The Coolest Wool For Winter

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The Coolest Wool For Winter

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Mr Michael Hemy | Styling by Ms Otter Hatchett

20 September 2017

The stellar new-season sweaters to help you style out the cold .

Can you hear that? It’s the groaning of the MR PORTER warehouse shelves as they struggle under the weight of a thousand sweaters and cardigans. Yes, knitwear season is upon us again, that time of year when we react to the plummeting temperatures by swaddling ourselves in layers of cashmere, mohair and merino, and terms such as intarsia, waffle-knit and dégradé re-enter our office lexicon.

Fending off the chill is far from our only motivation when buying knitwear, of course. We also do it because it looks good. And with many of the world’s best designers making knitwear one of the main focuses of their autumn collections, the good news is that it’s never looked better than it does right now. Need further proof? Carry on scrolling to see eight of the new season’s best knits and the inspiration behind them.

DRIES VAN NOTEN 

A piece of clothing is no better than the material from which it is made. This season, Dries Van Noten celebrates the unsung heroes of the fashion industry by reproducing the logos of its fabric mills on its garments. Not that this is a purely magnanimous act, mind. It also reflects one of 2017’s most popular trends, the “ironic logo”, further examples of which can be seen at Balenciaga, currently using the logo of its corporate holding company, Kering, and Gucci, whose “fake” logo was inspired by a bootleg version from the 1980s. The misplaced logo in question here is that of Jamieson & Smith, purveyors of the finest Shetland wool. In bright red, this sweater is a bold, off-kilter statement, especially when paired with these equally eye-catching side-stripe sweatpants from Joseph.

PRADA

This autumn sees the arrival of the sweater as art, a movement spearheaded by Prada, whose new-season knitwear comes daubed with cubist-inspired still-life “paintings”. This is not the approximation of a famous artist, but a celebration of “low art”, the kind produced by Sunday painters and showcased in the vicinity of tourists. According to Ms Miuccia Prada, anyway. You’re free to make of it as you wish. Not for the faint of heart, these are statement pieces best worn with a confident attitude and paired with similarly adventurous pieces. An oversized shirt from Balenciaga and tailored herringbone trousers from Saint Laurent complete the look here.

HOWLIN’

There’s nothing quite as cheering as a little brightness when the nights start to draw in. One name to remember when the storms start a-howlin’ is the Antwerp-based knitwear brand, er, Howlin’, whose “Birth Of The Cool” sweaters blend traditional Scottish knitting techniques with modern cuts and bright colours. Speaking of colour, the brand calls this particular shade “rose juice”, but we’ll settle for pink. Once regarded as effeminate, pink has recently come in for a long overdue reappraisal, with the dusty, pastel shade known as millennial pink appearing everywhere in 2017. There’s no better time, then, to invest in this sprightly number. Try wearing it under buttoned-up tailoring to add a subtle pop of colour to your look.

BERLUTI 

It’s been five years since Berluti first expanded from its core business, taking its technical know-how and dedication to luxury out of the world of handmade shoes, which it had inhabited for more than a century, and into the world of ready-to-wear clothing. This season sees another big turning point for the brand as incoming creative director Mr Haider Ackermann presents his debut collection. On the evidence presented here, Berluti has another success story on its hands. Like the Mr Ackermann we know and love, this chunky, army-green rollneck sweater is louche, laid-back and seriously indulgent. And, like the Berluti we know and love, it’s elegant, elaborate and crafted with skill. A marriage made in heaven?

THOM BROWNE 

Fond as we are of our gossamer-thin cashmere crew-neck sweaters – we’ve got versions from John Smedley in just about every colour – when it comes to knitwear, bigger is sometimes better. Here to lend credence to this theory is a glorious chunky-knit sweater from New York designer Thom Browne. Knitted from substantial woollen yarn that’s been dyed in a veritable rainbow of toy-bright hues, it’s just the thing for introducing a little texture and vibrancy into your wardrobe this autumn. And because it’s Thom Browne, there are plenty of thoughtful little details that you wouldn’t expect to see on normal sweaters. Notice the split cuffs and sides, which are fitted with mother-of-pearl buttons and unfasten to reveal a strip of tricolour grosgrain trim, a subtle Thom Browne signature. Wear this standout sweater with dark tapered trousers and military boots.

NORSE PROJECTS

The cable-knit sweater has found favour with generations of stylish men over the years, at one point forming part of the mid-century Ivy League look. It’s worth remembering, though, that it was a functional garment long before it was ever coveted for its looks. These distinctive sweaters were originally worn by fishermen on the Aran Isles, a string of three remote islands off the western coast of Ireland, and their knitting patterns were inspired by twisted ropes, fishing baskets, nets and other elements of fishing culture. This is mere trivia now, of course, as most modern cable-knit sweaters are destined for a rather more genteel lifestyle than that of an Atlantic fisherman, but the garment retains an air of ruggedness nonetheless. Traditional yet contemporary, it’s a must for any man’s wardrobe – and there are few better examples this season than the one pictured above, which is from Copenhagen’s Norse Projects.

GUCCI

A couple of years ago, you couldn’t get an embroidered tiger-print cardigan for love nor money. It is Gucci, and particularly its visionary creative director Mr Alessandro Michele, that we have to thank for bringing this sad state of affairs to an end. Wild floral embellishments and bold animal motifs have reached a state of near ubiquity over the past few seasons, such is the influence that this Italian superbrand has had on the industry, but that’s not to suggest that Mr Michele’s vision has lost any of its original lustre. The cardigan pictured here is classic Gucci, inasmuch as anything that still feels so fresh and new could be described as “classic”. And what you can see from the rear is only the half of it. Not visible in this photograph are the tasselled pompoms that hang from the collar or the twin needlepoint-embroidered rooster heads that adorn the front panels. Every bit as bonkers as it sounds, this is a knit to put this year’s so-called novelty Christmas sweaters to shame.

ACNE STUDIOS

Mohair is the name given to the silken fibres extracted from the coat of the angora goat, and is not to be confused with angora, which comes from the angora rabbit. It’s commonly blended with wool and used in tailoring to give the fabric of a suit a subtle sheen, but can also be used in knitwear, where it imbues the finished garment with a fluffy, diffuse appearance. This is put to clever use this season by Acne Studios, which has blended mohair and acrylic fibres of various shades to create a multicoloured mélange effect. Throw on this sweater over simple denim, as we have done here. It really doesn’t need much else.

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