The knitwear of Anna Zwick merges with and becomes an extension of the body; wrapping around, connecting, supporting, exposing and transforming it to a point at which it is not clear where the body begins and the garment ends. Knitted tubes run into sleeves and wrap around the neck, loop, circle and nonchalantly hang off the body whilst the ribbed socks that cover the shoes cling to the legs. Through the exploration of the symbiotic relationship between the mind, body and clothes, Zwick’s designs are imbued with a certain corporeality.
Taking from the ballets choreographed by Michael Clark and William Forsythe, her Central Saint Martins graduate collection reflects the way in which the bodies of two dancers knit together, melding and entwining to transform into a singular, almost indistinguishable form. Dance has long been a part of Zwick’s life – aged six she began classical ballet training, progressing through the Royal Academy of Dance grades as well as dabbling in modern dance and lyrical jazz. “I’ve always danced wherever I’ve gone,” says Zwick. “It’s really funny because my final project for my arts class at school was a dance costume, so I guess I’ve almost come in full-circle.”
“It would be a dream to be asked to design dance costumes,” she muses. “I want my clothes to be seen on people who dance, movement is crucial.” Her eyes are bright and alert as she enthusiastically talks about the collaboration between the MA fashion designers and the Michael Clark Company. “The way the dancers moved in the garments was amazing, that’s when my collection truly came alive!”
Aside from tops crafted out of nude ballet dancer’s warm-up tights and the low-rise ribbed jersey leotards that form the base of every look, all the pieces are single-handedly knitted by Zwick. To achieve the array of textures, the 33 year-old pastel-haired MA Fashion graduate uses various yarns and techniques. The dresses, jumpsuits, socks and hold-ups are industrially knitted on a university Dubiet, whilst some jumpers are created on domestic machines, and the statement collars, sleeves and jumpers are chunkily hand knitted.
“I want my clothes to be seen on people who dance, movement is crucial.”
Photography by Bror Ivefeldt
Overlapping and blurred multiplications of arms and legs in motion provided the starting point. The stitches and rows of the knits pull together, expanding and relaxing to allow for and responding to the movement of the body, following it in an instinctually intuitive manner. With the ease of the limbs of two dancers performing a choreographed routine, translucent cotton and bouclé barcode-like stripes alternate and undulate in the cropped jumpers, rhythmically weaving in and out of each other through slits. The melting elongated bodies in the surreal photography of Erwin Blumenfeld and the tangled sculptures of Sarah Lucas that appear on Zwick’s mood boards also inform the construction of the garments. It is in the same vein of unity and togetherness that Zwick draws inspiration from Issey Miyake’s A-POC (‘A Piece of Cloth’) philosophy that investigates not only the relationship between clothes and the body, but also the space in between.
After a year and a half of a medicine degree Zwick changed tack and began her BFA in womenswear design in Paris, but after her freshman year transferred to Parsons New York to complete her degree. She interned for Ralph Lauren, Nathan Jenden and in the showroom of Alexander McQueen, but it wasn’t until Zwick later came to London that her passion for knitwear was ignited. “At Giles Deacon I came into contact with the knits of Sibling’s Sid Bryan and at Bora Aksu I started to understand crochet and knit, that’s when I started to realise that’s what I wanted to do,” she recalls. “I had a couple of hand knits in my graduate collection. I went quite knitty because I am not as inspired by tailoring, knits really excite me and I love creating my own fabrics.”
The German-born designer landed a knitwear position at Escada after she showcased her collection at Berlin Fashion Week as a finalist of the 2010 Designer for Tomorrow award. After four years at Escada she was headhunted by ex-Kenzo designer Stefani Martini to join Kookaï. Working for established brands gave her an opportunity to travel the world and pick up French and Italian along the way; but didn’t stop her from becoming restless. “I realised working and earning money wasn’t enough, I knew I wanted to do something else. Even when I was senior designer and I was supposed to design the entire knitwear collection, I was still often restricted.” Frustrated she started to explore her creative process and the craft of knitting, finding solace in evening classes and short courses at L’Ecole de la Maille de Paris and Knit-1, before deciding to embark on the CSM MA.
It is apparent that her time working commercially in industry has – whether consciously or subconsciously – greatly informed Zwick’s approach to design. “At Parsons I was considered the crazy one. For a long time I saw myself as an artist, but I’m now finding out that I’m really a fashion designer.” Zwick openly credits the intense process of the MA to this insight and, after a pause, adds: “I’m realising now that I can’t please the masses, that’s not me. I know I’m not ticking all the boxes by making my work even more wearable or even more avant-garde. I guess I’m in between.
“In fact most of what you make is in black anyway, it’s always the best-selling stuff no matter where I was working.”
There is a dichotomy at the heart of the collection; it is at once wearable and impractical – that’s the beauty of it. Although conceding that some of her chunky hand-knitted statement neckpieces and interconnecting sleeves might not be wholly suitable for everyday life, Zwick persists that she designs her clothes to be worn. “I want the wearer to be comfortable, move, feel good and be warm.” The two little crystals she wears almost every day under her bottom lash line glint in the light as she explains that the woman she designs for is practical yet confident: “She’s not somebody who likes to blend in.”
In juxtaposition to the multitude of white garments, the knitted and leather burgundy red trims trickle down like dried blood through a bandage. But aside from these accentual additions the garments are fabricated entirely of white yarns sponsored and provided by Filati Be.Mi.Va. and Millefili, Italian yarn manufacturers. Looking back at Zwick’s pastel coloured Parsons collection, the brightly coloured jacquards she designed under Jonathan Saunders for Escada Sport or the vibrant knits she created at Kookaï, it is hard to imagine that the same person designed this collection. “At first I didn’t like the all-white thing,” Zwick laughs. “But for this collection it felt really right and pure.” Aesthetically it provides a serene cohesion and allows for texture to take the starring role. Emphasis is placed on the intricacies and nuances between the different techniques she employs to create the looks.
The choice of white can also be perceived as Zwick’s quietly calm revolt again the industry’s obsession with black. “When you get the bestseller list back at the end of the season, it’s always the black turtleneck that wins,” she rolls her eyes theatrically. “In fact most of what you make is in black anyway, it’s always the best-selling stuff no matter where I was working. So I guess I’m subverting that, turning it on its head.”
At our first meeting Zwick confidently asserted that she did not want to start her own brand straight away, but post-graduation her perspective has shifted. “My mind is reeling and now more than ever I’m looking at my designs and I’m wishing I could do my own thing. I am excited to see what happens.”
Words Helena Fletcher