Giving knitwear a modern twist with Kaylyn Gardner

Giving knitwear a modern twist with Kaylyn Gardner

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Kaylyn Gardner

Knitwear designer

Knitting has always been a passion for Kaylyn Gardner. Ever since she saw her great grandmother knitting when she was a child, she fell in love with the art instantly. Having studied Knitwear Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Politecnico di Milan, Kaylyn has created a beautiful graduate collection called Falling Apart, But Standing in Place which uses traditional knitting techniques, reimagined into modern styles. Here to speak about her love for knitting and her plans for the future, is an interview with Kaylyn Gardner. 

How did you get involved in fashion?

I was knitting since I was 12 as my great grandmother used to knit around me and I loved it. Even though it is seen as something for old women, I really like it. At my current internship at Saverio Palatella, I am knitting a lot too. 

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Tell me about your latest graduate collection, Falling Apart, But Standing in Place?

My inspiration was Milan during World War II after the bombings. I was really inspired by the city of Milan itself, but wanted to do a collection on more than just a city, I wanted to choose a deeper concept. After looking at images and history of Milan after the bombings, it struck a chord with me and I made a collection inspired by it. 

Why did you choose such a dark concept?

The World War II photographs that I used as inspiration were in black and white, and somehow this had a sobering and softer effect. Using such a dark concept also shows how beauty and strength can come out of such destruction. We started the collection at the beginning of the academic year and your graduate collection is really one of the only chances you get as a designer to make the project all about you and your ideas. When you're working on your brand or creating a garment for a client, you have to make it sellable and fit someone's specific requirements. However, for your graduate collection you're really given the opportunity to express yourself as freely as possible.

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What material is best to knit with?

Cashmere is quite easy to work with, however I've had to knit with Mohair and that is difficult. As the Mohair keeps getting unravelled, you have to keep fixing it. 

What are your day-to-day tasks?

Right now, I work mostly in the mornings for Saverio Palatella. I knit sweaters and do the illustrations and then at night I babysit. 

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 What’s your favorite piece from this collection?

Most likely the white lace dress as I knitted the top and bottom by hand, which took me at least four months to do. I then worked on the Copo machine to put it all together. 

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How did the experience of studying at Politecnico di Milan differ from FIT in New York?

The experiences were definitely very different. In Italy you have less time and have to work under restricted lab hours, whereas in New York you have unlimited lab hours. You could come at midnight in New York and work on your project, whereas in Milan you have to fit your time within the opening hours. But to be honest, I quite preferred that, as it kind of forces you to have a personal life outside of university.  I did have some difficulties starting in Milan as the courses were taught half in Italian and half in English, and so that was quite challenging as my Italian was not so good when I came.  However, in my second year I became a lot more comfortable with Italian.

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Favorite designers?

I really like The Row, because their pieces are beautiful, but in a simplified, subtle way. 

What advice would you give to students just starting out? 

I feel like I concentrated too much on school when I was studying. When I was back at FIT it was very stressful and competitive; in Milan, since I had restricted time in the studio, it was better as I was able to actually enjoy the city. 

Ideal career in the next 5 years?

Maybe start my own company or become a professor in knitwear. I would love to engage with young students, as they're so much more creative.  

Would you do a masters?

In fashion it isn't that important to do a masters, I’d rather focus on gaining more experience in knitwear.

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Want to find out more about Kaylyn Gardner? Check out her website and Ocotur

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