Pushing the boundaries of knitwear with Amber Hards
British designer Amber Hards is redefining the boundaries of knitwear. Although commonly portrayed as an "elderly woman" hobby, Amber proves to us that knitwear can be both beautiful and innovative! Having been awarded Knitwear Designer of the Year by SME News, recipient of the Innovation Award by the Craft Council and even commissioned to design the Christmas jumper for the wax figure of the Queen at Madame Tussauds, Amber Hards is inspiring all of us to start picking up our knitting needles.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
I think it was probably around the time of GCSE’s. I was studying textiles & was in love with creating fabrics & I had a very inspiring teacher. I worked on a project that started with Alexander McQueen and thought this is incredible, I want to do more of this!
What attracted you to knitwear specifically?
Before starting university it had never struck my mind, it wasn’t until we had knit workshops that I’d even seen a knitting machine. From that moment I was hooked- you can create anything from a cone of yarn! And there’s so many different yarns & so many different techniques you can experiment with. I think also because I love texture & creating a fabric/garment from start to finish, knitwear is so exciting to me. There were also several designers coming up at that time that inspired me- Mark Fast, Louise Goldin & Craig Lawrence were really pushing what knitwear can be and I wanted to try to do the same.
What’s your favorite fabric to work with? And least favorite?
I love working with lycra, lambswool and nylon monofilament. I wouldn’t say I have a least favourite- knitting can be super time consuming and tricky with certain yarns but what you get out of it is so cool that it’s worth it.
Do you have a favorite knitwear designer?
I love Mark Fast. His work is incredibly intricate but strong and show-stopping at the same time. He makes clothes with loads of movement and I’m always excited to see his shows.
What’s your favorite design of your collection right now and why?
Right now I’m working on a drapey dress with different layers, it’s different for me as it’s quite soft, but I think it’s going to move beautifully down the catwalk.
If you could describe your brand as a song or movie title, what would it be?
Love be brave by Laura Marling. I’m still figuring out my journey and what I want this label to be, it’s scary so I’m trying to be brave with my designs & work.
You have been involved in a panoply of impressive projects, one of them being commissioned by Madame Tussauds to make a corgi jumper for the Queen to wear over Christmas! Tell me about how you went about to make a jumper for a wax figure and how this experience was in general.
It was weird & wonderful experience making that jumper. As it’s very different from what I usually make I had to think in a different way & use processes like intarsia that I hadn’t worked with much. There was not much time to make it- I think about 2 weeks from being commissioned & it was a very time consuming process. But was so exciting seeing it on the wax work of the Queen & on television- I love the Queen
What has been the most rewarding moment of your professional career so far?
Going completely self-employed/freelance just over a year ago has been both a terrifying but also liberating experience. Every day is different and some days are extremely hard but I’m really proud that I’m trying to make this my life full-time.
To those that perceive knitwear as being “for grannies”, what would you say to them?
I’d say that they are miles behind the trend. Knitwear has been becoming more and more popular over the last 10 years due to some amazing labels pushing the boundaries of knit. With vintage domestic machines you can create the most innovative, exciting fabrics in any shape, any size...there are limitless possibilities. What could be more exciting than that as a designer?
Where do you see your brand going in the next 5-10 years?
I want to be producing two collections a year, in a sustainable and artisanal way. I want it to be known for beautiful knitwear that continues to push boundaries and creating exciting fabrics.