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

 

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Mike

Very nice knitwear!

I am not in the UK. How can I buy the sweater?

Mike

Thanks. Is it possible to make a reservation in advance?

Alex

Which cloth is the jacket made from? I’ve been searching for a brown herringbone as my first brown jacket and am a bit stuck. Thanks!

Matthew

Hi Simon,

Best of luck with this. As the owner of way too many merino navy V and crew necks by mainly John Smedley and Zanone I am sure I can find room for another! I look forward to trying one on.

See you in the store on Friday

John

Hi Simon,
Bravo!!! I greatly appreciate you dedication to EXCELLENCE in mesnwear!!! It’s really revolutionary what you’re doing!
Two questions:
In terms of formality, is the crew neck actually more casual or are you merely expressing your own personal taste?
Do you plan to have other colors too?
Thank you so much!
John

Anonymous

Have always sourced my merino knitwear from Johnstons and Lockie, which are priced much lower than yours.

Is there that much difference in quality

Sigurd

This might be a good moment to ask about pilling. It is my experience that, when wearing a merino wool sweater by a good brand, say John Smedley, it only takes a few wears under a jacket before the pilling begins. Even good quality cashmere seems to be prone to pilling. Is there any way to avoid this or is it inevitable? Is the Finest Knitwear less prone to pilling would you say? And is there any recommended way to remove pilling once it is there? Any answers would be deeply appreciated!

Jonathan

Simon, looks fantastic — what sizes will you be carrying?

Kashif

Hi Simon,

Will you be posting measurements of the various sizes or are those going to be the same as the measurements for the long-sleeve polos? I won’t be in London around the time of the PS pop-up shop so will order online if it’s still available.

Thanks.

Sam

I note you are quoting the prices as net of VAT and I assume you havent yet registered for VAT. Does that mean the Drakes items in your popup store are going to be marginally cheaper given the VATs at the wholesale price rather than the retail?

Sam

Apologies, been busy as of late and budgets have been going on buying yarns/looms for our startup (interiors not menswear) rather than sartorial so been less keen to read about what I cannot budget for as of late. Good to hear things have gone sufficiently well for you to enter the world of VAT! Particularly as I imagine you are particularly well out of the flat rate rules but buying from the EU

Josh

When you say the body and sleeve lengths have stayed the same, do you mean that the 1cm of additional ribbing has subtracted from the body of the fabric, leaving the net length unchanged? I am being pernickety only because I have long arms, so an extra 1cm of sleeve length would have been a real plus for me! Are you modelling the M in the photos?

Sizing aside, this looks very intriguing and the price is fantastic. I have to ask, though: was this project born of out of some dissatisfaction with other knitwear makers? I always thought Smedley in particular were an exemplar of permanent style principles.

Kelvin

Hi Simon! Any chance of it being offered in an XS?

Jonathan

Second, would love to see XS!

Martin

So your jumper is thinner than the thinnest Smedley? Would one be able to feel or see the difference?

Roy

Looks great Simon. Could you confirm the true colour is a ‘traditional’ navy please? There’s some colour variation in the photos which I assume is the impact of lighting adding a slightly green hue.

MWG

As a finely made sweater, shouldn’t it be available in true sizes, 38, 40, etc.

John

I’ll visit London in the end of March (from Sweden) and I’ll definitely drop by the store. Will I still be able to try on the finest knitwear at that point in store?

John Chong

Why do you assume his is Swedish?

Anonymous

Is the jacket drape cut?

Ibrahim

I am very interested in the cloth of the jacket ! I have been looking for this degree of brown for a while without luck. It seems more dark beige or light brown than brown ? Beautiful color indeed! Also about the flannel trousers : seems to be blue-ish grey ? Would greatly appreciate the maker and number of both: the jacket and the trousers.

Michael K

What? Purple slippers esoteric? I take my La Portegna x Permanent Style purple slippers everywhere I go — red-eye flights; hotels; friends’ houses where shoelessness is expected — and the fact that they lack the obtrusive treads of regular La Portegnas makes them that much more wonderful.

Chancellor

Went to look these up in the archive. Disappointed I wasn’t following the blog when these were offered!

Looks like La Portegna now has suede slippers (though in other colours and a regular leather sole) and will have to look to buy one of those instead.

Oliver

The problem I have with knitwear – and I can’t be the only one – is sleeve length. I’m fairly tall, and it’s very difficult to find knitwear with long enough sleeves. Some of the A&S knitwear works, and you can achieve a long enough sleeve if you buy the JS classic fit (with the double cuff sleeve) and wear the sleeve unrolled. Not ideal (you then need to downsize to get a slim fit from a classic fit, which isn’t ideal) but I think it looks better than short sleeves

The sad thing about this knitwear – and a lot of other knitwear that is covered on this site, e.g. Luca Faloni) – is that it almost certainly won’t fit in the sleeves (though I must admit that I haven’t compared the measurements yet).

It would be great to see some extra-long sleeve sizing from online vendors (indeed, any vendors). I would have thought that the likes of Luca Faloni would be able to make this work, given their business model (based entirely on “basics” lack of seasons or sales). Maybe PS could make this work – I’m sure there is a gap in the market here…

O

Oliver

Yes – but if you’re only ever selling basics, like LF, then presumably that significantly mitigates the risk (as you have so much longer to sell stock). And you wouldn’t need to double your stock – you would only need to make an extra long unit for, say, every 10 units of each size that you make. Maybe I’m missing something….perhaps the cost of making the one extra long unit is much more if you’re making far fewer of them than the other sizes.

I would be willing to pay extra – it is, after all, one of the main reasons I am willing to pay extra for bespoke on the rare occasions that happens. I think you featured a Swedish brand previously (name escapes me – asket, perhaps?) that did different length sizing through the range. Even that would be enough for me (though in that case the colours/styling were fairly plain, and probably not as high quality as AF/PS, so I’ve never tried them).

O

Adam Jones

Its not just for the tall, i have quite short arms and although I can buy a sweater with a tight cuff so it doesn’t appear to long you end up with unsightly bunching on the arms. I know Simone Abbarchi does Bespoke/MTM knitwear. Has that ever been considered for review? I don’t know his pricing but I have been meaning to ask.

Sam

To add another element…. there are also those of us that are short and so sleeves tend to be too long on “regular”. Its an annoyance but generally you learn to live with it as I am yet to find anyone to do a shortening service.

What is more annoying than finding a company that only does Regular however is a a company that does Regular and Long but no Short. Before moving across to using Luca for my shirts I did intentionally avoid certain premium RTW companies that only had these two offerings.

Now some will say that making something longer is more problematic than making something shorter but its an extra cost, results arent always consistent and for items like knitwear there are few/none that give a good service for shortening.

pblzqlcn

hi simon,

i second those who suffer short arms and/or long sleeves.

regarding asket, what are your thoughts on their merino sweater?

of course, the quality (i assume) is incomparable, but are they still good value for money?

VincPier

Fashion business hates (or neglects) short men. There are equally as many short men as tall men, and they seem to only care for average or taller than average people. So unfair and frustrating. The reason why I got into bespoke in the first place was because not a single RTW brand carried any jacket short enough for my below-average height (5′ 7″) yet wide and stocky frame (around 50~52 IT size).

BespokeNYC

These look amazing and I love the idea of the wider collar on the crew neck (I’ve often found they are too narrow over a shirt.) I know I’m jumping the gun as you’ll be posting the measurements online (what can I say, I’m excited!) but when you say you haven’t altered the body or sleeve length, can I ask what dimensions they were based on? Standard Smedley sizes?

Andrew

Great to see some new PS staples coming out, Simon.
Simone is fantastic at what he does and he cares a lot about the quality of everything they produce. You couldn’t have chosen a better factory to make for you.
Will order one as soon as they go up online. +1 for the xs option if/when a future run happens off the strength of this one.

Ian Skelly

A stupid question, I am good at those, as it is made from Loro Piana merino is there really any difference between your knitwear and a merino wool and one in a loro piana shop which could cost £600?

Frank Trygve Jensen

I also hope to see it in XS!

Rohan

As I was just going to order a replacement Smedley crew neck in navy, this couldn’t come at a better time, it is unfortunate that I will not be able to make it into the store, I have incredibly high hopes for the store and have no doubt it will be a success, given the breakdown of the suppliers and trunk shows. I wish you all the best for it and intend to pick up a crew neck when available in the online store. Unfortunately I will not be able to try it on for fit !

I completely agree with the choice of fine merino over cashmere, while cashmere is undoubtedly beautiful, I find that find guage merino holds up much better and pills far less.

All the best for the store – this is an incredibly exciting venture.

Simon

Hi Simon, great article, really well put together and interesting, I say that because I don’t wear knitwear and generally don’t consider it when buying and ordering clothes however after reading this I will be seriously considering bring some into my wardrobe, thank you for putting it out there for us.

Krishna

Can I be one to suggest making in a rollneck if any future iterations come about? I’m going to try to get my hands on a crewneck one if it makes it to the online shop, but I think the details on this particular knit would make it the best rollneck for wearing with tailored clothing.

Jamie Berry

I bought one on Friday in the shop and it was £280? Did I buy the wrong one?!

Gavin

These look terrific. Many lightweight knits ‘print’ the shirts worn underneath when they lack weight. How do these fare? There is some small sign of printing in one of the photos below.

Gavin

By printing, I mean when the folds of the garment worn underneath prints or shows through the knitwear, so the knitwear shows the same folds.

Mac

Hi Simon
Would you have the cloth number for the light grey cavalry twill?
Best wishes

Mac

Hi Simon
Sorry, the bespoke light grey cavalry twill trousers by Cerrato worn above.

Daniel

Hi Simon,

It seems like your merino sweaters are out of Stock.
When will you re-stock them in size medium?

Regards,
Daniel

David

Simon,
Will you be re-stocking the large crew neck in green?
Regards,
David

Christopher

Dear Simon,

I checked the measurements to choose the right size (S or M). How should be the chest measurement? Normally I would measure once around the widest point of the chest….but this can not fit with the given measurements….are the chest measurements in inch instead of cm?
Appreciate your help!

Christopher

Thank you Simon. I will measure again ….
Which size would you recommend? I am 1,78m tall and my weight is around 75kg….

Christopher

You are right, but after measuring it should be small. But it seems that navy is sold out…Have you planned a new batch?

Narun K.

Hi Simon,

Would like to know that regarding knitwear, which material is the warmest… wool, merino wool, angora, alpaca wool, cashmere, mohair, or vicuna?

Joel

You got a fabulous write up on this sweater on Timelessman blog (Just in case you hadn’t seen it.) will these be at the next pop up in February?

Joel

Hi Simon,

Is there a place on the site explaining about gauge of knitwear etc.?

I don’t really know anything. I just bought a Smedley Galileo cardigan that describes itself as chunky knit using fine Merino wool which almost sounds contradictory.

Daniel

Are you going to restock the knitwear this year?
I saw it disappeared from the shop.

Daniel

If this group order works, are you going to announce this on the blog or this will be only for the ones on the waiting list? When would you decide if this will be organised?

Daniel

Where would you recommend to shop for a similar style and function knitwear? With the RTW I usually have similar issues you described when releasing the John Smedley waistcoat – length and bulk, not really suited for tailored trousers.

Robert

Simon,

With The Finest Knitwear sweaters no longer available, could you please advise if there is a brand the sells fine gage merino sweaters that approach the quality of your creation/collaboration with Umbria Verde?

Anonymous

Hello Simon. Any plans for another run of this knitwear (especially the V-neck) or something like it? I wasn’t following PS at the time. Thanks.