5 HISTORIC KNITWEAR BRANDS TO (RE)DISCOVER

Spells autumn, reads knitwear: with temperatures dropping lower and lower, we need to get ready with pullovers, preferably in warm and cozy yarns, and above all wool. The options are basically endless, from evergreen shades such as navy blue, black and grey to eye-catching, frost-proof textures or remarkably fine, almost intangible. In any case, it’s best to play it safe choosing brands with decades of heritage with certain quality and blazonry, such as the following five.

Missoni

When you say knitwear, the mind immediately goes to of one of the most representative dynasties of Italian fashion, the Missoni family. For the fashion house founded almost seventy years ago by Ottavio and Rosita, work and life partners, knitwear has always been the at heart of a company with strong family connotations, the gateway to a success able to encompass decades, as well as changes in clothing habits and customs. Thanks to jumpers bursting with colours and flamboyance, Missoni-mania exploded in the 1970s, on both sides of the ocean: it was impossible to ignore the extravagant, multi-coloured, hypnotic patterns weaved across the garments produced by the designer-entrepreneurs’ workshop in Sumirago, in a joyful blend of shades, stitches and motifs that the Americans called “put-together”.

Crowned “best in the world” in 1971 by none other than the New York Times, knitwear earned the brand the Neiman Marcus Award in 1973 for “daring to explore new dimensions and colour relationships”, features that still distinguish the brand’s collections today; the Fall/Winter 2021 collection is no exception, in which Missoni’s expressive zeal bursts onto jumpers, turtleneck pullovers and cardigans with slouchy lapels through the familiar jumble of lines, intricate patterns and graphic textures, including mottling, enlarged chevrons, stripes creating optical games, and colours that fade from dark to light, or vice-versa.


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Ballantyne

Rising to fame in the 1950s thanks to “Diamond Intarsia”, a technique that made it possible to trace the typical elongated rhombuses on sweaters that made the Scottish brand’s fortune, Ballantyne celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year.

Admirers of the diamond pattern on its pullovers include royals, Hollywood stars and world-famous jetsetters (from Alain Delon to Jacqueline Kennedy, James Dean and Steve McQueen). Even Hermès and Chanel, impressed by the label’s ability to treat the finest fibres to perfection, entrusted them with their knitwear. In 1967, Her Majesty honoured Ballantyne’s signature knitwear with the Queen Award.

The company is now run by former artistic director Fabio Gatto, who, in order to bring it back to its golden age, has combined jumpers inlaid with the unmistakable argyle with a wide, varied range of weight and fineness, capable of satisfying lovers of ultralight under-jackets and of enveloping pullovers, as well as capsule collections from the Lab line, in which the production virtuosity of the house meets the fresh vision of young designers cherry-picked each time.


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Drumohr

With roots firmly planted in Scotland, the land that originated this century-old brand (in business since 1770), Drumohr has been speaking Italian since 2006, ever since it was acquired by the Ciocca group.

The Brescian company has moved production from the United Kingdom to Italy, while paying the utmost attention to keeping intact the craftsmanship that, throughout the 20th century, had conquered actors, aristocrats and ultimate models of chicness, from the King of Norway to Prince Charles, from James Stewart to Gianni Agnelli; It was the latter, guardian deity of male elegance eternally imitated (with poor results, it goes without saying), who made Drumohr’s “razor blade” a must-have, renamed “biscottino”, a pattern consisting of small rectangles spread rhythmically on wool or cashmere.

Combining artisanal know-how and ceaseless research, the collections now include colour blocking, micro or macro inlays, embossing and precise reworkings of the pattern dear to the Avvocato, which do not disdain rather bold colour choices, matching, for instance, blue with pistachio, orange with burgundy, turquoise with burgundy.


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Malo

A history that is approaching the half-century mark; an entirely Italian manufacture, concentrated in the factories of Campi Bisenzio and Borgonovo Val Tidone; an idea of understated luxury, which lets the quality of garments with exquisite yarns and exquisite craftsmanship speak for itself. These are the pillars of Malo, a brand founded as a producer of cashmere knitwear in 1972, when Scottish dominance over the sector seemed untouchable. Despite that, it managed to establish itself thanks to the rich, vibrant palette of its pullovers constructed to perfection, bien sûr.

The company reached its peak between the 1990s and 2000s, then started a decline, interrupted in 2018 by a trio of entrepreneurs (Walter Maiocchi, Luigino Belloni and Bastian Mario Stangoni) who took over ownership, handing back an absolute central role to the craftsmanship of the offer, centred on cashmere from Mongolia, sometimes mixed with equally precious materials, from alpaca to silk and vicuña, nicknamed the “fleece of the gods”.

Deluxe fibres are, of course, at the heart of the F/W 2021 Boulevard collection, in which the nuances, architecture and charms of the great metropolitan boulevards are transposed onto extra-soft wools, in cool colours (above all the different shades of grey, the true passe-partout of the collection) or bright colours, inlaid with tiny geometric reliefs or slightly distorted braids, ribbed or compact, for garments with measured, clean volumes that the brand defines as “timeless and urban-chic”.


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Pringle of Scotland

When it comes to high-profile knitwear, thanks to its centuries-old traditions and incomparable wool varieties, Scotland is unrivalled, and this is even more true for a brand that refers to the country’s genius loci right from its name, Pringle of Scotland.

Founded in 1815 by Robert Pringle in the Scottish Borders, it is credited with at least two “patents” that were destined to have a profound effect on the fate of the wool industry: in the 1920s, it invented the argyle pattern, the iconic – it has to be said – lozenge pattern, promptly adopted by Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, the unrepentant elegant and supreme arbiter of male good taste of the time, immediately imitated by the aspiring epigones of international aristocracy. Another feather in the label’s cap is the twin set, the combination of a crew-neck jumper and ton-sur-ton cardigan that has become a pillar of bon chic bon genre style. Basically an authentic national pride, it is not surprising that Queen Elizabeth, a distinguished customer of the knitwear factory, awarded it with the Royal Warrant in 1956, an honour certifying its status as official supplier to the House of Windsor.

Still made in the Hawick factory, Pringle of Scotland garments can be purchased from the comfort of home on the official e-shop, choosing from a fair range of relaxed fit models, from the ever-popular argyle jumpers to sweaters of vintage appeal, with the lion (a symbol retrieved from the archives) woven on the chest.


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Translation by Zoran Trevisan

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