Charlotte Cameron reports from Paris

In the first week of February, we travelled to SPINEXPO’s first Spring/Summer showcase in Paris at the Cite de la Mode et du Design, the city’s creative space on the banks of the Seine in the 13th Arrondissement. This is the third exposition by Spinexpo in Paris, following two successful Autumn/Winter expos in 2017 and 2016.

With her passion for fashion, and what it means in sociology, founder and organiser of SPINEXPO, Karine Van Tassel, curates 53 mill and manufacturer exhibitors, mainly from the Far East. Fairly uniquely to SPINEXPO, the focus is on creativity and trend resources. For Spring/Summer 2019, the focus was based around 5 directions for yarn, colour and knit, influenced by the notion of a ‘sensual future’. One where we focus on emotionally-driven design and product.

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, where balance is key. Between thick stems and delicate petals, between deep colour and soft tones. Yarns play between opaque and subtly shimmering linens and viscose, and matt fine cottons and elasticated frizzy textures. The colour palette explores deep and rich burgundy and stormy greys and blues, with vibrant washes of lilac, pink and fresh citrus yellow, all underpinned by a soft and comforting palette of delicate floral-inspired pinks, lilacs and whites. The overall appearance of knit is sophisticated and modern, in fresh and crisp pleats and folds, fine ribs, superfine uncomplicated lace patterns and duo and trio tone inlays. Silhouette is breezy and square cut, with shape created with natural drape and volume.

Ikebana trend
Ikebana – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Two cohabiting palettes give direction in chaos in Geodesic. Modern pale and foggy greys and green washes are brightened with vibrant turquoises and an honest natural mid-yellow. Knitted up in techno yarns of nylon, elasticated monofilament and plastic-coated yarns, in a contrast of sheer and compacted geometric fabrics in simple and body-aware shapes. The complimenting palette is a blend of deep and vibrant blues, grounded by earthy canvas khakis, reddy browns, dry harvest yellow and herb greens. Luxurious yarns in plush volumous textures are balanced with bold and wavering linear and grid patterns performance and wool and cotton blends. Suggestions of modern geometric hand-work and embroidery are off-set with fine and understated textured knits in simple shapes.

Geodesic trend
Geodesic – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Strelitzia takes us on a journey through a parched landscape, where colours are inspired by earthy and warm soils, spices and skins, off-set with the vibrant and deep magentas and greens painted engrained in African and Asian textiles. Dark and saturated mauves and blues create a base. Dry natural fibres of fine linens and cottons and raw silk are knitted in tonal yet powerful stripes and plaids. Silhouettes are tunic-like, loose and boldly tied. The highlight of this direction is that of raffia, a dry fibre yet knitted in soft and tactile basket and weave-like stitches. In-lay fabrics in primitive geometric patterns give a heavier-weight fabric to the direction, presented in strong standalone tribal silhouettes. Fringing and knotting detail soften edges.

Strelitzia trend
Strelitzia – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

From the dry desert, we venture into the humid and lush rainforest with Mahogany. Plant and reptile inspired greens are complimented by nature’s gifts of cocoa browns and vibrant spice yellows and golds, lifted by a natural lilac berry wash. Rainy blues also feature. Solely natural fibres are key, playing between crisp and dry thread-weight linens and hemp, matte mid-weight cottons and humid-wet shine viscose, tencel and fine merino wool. Extreme slub and compact velvet yarns in unrefined stitches are lifted by fine, twisted and course fabrics. Float stitches and basket-weaves bring further texture, whilst silhouettes focus around tactile utilitarian pieces with key pieces in open-work stitches.

Mahogany trend
Mahogany – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Finally, we arrive at Radiance, where a palette of new nudes is inspired by velvety and subtly iridescent clay cosmetics and powders. Elevated beiges are complimented by dry whites warm golden and pink tones. Undulating and stripes in plush crushed-chenille and painted chainette yarns provide the mid-weight, meanwhile well-being fibres of cooling wools and eco-aware cottons and ramie are knitted in gauzy fine lace and stitch-work. Ease is given to skin-hugging fabrics with anchored fringing meanwhile feminine smocking and pleats are beautifully flawed with raw edges. Fluid silhouettes and soft, feminine tailoring lead garment, juxtaposing contrasting fabrics through cut and sew and layering.

Radiance trend
Radiance – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Responding to these trends, were a breadth of creative knitwear and textile designers, including British knitwear designer Rory Longdon, who collaborates with historic Italian knitwear manufacturer, MRC. Rory’s highly creative and innovative approach to knitwear design, focuses on the intricacies of balancing and refining stitch, yarn and colour. By working ‘on-the-ground’ with the skilled craftsman at MRC, Rory creates fabrics and garments in response to the five trend directions at the show. Highlights included the statement raffia in-lay wrap skirts and breezy table-cloth-twill-like tunics and palazzo pants inspired by the Strelitzia direction.

Rory Longdon
Styling by Rory Longdon – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Other styling responses included pieces by Shanghai-based knitwear designer Steven Oo and Katie Hanlan, who runs a knitwear studio in Dublin.

Spanning across the back of the trend area, sits the sculpturally artistic response of decorative artist and creative knitter, Cecile Feilchenfeldt. Based in her studio in Paris, Cecile admits that the grit of cities such as Paris provide a much higher source of inspiration than her native, Switzerland. Having been featured in the last seasons Autumn/Winter 18 trend resource, Karine Van Tassel approached Cecile to respond to the Spring/Summer 19 directions. Cecile took the decision to respond to all 5 themes, feeling that all themes work together to create the overall mood for the season. Using yarns showcased by mills exhibiting at the show, including dry and wild raffia yarns, and warm, fine mohairs, Cecile celebrates the seasons’ directions with her response which she entitles ‘No Summer Without a Hat’. Creating pairs of characters in the form of sculptural garments deriving down from her creative head pieces, Cecile translates a new summer warmth, reflecting on cotton fields and the fluffy underside of flower petals. This is opposed by the juxtaposition of wild, sharp silhouettes created by textured and cut raffia knits. All of which the viewer is encouraged to touch and interact with. Cecile works experimentally with yarns, enjoying the challenge of preserving the beauty of the yarn in the knitting process which she creates on flatbed machines and by hand. She stimulates this experimentation further, creating surprise and fun in her fabrics and sculptures.

Cecile knit
‘No Summer Without a Hat’ by Cecile Feilchenfeldt. Photo credit – Charlotte Cameron

Having successfully moved to a fully stock-supported position, large-scale wool spinner UPW did not disappoint with their highly innovative and creative spring/summer collection. UPW presented their SS19 collection featuring yarns that support the notion of wellbeing, for the wearer and the environment. These included molecular sea cell blended with cotton for skin benefits, supima cotton blended with copper, which is widely considered to be therapeutic for joint pain and temperature-regulating cotton blends. In a nod to the Mahogany direction, ‘Tropical’ is a cotton blended with UV resistant polyester with a treatment that repels mosquitos. UPW have made huge steps in terms of their sustainability initiatives where they work tirelessly with their animal product suppliers, ensuring traceability and the best possible animal welfare conditions – they are working towards fully certified traceability for their next Autumn/Winter collection. With their unprecedented offering of stock-supported yarns and colours, and super-fast lead-times (97% of their yarns are ready to ship on the same day as ordering) UPW offer large-scale brands and small designer-makers alike, an innovative, creative and refined collection.

UPW – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

Paper and raffia yarn developments have been pushed and refined for the SS19 collections. With Italian finesse direction and spun with true creative innovation in China, Yarns & Colors, offer their new quality ‘Tabio’ as part of their latest eco collection. Made of 100% paper produced from hemp, Tabio is offered in single and double ply suitable for fine gauges. It provides an extremely lightweight and gauzy handle that is temperature regulating, hypoallergenic and completely washable. Other exciting qualities at Yarns + Colours included a plush and textured multicolour yarn ‘Picas’, ‘Flash’ a reflective poly/nylon blend which blends the parameters of performance and fashion materials, and ‘Slam’ a playful poly viscose single twist with an irregular printed cotton over twist.

Yarns & Colors
Yarns & Colors – Photo credit: Charlotte Cameron

A focus on finesse, refinement and delivering skin-conscious comfort continues through new merino blends at Xinao. ‘Feather’ for example is lightweight blend of extrafine merino wool and polypropylene, which is durable and insulating yet delicate on the skin. ‘Rattan’ and ‘Brace’ offer innovative wrap spun ultrafine merino around a nylon core yarn for high durability and a refined, luxe surface appearance. Ultra-innovating cashmere mill Consinee, who are working towards a fully-automated smart factory set-up, offer a fresh new palette in their stock supported cashmere range, where luxury cashmere blends with silk and mercerised wool (‘Bukhara’) and cotton, cupro and merino blends (‘Anya’) are offered in refined and uplifting palettes all fully stock-supported. Consinee’s fancy yarn arm, Top Line, offered a range of playful cotton blends including ‘Tapis’ a cotton and polyester towelling yarn and ‘Kinji’, a cotton and poly high-twist blend with fine neps.

Knitwear manufacturers showed their creativity and innovation on stands, mingled amongst the yarn mill stands. The overall feeling was that of ‘innovate and inspire together’. As what is usual with SPINEXPO, the breadth of mills and manufacturers are based in the Far-East. Founder Karine Van Tassel states quite clearly that she ‘is not married with a flag or specific industry.’ She is interested in good and innovative product.

For Karine, the high attention and efforts of the Far East in terms of innovation and creativity in yarn and knitwear are clearly unparalleled. Alongside the many China-based mills and manufacturers, exhibiters also included suppliers from Japan, India, Mauritius and Madagascar. Whilst having full respect for the work and efforts of other trade shows within the knitwear industry, Karine has stopped being concerned about what they are doing. SPINEXPO focuses on high innovation in spinning and most importantly, creativity. Karine welcomes interaction between designers and buyers with the manufacturing and educational sectors. This year, Winchester School of Art were invited to respond to the trend directions where students were provided with yarn from the top exhibiting mills – the result were highly directional and inspiring swatches that featured alongside the works of industry professionals. ‘Students are the buyers of tomorrow’ explains Karine. She desires to introduce both European students and professionals to the capabilities of the Far East.

SPINEXPO is pushing creativity and connecting this with mills and manufacturers who can enable through active relationships and an explorative mind-set. Karine’s modus operandi of igniting curiosity, open-mindedness and collaboration is clear not least through our conversation, but through her curation of her tactile, inclusive and inspiring exposition.

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As a practicing knitwear designer based in Nottingham, UK, Charlotte works as a freelance knitwear consultant for designers, brands and manufacturers, having trained extensively in knitwear and knitted textile design at Nottingham Trent University. With a deep, historical love of and background in textile and knitwear design, Charlotte is inspired by the engrained traditional context of textiles across the world and takes her greatest inspiration from immersing herself in new places and cultures. Charlotte approaches knitwear design holistically, working collaboratively with suppliers and mills to ensure sustainable and ethical design and manufacturing practice.