The brightest idea in menswear this season — hell, the past few years — began en route from an Interpol show.
Former Austin music bloggers Shannon Robertson and Michaela Drapes had just seen them play in Oklahoma, and were headed home — during Hurricane Rita. Holed up in a hotel, Michaela taught Shannon to knit, an easy feat since she, like her best friend, comes from a long line of Texans skilled in serious hand art like embroidering and tatting. Soon, says Shannon, she was up to speed with her friend, making “psycho cables and strange patterns” for sweaters and scarves.
When they moved to Bed-Stuy, their paths crossed with designer and bassist Anthony Malat of Sinner/Saint, who custom tailors vintage suits for skinny indie boys from Jon Spencer to those in his own band The Bellmer Dolls to (full circle here) Interpol…. and the idea hit: Why not make bespoke knitwear for men?
“A lot of the men we knew were turned off by knits,” says Shannon, primarily because the ones in stores are too bulky. “I think they would wear them if they were custom tailored to fit their bodies and work with the shapes they wear” — like close-fitting blazers, which woolly mammoths from the Gap won’t work beneath.
“There’s a lot of cheap, ugly knitwear out there for men that’s made from acrylic or low-quality wool,” says Michaela. “On the other hand, there’s no lack of high-priced knitwear in lovely fibers that is designed for the older, more conservative gentleman.”
But there’s nothing in between for, say, the edgy i-banker, the art dealer, or alt rocker — i.e., men who make decent coin now, but for lack of better options or knowledge of them, are still buying their scarves on Canal Street.
Well, guys, you can stop that now, because these ladies just launched Kindling & Tinder, and have already made quite a few scarves and gloves from luxury fibers like cashmere, camel, alpaca, yak, merino, chenille, even stainless steel.
Yes, stainless steel! Blended with the other yarns, the thin steel fibers, which are spun with silk, give a scarf the subtlest metallic sheen. There is one available for sale now, along with 10 or so other scarves that range in price from $150 for a merino wool blend, to $450 for the 96-foot-long, ultra-soft cashmere Escalade of scarves, perfect for a 6’4″ man.
For custom knitwear, the timeframe is anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on the item, style and fibers. The gloves come in smoking and non-smoking versions; scarves can be drapey and free-form patterned or zig-zag cabled; and sweaters made from all kinds of gorgeous hand-dyed yarns–it’s all up to you.
“One of the joys of doing this,” says Michaela, “is making something one of a kind for someone, and working with them and deciding what they want it to look like, what different fibers will do, and how theyâ€™ll fit together.”