Rubato knitwear: Easy elegance

Monday, September 9th 2019
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Last week Swedish friends Oliver Dannefalk and Carl Pers (below) launched a small collection - mostly knitwear - called Rubato.

It’s tasteful, well-made, and (like many new brands today) fills a particular niche of clothing they wanted to wear. 

I spoke to them on Friday as they were packing up sales from their first day of trading. 

Permanent Style: OK guys, give me the elevator pitch. 

Oliver: Right, so Carl and I have worked together for a while - we used to work in a vintage shop together, as well as now in different parts of the menswear industry - and found we sought out the same things, a certain look, but couldn’t always find the right clothing for it. 

Such as?

Well, one of the things was knitwear. We always felt there was some compromise - we liked the colour but not the cut, or the collar but the ribbing was too small. And vintage pieces always seemed to have that right. 

So you set out to make it yourself? 

Exactly, we started the company about a year and a half ago, and we began by developing the knitwear. It could have been anything - but knitwear felt like the biggest gap. 

OK, so let’s do the elevator pitch again. What sets this apart?

It’s cut slightly shorter and boxier than other knitwear, with a tighter collar on the crewneck and a deeper V on the V-neck. It’s made with lambswool rather than cashmere, because we want it to be something that’s robust and lasts, and the ribbing is sturdier for that reason as well. 

 

And what’s the reason for those choices? Why do you think it’s better?

We find most knitwear too long for anyone that wears their trousers higher - not necessarily with braces, up on the natural waist, but just with a mid-rise, like you do. 

We also find a boxier cut to be more flattering, but only if the sweater is shorter, so it doesn’t all gather around the waist. The pattern has a slight taper and thicker ribbing, which also helps with that effect. 

My main fear, looking at the imagery and the lookbook, was that this cut would only work with high trousers, on the natural waist. But it works with a mid-rise too?

Carl: Yes, I wear it with jeans and chinos too - I’m wearing it now with vintage 1966 Levi’s, which have a higher rise that most modern denim, but nothing like the high trousers worn with braces. 

Oliver: We tried it on lots of friends too of course, and unless you wear low-slung jeans you’re fine. 

OK, so that’s the cut. How about the material?

Cashmere’s great, but we loved how vintage pieces wore and aged, and they were usually lambswool.

Plus we wanted something that was easy to care for, that you could wear with everything from jeans to flannels, and that was a little more accessible too. 

I think sometimes it’s easy to make expensive garments, because you just pick the most expensive materials, and you have plenty of money to put into design. Sometimes cheaper clothing just doesn’t have the same attention to details. 

Oh, and one more thing: we kept some of the natural lanolin [oil] in the wool, which makes it more dirt and water repellent, and means it will last better.

You don’t have the over-finishing of a lot of modern knitwear, which feels nice but basically damages the fibres.

Interesting. I know vintage pieces had more of that lanolin in them, and vintage reproduction places like North Sea Clothing or Heimat do the same thing. Is yours that extreme?

No, it’s not as much as that.

In fact, that’s an interesting point to pick up on, because we always wanted Rubato to feel contemporary. It might have vintage touches, but there should be nothing cosplay about it. 

I guess that goes for the cut as well - those brands will often have a bigger body, longer ribbing, heavier gauge. One of my recent favourites is the Bryceland’s submariner rollneck, which is inspired by a vintage piece. 

Yes, exactly. I love those pieces, but we wanted ours to feel more modern. So we have elements of that in the cut, the wool and the finish. But it’s not as extreme. 

Right. We’ve done cut and material. What about colour? I love the natural, earthy colours - in particular the fawn and the deep brown. They’re subtle and muted: two of my favourite words. 

That was very deliberate. I think Sweden is associated with colours like this, and that’s no coincidence. The weather can be pretty harsh and we don’t get a lot of strong colour. 

But also, we wanted everything to feel very comfortable and easy - the fit is relaxed and the colours are relaxed. If you see a guy walking towards you in these colours, you’d feel comfortable looking at him too. It's easy on the eyes. 

You just started selling yesterday. What colours have sold well so far?

Well ironically, the first few pieces were sage green [above].

That colour was us going out on a limb - it’s a lovely soft colour, but a little unusual. We thought fawn and grey would definitely be the most popular. Shows how much we know. 

Yes, you’ve both been around for a while and know how to do merchandising. But it’s hard to predict isn’t it? 

Absolutely. You just have to be responsive. We’ve already sold out of the caps, but there’s a new delivery next week. 

On the subject of caps, let’s turn to styling.

The imagery all seems relaxed, yet elegant. I find that’s an area readers find hard to get right - not a suit and tie, but not a T-shirt and jeans either. 

Carl: That means so much to us that you thought that, Simon. Comfortable and elegant is exactly what we were going for. First because I don’t think anyone can look elegant if they’re not comfortable. And second because the clothes have to live with you, they have to be comfortable and functional. 

Oliver: We’re sitting here in the warehouse, Carl’s son is over there. We need to be able to pack boxes, Carl needs to be able to pick up his son, we need to live our lives everyday and not be constrained. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be elegant. 

We love tailoring, we’ve worked with some great tailors and wear it a lot. But I always come back to a simple button-down shirt, a nice sweater and a nice pair of chinos. 

So it’s just a question of what makes them nice - which for us is the cut and proportions, the little nuances that make it fit the way we want it to. 

Let’s pick up on that. You’ve made your perfect knitwear, you’re happy with it and stand behind it. But does anyone else want the same things as you?

Very good question. We would only do it if it was something we loved, and could put 110% into. But that doesn’t mean anyone else will like it as well. 

Carl: I think we have to wait and see. That question determines how big this gets, but it doesn’t have to be big. We’re happy it being small as long as we love what we’re making. 

I guess that’s one thing that always separates these passion projects from some glossy, disruptive, venture capital-backed brand. They would never do it if there was no chance of it getting big. 

Very true. Growth is not the aim here. 

Let’s finish off by talking about style a bit more.

White socks for example - some people hate them, I think because they’re so antithetical to formal dressing. Why do you like them?

Oliver: I think because they suggest the easygoing attitude of Ivy. It’s wearing sportswear with tailoring, it’s wrapping a sweater about the shoulders.

It’s not finessing things too much - the baseball caps have the same feel too, and I know you get that, I see you have the red Holiday cap. 

Yes, though I wouldn’t naturally wear it with clothing as elegant as this. I’d put it with jeans, a T-shirt, shorts.

I guess I’m more conservative but - as with anything that works on someone else - I find it interesting. 

I think that’s one thing guys sometimes forget. It doesn’t have to all work on you.

I love how you wear chambray shirts and denim shirts with tailoring Simon (I particularly like the Lighter Everyday Denim). But I’ve tried that and it’s just not me. 

How about a polo shirt under knitwear. That’s not easy to do - the collar can flip out, not sit right, feel too chunky. 

Yes it can, a normal shirt is much easier. But I think you just have to let it live. Wear it and let the collar sit where it wants to. It’s only clothes, just roll with it. 

It's hard to hold those two ideas at the same time - it's almost cognitive dissonance. To feel that every piece of knitwear in the world is not right, yet also be relaxed about your collar rolling all over the place. 

True. I guess you need to control the things you can, and not worry about the ones you can’t. 

Great speaking to you guys. Good luck with it. 

Thank you Simon, much appreciated. 

www.atemporubato.com

Knitwear SEK1,975, or £167

Photography: Rubato, except image of Hardy Amies, Life Magazine, and pictures of Oliver and Carl, Jamie Ferguson

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Anonymous

great looking patterns.

antithetical? cognitive dissonance? are we talking about clothes here?

S..

Yeah, Simon is really putting his Oxbridge education to use – or so it seems.
😉
Though, I don’t see any patterns. It all looks lovely nonetheless.

Though, it seems we are reaching ‘peak knitwear’.

Anonymous

sorry I meant the patterns they have used to shape the garment, rather than patterns in the garment itself.

Alex

Great stuff guys!

A.

Can they provide more info about the lambswool used? Source, quality, and so on?

Rubato

Hi A,

We use 2 ply lambswool. If you have further questions please feel free to reach out to us through [email protected]

Burt

Haven’t had any lambswool sweater for years… they’re wearing through at the elbows after max. 2 seasons. Personally I found the merino sweaters by Smedley are both hard wearing and stylish, can be worn user jackets as well. But Smedley’s are too long, true, so I certainly welcome those shorter pieces, also I like that very deep V-neck on your knitwear. Perhaps a sleeveless version/vest with a v-neck might be an idea for the future too? That’s what I’ve been looking for, as it can be worn under e.g. a corduroy jacket.

Anonymous

The colours look great but not convinced by the aesthetic of the cut itself. I understand what they are saying about higher waisted trousers but the end result simply looks odd to me… almost like a crop top but without the midriff showing.

Anonymous

The jumpers look very odd in some of those photos – ending unflatteringly high on the upper body, with a strikingly weird region of rather deliberate-looking zig-zaggy folding towards the bottom. I get the ‘crop top without the midriff showing’ in the previous comment. Strange, and I’m not getting the ‘elegant’ vibe at all.

Anonymous

Simon, for reference for other buyers, would you mind letting us know which size did you go for? And, also for reference, how would you compare your piece to The Armoury’s crewneck in terms of style, cut and make? Thanks very much.

Sam

Hi Simon, were you to order again, would you get a medium a second time?
Sam

Sam

Would you say the sleeves look alright when folded back less than half way, for long arms?

Anonymous

Price on Rubato website, for Scots made, lambswool jumper is £237 (1,975 Kroner) Johnston’s of Elgin (for example) supply same for £99 (with a similar colour offering – is Elgin the supplier?) This differential might be acceptable if a tangible aspect of value (other than boutique uniqueness), were being offered but the argument is not, successfully at least, being made.
The pattern is one that harks back to the mid/eighties – it is the pattern that is of interest (not widely found in the market at the moment). This aspect is the key strength but I question the price point.
Possibly of greater interest is the immaculate cut of the trousers…

rups

any trunk shows planned? not a fan of buying things in order to try and then returning them if they don’t fit due to hassle, expense and of course the carbon footprint. I noticed that Luca faloni moved from online only to having own retail presence as its hard to sell upmarket clothing online.

Rubato

Dear Rups,

At the moment no trunk shows are planned. However do keep an eye out on instagram and our website for information regarding these things in the future.

Kind regards,

Rubato

H

These look really lovely, I hope they do well – and I’ll certainly keep them in mind as we enter knitwear season. How would you wear that green though? I have a sweater in the exact same shade – and it looks great with jeans and suede loafers, but I’ve struggled to find any other looks it really works with.

Burt

Depending a little on the shade of your olive jumper you’d certainly be able to pair them with dark grey trousers (e.g. mottled flannels) and black matte cotton trousers. Chocolate brown moleskin and beige/tan cavalry twill might be possible too.

Anonymous

So…Swedish Kroner to GBP (at least I could be bothered doing the conversion) is £165, more reasonable agreed. I maintain the unique pattern is the most important USP and not a bad one either. The interview, as a promotion in the non-advertising sense, is not necessarily helpful when phrases such as ‘cognitive dissonance’ in relation to knitwear collars are being used. They obfuscate the central ideas behind the garments and thus dilute the article’s purpose whilst complicating the article (Festinger’s psychological theory was probably not proposed as a menswear critique). I still question the manufacturing source; the brand might have more market sustainability if some transparency was apparent. The suspicion is that it is a ‘Johnstons of Elgin’ product, different pattern, shorter run, higher mark up. Again, no problem, as Johnstones produce fine garments with high quality wool. By the way, as you should know, condescension ‘stock item…factory brand…do go for it’ (as if advice is required) isn’t an argument for the defence of a position…Johnstones is a respected brand (sold on Net-A-Porter etc. so not, technically, a factory brand), and as with Barbour etc., remains part of a small band of quality manufacturers that still make in the UK. Slighting them isn’t particularly helpful.

Andreas

Looks great! I love the creative take on the presentation and lookbook.
Nice to see a new take on cut and silhouette combined with the subtle colour palette plus a focus on sturdy, long lasting fibers. At this price point I would much rather go for a quality lambswool sourced and produced in Scottland rather than an entry level cashmere.

Looking forward to see what future holds for the brand.

Lee

I like the look and the price is more reasonable than many of the items sually featured here – i might actually be able to afford this! I work it out as £164 plus £20 postage (to UK)

Anonymous

Simon
a question on Corduroy. I recently got a great cord (brisbane moss 8 wale) suit that I am very keen on indeed. The trouble is that the fresh material has a lustre and sheen that I am not so keen on. Normally on cords a couple of washs will mellow the material but obviously can’t do that with suit jacket. Will a dry clean have the same effect?

Josua

Dear Simon,

by the way, will your “finest knitwear” be back in stock anytime soon?

Best
Josua

Juan Huertas

I second this, and if it could be made to measure (i.e., at least with the option to alter the sleeve lenght, which is too short for me), that would be great!

Josua

Dear Simon,

thanks for the info. Personally I might not go for MTO knitwear, since RTW usually fits me pretty well. Smedley for example is not as fine as yours but in my experience still good value for money.

Best
Josua

Ep

Hey Permanent Style. Apologies for the hassle. I just has a question to do with two products. This anthology shirt and also the rubato jumpers. I was wondering if you also found that the waist of the anthology shirt rides up? And if so, do you find that to be a similar case for the rubato jumpers? The similarities between the waists and how the they sit, makes me think it might?Thanks so much for any feedback, it’s really appreciated

Anonymous

Hi Simon, just to confirm does your Rubato jumper also ride up well above your waist to reveal your stomach when you raise your arms high enough? Is this normal?

Anonymous

Thanks Simon. I wear high rise trousers and when I lift my hands in the air the Rubato knit rides up towards the top of my ribcage and some skin shows. Does this happens to you too? I’m wondering whether I should size up (which could become too big around the chest and would only add a tiny bit to the length). Do you just have to limit your arm movements in knitwear?

Anonymous

The Rubato only rides up to the point of showing my shirt underneath when my arms are raised to being about parallel with my standing body; this happens when I wear high-rise trousers. Other arm movements are fine though. Does this sound like the knit doesn’t fit me well? I’m worried it could be a hassle to always think about the knit riding up, and embarassing when it ocassionally happens.

Robin

As well as learning about style I appreciate that PS also tries to get readers to understand the industry .
To that extent how does Rubato work ? Does it meet up with a producer of knitwear , some of it in their own brand name (e.f. Johnson’s of Elgin), and commission them to produce goods for them to a stated specification ?
The answer will help with the argument this is just an Elgin with a different label .

I think it would help to learn about how brands produce goods under their own label and on behalf of others without it being the exact same product .
For example, I understand Edward Green make shoes for Ralph Lauren .
So when you buy Edward Green are you buying Ralph Lauren ?
And why are you paying more ? For the label or because RL has insisted it’s shoe be to a more exacting standard or the market RL retail to deems a higher price ?

Would be useful to clarify these boys try points to aid understanding around these types of brands and price etc

Robin

An article on this would be most welcome .

rups

sounds like a great idea. have you thought about expanding your menswear collection Simon?

when you say its expensive in terms of time rather than just paying for samples do you mean time of people engaged in the process that you have to pay? I’m just thinking that if someone had the skill to do most of the design and so on themselves this cost would be negated to a large extent?

Anonymous

yes…my comments on this article have been unnecessarily negative: apologies.
I was puzzled as to why, then realised I had been watching parliament’s Brexit activities over the last few days…
Good luck to to them, they are slightly ahead of the fashion curve, but the market will catch up when silhouettes change over the next cycle (fuller trousers, shorter tops etc.).

ezequiel

really loved from the start the whole brand aesthetic that these guys were showing on instagram before the launch. certainly, the strenght of the product is the design, which is (almost) impossible to find today (thank god for shorter knitwear). there is an elegance factor in their clothes and they remind me of off duty classic hollywood actors, when a suit or jacket was not necessary but they still did not dress down too much. it will be interesting to see how these garments are joined by new products as i understand that they are aiming for a total look and not just sweaters.

johnstons of elgin’s may end up being cheaper, but they just provide a regular sweater without any particular relevant feature besides nice fabrics. i think that the analysis of “quality of cloth” falls quite short as there are many other (even more relevant) things that influence the decision to buy a certain garment. whitouth design, without branding (in a good sense), we are just left with plain clothes without any fun.

i hope both carl and oliver succed in this venture as they are both great dressers and have something different to offer.

P.F

You review from time to time off the peg brands like the present one. Wouldn’t it be an idea for a post, a summary of the RTW brands you like for trousers, shirts, blousons, etc…? It could be of much help to your readers that like to dress well but cannot afford SR and are still eager to wear good quality clothes.

E L

I like the idea, but am not too big on lambswool like this (a bit too fine and flat for my more rustic tastes). Any plans to do Shetlands in this cut?

Also, I very much like Carl and Oliver’s sensibilities when it comes to trousers–a wider cut that still has a gentle taper. Any plans to do trousers in the future?

Ben

Do you wear a sports jacket on top of this knitwear? Those color are great if they are solo with odd trousers. But it sounds a bit tough to go with jacket colors such as Navy, beige, brown, oatmeal..any thought?

FIDELIO

Hi Simon,
I’m still on the hunt for a grey roll neck and deciding between Rubato and the Private White submariner you have wrote about elsewhere. Would you wear the Rubato roll neck under a jacket? I understand the PW might be too thick for this purpose.
Thanks

Patrick Truhn

My sweater arrived this morning (sage green, lovely colour!), and, since I generally wear high-waisted trousers, find it fits perfectly. As my tailor is, quite coincidentally, making me a pair of moss green flannel trousers at the moment, I will have even more occasions to wear it.

Ben

For this particular brand, do you love their V neck more than crew one? If so, what’s the rationale?

kevin

Thanks Simon, as my closet has become more and more filled with higher waisted trousers (thanks in large part to Stoffa) the idea of shorter cut knitwear is enticing. Any chance you can post pictures of yourself wearing the sweater?

Zubair Hossain

Stolen knitwear hehe… On a serious note though, it all looks very nice. The idea behind the fit is something I really agree with as well, seeing as I generally prefer to wear my trousers on the natural waist. I find that it’s a lot more comfortable and creates a nicer line that way… but I suppose that’s down to taste in the end, oh well!

Albert

Simon, I would also be interested in ordering the ‘Finest Knitwear’ were it available MTO.

Best,
Albert

Stephen Pini

Hi Simon,

Who would you say are your favourite knitwear companies / brands at the moment?

I’ve got a rare day by myself to go shopping (I live in London) for some knitwear in a few weeks and was planning on visiting Anderson and Sheppard haberdashery, Drakes, Connolly, Luca Faloni and Private White to buy a couple of casual pieces – two roll necks (submariner / fisherman and perhaps a merino or lambswool) in addition to a chunky crew neck jumper. I already have a camel shawl cardigan from William Lockie – that piece is stunning by the way.

Any other pieces you would recommend? I work in a (very) casual office now so expanding my wardrobe.

Happy to consider online only brands as well – someone recommended Berg & Berg but I’ve never tried their knitwear before.

By the way, I was in Private White the other day buying a pea coat to compare with one I bought from SEH Kelly (will only keep one) and managed to get a peak of your raglan coat. It’s quite a beautiful piece – a lovely shade of blue grey and wonderfully soft, which was surprising. I have a brown Donegal tweed raglan from Cordings (think you might have the same one actually) and it is comparatively quite rough. If I didn’t already own a tweed raglan coat I probably would have bought it!

Thanks,

Stephen

FIDELIO

Simon, what would you recommend as a versatile capsule collection of jumpers. You have mentioned navy and green before (your finest knitwear offering) and also praised the grey roll neck but I wonder what would you recommend if someone would want to have no more than 5 items.

Jason

I received a brown v-neck today. I like the style for wearing with high-waisted trousers. Unfortunately, however, the jumper had a hole In it – it looks like it has already been attacked by moths. I’ve heard of pre-distressed clothes but that is taking it a bit far… let’s see how they resolve this issue. This kind of thing is always a good test of how efficiently a small brand is operating.

Jason

I should add that Oliver from Rubato has already contacted me to apologize and to say that they will send a new jumper immediately. Full marks to them for dealing with the problem straightaway.

Russ

Where are the pleated front chinos in some of the photos from, please?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, do you have other (RTW) knitwear brands you like but are cheaper than Rubato? Thanks.

Vas

Hi Simon,
Could you advise which brand of canvas trainer shoes are worn in the picture above and indeed on the website? Paired with the chinos.
Many Thanks,
V