Introducing: The Finest Knitwear

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Wednesday, February 22nd 2017
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Although some Permanent Style collaborations have been rather esoteric (purple slippers anyone?), the most satisfying have always been those that go on to become wardrobe staples.

Our next - available exclusively in the Savile Row pop-up shop from Friday - aims to be just that.

We are calling it The Finest Knitwear.

Fine in one sense, in that it uses one of the finest merino yarns as well as the finest knitting gauge.

And fine in the other, in that it is the best knitwear of its type available anywhere.

It is a luxurious and highly practical piece of clothing, and yet - primarily as a result of our low costs - only £190 (ex-VAT).

The Finest Knitwear comes in one colour - navy - but two styles: crewneck and V-neck.

Navy is by far the most versatile colour for knitwear with tailoring, given it goes with pretty much every other colour, and itself.

However, I know there are guys that swear by both crewnecks and V-necks, and so we produced both.

For me, the crew is a little more casual. But both work under tailoring.

The design

A piece of fine-gauge navy knitwear might seem like a simple thing to design, but there are so many beautifully subtle ways it can be improved.

The crewneck, for example, has an ever-so-slightly larger collar, in order to give a shirt a little room to spread out around the neck.

The V-neck, similarly, has a slightly lower opening than normal, to flatter the wearer and better reflect the line of a jacket’s lapels.

As with other Permanent Style collaborations, both designs are cut relatively slim, to avoid any bulk under tailoring.

And while we haven’t altered the body length or the sleeve length, we have lengthened the ribbing on each - to 7cm from 6cm.

Interestingly, this makes the cuff of the sweater look a little dressier, which is a nice thing with tailoring. 

And increasing the ribbing at the bottom has the effect of raising the body of sweater slightly -  reflecting the general aim in tailoring of lengthening the leg relative to the body.

The material

The Finest Knitwear is deliberately made in merino, and not cashmere (or a cashmere/silk mix).

Cashmere is lovely, but the finer it is knitted, the more likely it is to pill and to lose its shape.

Fine merino, on the other hand, approaches cashmere in its feel but pills less, holds its shape, wears better and looks sharper.

After several iterations, we opted for Loro Piana Wish, a 15-micron two-ply merino.

The gauge

We decided to make our knitwear with a factory called Umbria Verde in Italy, which makes for Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Brioni and Hermes.

Simone Mattioli, the owner of Umbria Verde, will be in the shop Friday and Saturday, to talk to anyone that wants to about the product.

I’ll write about his factory in a separate post, but it was founded in the 1960s when his father bought up several old English cotton-knitting machines, and began adapting them to deal with finer gauges.

Today it specialises in ‘superfines’, using an adapted knitting bed to knit at 37 gauge (the number of needles to the inch). Smedley’s fine knit, by comparison, is 30 gauge.

This makes the knitwear fine, but not particularly delicate - certainly compared to cashmere.

It fits under any jacket, no matter how slim you like them cut. And it provides a notable layer of warmth without being too heavy.

For me the Finest Knitwear is perfect for travelling, particularly given it folds up small and is so lightweight (150g).

And I find I wear it around the office a lot - when the air conditioning can mean it is often warm, but I don’t want to be in just a shirt.

The make

Just as with the merino and the knitting, we asked the factory to pull out all the stops when it came to making up the knitwear.

There are many of these tiny, almost unnoticeable yet (for me) highly pleasurable details. I’ll restrain myself and pick just three.

First, note the join between the body and the sleeve.

This is almost twice as wide as on a piece of Smedley knitwear (for example) and as a result, thinner and flatter.

As with the same seam on a bespoke shirt, having the seam flatter (and indeed, curved) makes it more comfortable.

Second, look at the shoulder point inside the garment (above), where the shoulder and two sides of the sleeve meet.

On most knitwear there is a hard little knot here, where the yarn is folded back on itself. With ours, the point is flattened out and re-stitched, so the knot is removed.

And thirdly, the back of the ‘V’ on the V-neck.

It’s hard to show this in a photograph, as it is really an absence rather than a presence.

On a normal piece of knitwear, there would be hard little seam here between the two side of the V. With ours, it is knitted as one piece, so there is no seam.

The practical details

The Finest Knitwear is only available in the ‘Permanent Style presents’ pop-up shop on Savile Row for the next two weeks.

After that date, it will be available to all readers through the online shop.

Both designs are priced at £190 (ex-VAT) - great value for knitwear of this quality, which luxury brands would have at over £300.

 

I think that’s it.

This collaboration has been a long time coming, but I’m fantastically pleased to have it out there. There is no finer knitwear, for me, available anywhere; and certainly nothing at this value for money.

See you all in the shop.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

Other items worn:

  • Richard James bespoke cashmere jacket in Joshua Ellis cloth
  • Anderson & Sheppard bespoke grey flannel trousers
  • Light-grey bespoke cavalry twill trousers by Cerrato
  • All shirts by Luca Avitabile