This year marks not only the 35th anniversary for Peruvian Connection, but also the 10th anniversary of our collaboration with renowned designer, Kaffe Fassett. Kaffe has written numerous books and has created thousands of sweater and needlepoint kits, and his designs have been a source of inspiration to handknitters, quilters, and needlework artists around the world for more than two decades. We’re thrilled to continue our collaboration for this Spring’s collection. Here, Kaffe reflects on the last 10 years in an interview with PC’s fashion blogger, Nicola.
Nicola: You’re coming up on 10 years of collaboration with Peruvian Connection….. Can you tell me a little bit about the experience?
Kaffe Fassett: It’s been absolutely wonderful working with them. I had wanted to work with Peruvian Connection for a while because I knew they were the finest in the business but it took us a while to actually connect. A friend of mine started designing for them and I was so jealous. So I approached Annie and said, I’ve always wanted to design for you and she was open to that. One of the things about designing sweaters that other people are going to knit means I’m usually limited to the amount of colors I can use. But working with Peruvian Connection allows me to use the most fabulous palette and most beautiful yarns. It’s truly amazing to be able to design and have others handknit these complex creations because usually I need to be careful when designing for others in the sense that I need to keep it simple.
Nicola: What drew you to Peruvian Connection in the first place? What sets them apart from other knitwear firms?
Kaffe Fassett: They do the best handknitting in the world. So few people do handknitting and if they do it’s usually very simplistic. Typically, when mass-producing knitwear, only 7 or 8 colors are used so the knitters can get quick at what they are producing. So, it’s unique and wonderful to be able to create these complicated tapestries of pattern. Peruvian Connection has the best handknitters in the world and I don’t know any other company as ambitious and rich in their output.
Nicola: What have you learned from your collaboration?
Kaffe Fassett: I draw on a lot of different sources of inspiration, for example, oriental carpets, but for Peruvian Connection, Annie asked me to tap into the Peruvian culture/angle and use that for inspiration. This was a totally new experience for me, getting to know Peruvian culture and Andean design. It was a new experience learning about the ancient and fabulous tradition of Peruvian textile. I went to Peru and met some of the knitters but the best experience was going to the museums and seeing the collections of antique textiles—the wonderfully imaginative use of pattern and abstract motifs. It was a wonderful adventure to draw inspiration from that culture.
Nicola: What are your inspirations this season?
Kaffe Fassett: This past collection I was really inspired by stripes. Personally, I love them and I love the variation across cultures. You have printed stripes from Korea, woven stripes from India, so I’ve been designing quilts based on stripe motifs.
Nicola: Can you tell me a little bit about your process when it comes to designing?
Kaffe Fassett: Each season I receive a big box of yarn. When it arrives it’s so exciting, like receiving a fabulous box of chocolates. I put the yarns in groups by color and then start thinking about what would be good for the palette. I have a backlog of motifs I’ve wanted to use so I look and see what could work. Then I start knitting and can’t stop. I knit up big swatches and don’t put anything on paper. Then I’ll make a graph for repeated motifs but I do the knitting aspect inspirationally, surrounded by colors, and I will knit for days. The hardest part is stopping!
Nicola: How has your style changed over the past 10 years?
Kaffe Fassett: At first, when designing for Peruvian Connection, I was trying to be simple with my designs because I couldn’t believe that the work could be as rich and with as much color as their sweaters have, so over time I have been throwing more complicated designs at them. I think also, now I’m designing in a darker richer palette more than before, as women really seem to respond to those tones. I can design rich wonderful darker elegant more mysterious pieces in deep burgundies and chestnuts. It’s not difficult to supply what they need.
What’s really interesting is I travel the world about a 3rd of the year for workshops, lectures and exhibits and I always spot a Peruvian Connection sweater on someone in the crowd wherever I go. I will look into the crowd and there is always one woman looking fabulous and unusual, her own persona, and she’ll be wearing Peruvian Connection. It’s usually not my own design, but nonetheless is just as thrilling to see their other designers’ work. Their clothing just radiates.
I’m very glad to still be working with beautiful yarns and elegant producers. Peruvian Connection does a great service to the world and brings a unique product to market. Nobody else does hand knitting like Peruvian Connection.
See Kaffe Fassett’s Studio website for his latest books and events as well as his biography and a gallery of his designs.