On the ground floor of London’s Somerset House is a start-up reinventing the knitwear industry. Holding no stock of their own, Unmade is challenging traditional manufacturing methods and is founded on principles of sustainability. To learn more about its approach and processes, we went to visit the Unmade studio and create a piece of knitwear of our own.
I’m in the basement of Somerset House designing a scarf online. In just a few clicks I can disrupt patterns, colours, scale and line to create a made-to-order piece of knitwear unique to Alice Made This. We’ve chosen the ‘Pattern’ scarf so that we can fully experiment with geometric size and placement. It’s summer (or at least it’s meant to be) so we’ve chosen rich tones to match our warm copper pieces. I click ‘order’ and can hear the knitting machines next door whir into action.
Founded by Royal College of Art graduates Ben Alun-Jones, Hal Watts and Kirsty Emery, Unmade collaborates with designers and creatives across a range of disciplines to push the boundaries of knitwear and introduce a contemporary aesthetic to a seemingly traditional medium. Whereas Kirsty comes from a knitwear background, Ben and Hal have experience in engineering.
Before I clicked ‘order’ our scarf did not exist. Infact no Unmade product exists until someone wants it - until someone designs it and has a purpose for it. Using industrial knitting machines, each with a different German name (a nod to their country of origin), each garment is created to order in Somerset House from extra-fine Merino Wool, pure Cashmere or Pima cotton. Every garment is hand-finished in the studio and comes with its own personalised label. Nothing is done for the sake of it and nothing is wasted.
A lot of knitwear companies are limited because they are restricted to big orders and high minimums. This often inhibits creativity as ‘safe’ designs are favoured for large quantities. It’s hard to take risks when you have to meet big numbers. Unmade however is an idea that works even if there is just one person involved. It strips out the mass manufacturing element and reintroduces creativity and innovative design.
A big problem facing today’s fashion industry is that a lot of clothing ends up going through the full fashion cycle. First stores, then discount stores and then landfill. Too much clothing is produced for it to ever all reach an owner.
Unmade is committed to adding to the conversation rather than to the problem. By using sustainable processes and high quality raw materials, Unmade ensures that each item it creates goes directly from machine to owner.
It is this ethos that made us want to come and try the process for ourselves. Alice Made This is proud to support British manufacturing by working with British factories that are not usually associated with fashion. Whether it’s a family owned casting house in Hatton Garden or an expert rope maker in Ipswich, we use industrial engineering methods to create precise and refined accessories from honest raw materials. Like Unmade, process is at our core.
After watching our scarf designed and made from start to finish, emerging from the knitting machine before being finished with our bespoke label, I leave with something unique and considered. I leave with an object that didn’t exist until right now – that until now was unmade.
Learn more about Unmade here.