Programming Variations: French knitwear designer Xavier Brisoux moved from computer programming for his Autumn/Winter 2011-12 collection.
Text by Anna Battista
In his previous knitwear designs Xavier Brisoux explored themes such as poetry, art, mythical stories, love, paradise lost and schizophrenia. For the Autumn/Winter 2011-12 the French designer looked instead at technology: moving from the theme of the anagram, he reinvented the 1949 Short Code language, the mother of computer languages in which the programmer was required to use 0’s and 1’s, coming up with a collection characterised by irregular stripes and messed lines.
Concatenations, strings and sub-strings are turned into knitted constants and variables applied to wool and cashmere jumpers, jackets, ponchos and jewellery pieces. While for this collection Brisoux expanded his trademark palette of greys mixing in some blues, blueberries and pinks, his deconstructed signature elements remained, creating displacements within the textures, patterns and silhouettes.
Zoot Magazine: Can you introduce us the main theme behind the new collection?
Xavier Brisoux: The new designs move from one main idea, anagram. I focused on one shape and played with it throughout the collection. I tackled the main theme using two different technical features: “partial knitting” and another technique in which you weave two different yarns and two different colours. You can’t predict the results, but everything happens by chance and this technique creates irregular stripes, messed lines that call back to mind the lines of computer programming. The theme of variation allowed me to play around quite a bit, combining a few elements in endless ways, coming up for example with pieces that incorporate displaced parts such as a hood-cum-scarf.
Zoot Magazine: Did you find it difficult to experiment with such an unpredictable technique?
Xavier Brisoux: I like pushing the boundaries, but sometimes this is not always possible with the factories. It’s essential to speak to a factory and establish with them a relationship, trying to understand what they can or can’t do. In this case the designs must be made in my workshop with a domestic machine. Yet, if you think about it, at the moment in fashion we are going back to smaller scales of production in some ways, so this sounds very apt.
Zoot Magazine: The new collection also features a more colourful palette, what inspired it?
Xavier Brisoux: I love greys and I mainly wear this shade. My passion for this colour probably comes from the fact that I come from the north of France where everything is very grey! Yet I wanted the womenswear collection to be more striking in terms of visual effects, so I mixed black with colours in subtle ways.
Zoot Magazine: In your previous designs there was always a deconstructed element, will you keep it in your future pieces?
Xavier Brisoux: Constructing and deconstructing are two signature techniques of mine and they actually appear in this collection as well, for example in a top from the menswear collection that can be worn as a cape on top of a jacket or just as a jumper.
Zoot Magazine: The collection also features some jewellery pieces: would you like to collaborate with a retailer to make some pieces out of the collection available to a wider public?
Xavier Brisoux: At the moment the jewellery line includes pieces that are part of a jumper – like a knitted tie – or necklaces made of chains and knits. These pieces are made in an atelier with techniques that allow to create volumes and gathered or ruched effects. In future I’d like to expand on what I have created so far, focusing on three points, the accessories, the jewellery line and the tailored element in my designs. The jewellery pieces have the same aim as the rest of the collection: being different without trying to make a bold statement for the sake of it. The jewellery is there to finish an outfit, to spice up my own designs or somebody else’s. I am always very excited about starting collaborations with other people, and I feel that retailers know their customers more than designers. So if a shop was to approach me to expand on the line, I would be very happy to do it.
Zoot Magazine: Do you feel that young designers like yourself or exhibitions like the “Unravel” one at Antwerp’s MoMu are helping to change the misguided perception of knitwear being boring?
Xavier Brisoux: People like Sandra Backlund, Louise Goldin and I represent a new generation of knitwear designers who are looking at things from new points of view and I believe things have started moving quite a bit. I got emails from editors who are working on books about knitwear for example. Yet there are still some people who think knitting is all about jumpers. This is why I think we need more young designers who can prove knitwear can make a statement and who can make people understand that knitwear is about a craft but it’s also about pushing things beyond the boundaries.
Zoot Magazine: What’s the future of knitwear going to be like?
Xavier Brisoux: I can’t say where everybody is going to take knitwear, but I know where I want to take it. I have been experimenting with new techniques, coming up for example with pieces like a men’s jacket that, from a distance, looks as if it were tailored. I feel I could expand on this and maybe look also at outerwear pieces made with waterproof wool. There are so many knitwear garments you can create without boring people and I think that, at some point, I’d also like to have a full wardrobe that could include pieces such as trousers. My aim is essentially allowing people to look at knitwear without thinking in terms of “knitting”
Zoot Magazine: Where can we buy your designs?
Xavier Brisoux: I’m stocked at Aux Laines Ecossaies (www.laines-ecossaises.com) in Paris, Via Bus Stop (www.viabusstop.com) in Tokyo and Topshop in London. I felt very blessed that Topshop approached me to be part of their first season of their “Emerge” concept. They chose pieces that were very avant-garde and this proves that the market is changing. Topshop being more adventurous than most “edgy” buyers is definitely a sign!
For more on knitwear, follow the links to Zoot’s previous reports of the Unravel: Knitwear in Fashion Exhibition, alien inspired knitwear by Laura Theiss for Spring/Summer ’11, contemporary knits and crocheting by Lamija Suljevic and metallic style knitwear from Sandra Backlund.
Images © Mathieu Drouet, 2011