skills can ooze with an immense sense of craftsmanship which propels a particular item from being denoted as simply crochet to something rather artful. 2 Much Pressure is the avant-garde label by Kine Ulvestad, making gargantuan sculptural oddities and unconventional ready-to-wear pieces. She pursued crochet after she found solace in working with her hands. She says the craft is, “the perfect treatment for negative feelings in a pandemic.” 23-year-old Y2K-inspired designer Molly Tooher-Rudd of Made by Molly, also learned to crochet as a way to help manage stress and anxiety, and Labossiere took it up to her cope with the timeless void lockdown has generated.
For me, channelling my creativity into crochet somehow felt not only relaxing, but gave me a sense of accomplishment – despite how much my hands hurt. There’s something about personal growth and self-care that stems from the art, and Matilde Linn from the brand Mati Denmark can relate to this. She says: “I’ve always admired that we are able to create something for ourselves and see it as an act of self-love. All that time and effort and focus put into a crochet garment, it’s like we are dressing ourselves in the love and care that we put into the item we were making. I think that’s so beautiful.“ Pasta Jesus adds: “When you make your own clothes, there is such joy and satisfaction in the finished piece.”
Ella Emhoff in Memorial Day.
But it’s not just the relaxing lul of repetitive loops that makes crochet such an industry obsession right now. By Raudberget’s guess, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the hippie revival, but it’s not so much about channelling the ‘flower power look’ of the sixities at all. Rather, it’s a ‘make love, not war’ mentality that comes to the fore.
Brooklyn-based Delsy Gouw of Memorial Day believes the pandemic has altered the way we think about consumption. “I know that I cut back on a lot of my fast fashion purchases and started only buying things that would last me long term. Having that mindset also pushed me to start creating and making things myself versus buying,” she says.
According to the other eight crocheters I chatted with, this is a sustainable venture for the close-knit community. Linn explains that the pandemic brought a variety of issues into the light, in particular, sustainability and “the extreme need for more environmentally friendly alternatives”. Crochet being a slow craft that often makes use of organic and recycled materials, is an ideal substitute. But what’s really special about it is the fact that there is no such thing as a crochet machine. This means that all crochet garments have to be made by the human hand and over a period of time. “Crochet echoes a less industrial and fast-paced way of life,” adds Labossiere.
Olivia Szolack of the budding American brand Careful With It, says that this nostalgic style is reminiscent of the past. “Crochet reminds us of a time where things were slower and made from scratch and by hand, where we kept our items for decades… and we treasured what we had.” She continues, “I think people are longing for this simplicity and slowness, they are getting tired of the rush of life and fashion today where we have to stay on top of the newest trends all the time and buy and throw away so much.“ Agreeing with this, Pasta Jesus adds: “People want to minimize their carbon footprint. They’re tired of going down to the closest high-street shop and buying a sweater that lasts one season – they would rather make their own timeless pieces.”
For most of these crafty creatives, an ever-increasingly high-demand for their pieces soon followed their start. Their DM’s filled up with commission requests and their inboxes were rife inquiries – quite quickly, their craft became a lucrative trade.
So, what’s in store for the future of crochet? According to Pasta Jesus, it’s “Peace, love and happiness.” We’re heading toward an era that allows us to slow down and consume less. A more connected lifestyle that lets us find a way to ourselves and to craftsmanship. If I have anything to say about it, the crochet craze is here to stay. So ready…set…get hooked.
Top and bottom images: 2 Much Pressure.