The Student
Hannah Stote sets new summits for sustainable style
by Bryony Smith, 27/02/20

Many designers illuminating their talent this year at the Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show have one issue at the forefront of their creations: sustainability. According to the Pulse of Fashion report, in 2015 the fashion industry was responsible for 1715 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, with a forecasted 63 percent upsurge by 2030. Hannah Stote is one such designer who has taken inspiration from the political background of the 1920s, the theme of this year’s fashion show, in order to address the prominent issues of our own time.

While knitwear has immediate connotations of our favourite winter jumpers that seem to obscure any attempt of being fashionable, Hannah’s vibrant textured collection, from fraying to cable knits, upscales knitwear to the summit of style. Not only subverting our expectations in terms of the aesthetics of knitwear, Hannah Stote’s collection has the ability for each garment to be reworked into a new fashion challenging our very perspective on the limits of a piece of fabric.

The active nature of the collection is sure to capture the imaginations of many present at the National Museum Scotland on the 14th March. Speaking exclusively to The Student, Hannah Stote discusses the possibilities of sustainability, versatility and innovation of knitwear.

Tickets are on sale for only £32 including live jazz band, drinks, music, dancing, art installations and yes, that all-coveted raffle.

What do the twenties resonate with you? How will this be communicated in your collection for the ECFS?

The twenties were a time of a lot of social change, which very much reflects our own time. I feel like they were also an intensely creative time, where social norms could be pushed by art, drama and of course fashion. While we are much more connected in our decade than people were in the 1920s, there is still a massive need for social change, particularly in terms of environmental issues and diversity in fashion. If my collection could be used to work towards solving these issues in the industry, I would be more than happy.

The fashion in the 1920s was influenced by the political ramifications of the First World War. Do you think that coming into this decade that sustainability will be the politically defining feature of fashion in the 2020s?

Sustainability is definitely one of the biggest issues facing the fashion industry at the moment, mainly because it encompasses so many other issues – inclusivity, diversity, safe working conditions, responsible consumption, stopping water and field pollution from chemicals – all of these could be solved if we transitioned to a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry. Especially in the last year, the general public have really become aware and gotten behind the sustainable fashion movement and its really great to see as public opinion has a massive effect on the industry. As we as consumers become more aware of what we consume, we can begin to take steps to help those worse affected by our fashion industry – garment workers, dyers, farmers – by making sure we buy products that help them, rather than drive them into poverty.

As a sustainable designer, how will this be reflected in your designs for the show?

My designs all align with the concept of slow fashion – a thoughtful, considered way of buying clothes and textiles. Using 100% wool (a biodegradable and naturally renewable fibre), I knitted everything myself on a manual knitting machine and aimed to have at much transparency in my collection as possible – all my yarn came from British sheep and was spun in the UK, reducing the carbon impact of its transportation. I also used the fully-fashioned method of shaping knitwear rather than cut-and-sew, meaning I did not have lots of leftover yarn once the garments had been made – all of my garments are fully zero waste in their production. My garments can also be easily unravelled and re-knitted – the theory being that once the garments were no longer needed/wanted, the yarn could be reclaimed and made into something new, creating a circular recycling system. I think designing for the recycling is the most important thing a designer should consider when designing, so I worked hard to embody that in my collection.

What do you want people to take away from your collection?

I’d like my collection to show people that sustainable fashion doesn’t have to look or feel a certain way – that it’s something they can do in their own wardrobes. We’ve become so used to having polyester in our wardrobes I think we’ve forgotten there are amazing natural alternatives. I’d also like to for people to see a different side to knitwear – my work is very tactile and textured, which is quite different to what we traditionally see on the high street. Knitwear is so versatile and used to be such a huge part of our wardrobes, it’s sad that now knitwear is usually only seen as a jumper!

What is your creative process?

I usually research and sample alongside each other, so I’ll have an early concept which I develop as I sample more techniques and discover more sources of inspiration. My graduate collection was inspired by the folklore behind fisherman’s ganseys in the 19th century, so I gathered lots of research based on the types of stitches used, the yarn traditionally used and the textures of the other items that we integral to a fisherman’s life, like nets and pots. Using the traditional stitches (like cables, plaits and moss stitch) as a base, I sampled to find new and innovative ways to interpret these iconic garments and make them accessible for a modern-day customer. I like looking at crafts that are either forgotten or usually associated with crafting – like weaving or lace making – and reviving them to make them feel contemporary. Once I have the textures I usually go straight to the mannequin and drape to get the silhouettes and finishes I want, letting the weight and natural of the knit dictate the final shapes.

Image credit: Matt Leeves via Instagram hannahstoteknitwear; stylist Lily Rimmer