Home » The cossie lives, but knits are overtaking bikinis at fashion week

The cossie lives, but knits are overtaking bikinis at fashion week

Anna Hoang, Anna Quan

By her own admission, Anna Hoang’s first foray into knitwear was a disaster.

“I remember trying to do knitwear circa year one or two of business, and failing abominably,” said the founder of Anna Quan, which Hoang launched in 2011.

Models wearing Joseph & James (left) and Anna Quan, two brands showcasing wool in their collections at Australian Fashion Week.Credit: Steven Siewert

After getting a large order, her supplier suddenly cancelled, leaving her looking for a new manufacturer who could do the job in six weeks.

“It was the most horrible experience of my life,” she says. “My friends and I refer to it as ‘sweatergate’.”

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Having recovered from the experience, Hoang dipped her toe back into knitwear a couple of years ago, and will launch merino pieces, including her signature ribbed dresses, in her runway on Wednesday.

The pieces will not be pure wool, but blends with responsibly sourced synthetics, to enable her customers to machine wash the garments.

“With the education around wool, people are a little misguided that it’s only a cold weather thing, but it’s really a trans-seasonal thing,” she says.

Margie Woods, Viktoria & Woods

Committed to knitted … Margie Woods (right) model Darcy Jackson wearing a knitted set from her fashion week show.

Committed to knitted … Margie Woods (right) model Darcy Jackson wearing a knitted set from her fashion week show.Credit: Dion Georgopoulos

So committed is Viktoria & Woods’ Margie Woods to manufacturing locally that when faced with going offshore to make some of her best-selling styles, she did something surprising: she bought a knitting machine.

With the cost of such equipment in the hundreds of thousands, it’s little wonder most brands are forced to produce knitwear offshore – indeed if they do it at all. Woods, who made her Australian Fashion Week debut this week to mark her brand’s 20th year, is fortunate that as a sole owner, she has the autonomy to make those big decisions.

“Maybe if I had a board [to report to] it may have been a completely different scenario,” she said.

“But it meant a lot to me and my brand. It’s Australian wool, it has the right gauge, texture and finish I want.”

Woods says even in summer, knitted styles, such as last summer’s tennis capsule collection, sell strongly. “Knitwear will [always] be quite a strong point of view even through more trans-seasonal parts of the year.”

Knitwear on the runway at Viktoria & Woods.

Knitwear on the runway at Viktoria & Woods.Credit: Getty

Juanita Page, Joseph & James

Growing up, Juanita Page, one half of Joseph & James (she runs the brand with her husband, Ashford Page), watched red carpets and runways with her mother.

“I loved the romanticism of womenswear, especially evening wear,” said Page, a Gooreng Gooreng and South Sea Islander woman. “I thought that was the direction I would go in.”

But after making gowns for friends and even her own wedding dress, Page noticed a lack of Australian menswear designers and course corrected.

Juanita Page, co-founder and designer of fashion label Joseph & James.

Juanita Page, co-founder and designer of fashion label Joseph & James.Credit: Arsineh Houspian

For her, knitwear is a way to bring more texture into her collection. And as a First Nations designer it also a way to incorporate storytelling into Joseph & James, which is in its third year (the brand was shortlisted at the 2023 Australian Fashion Laureate for Indigenous designer of the year).

She says knitwear is at the heart of creating a trans-seasonal, Australian fashion brand.

“In Queensland – where I am from – it’s hot all year around, whereas in Melbourne, there are different seasons in the same period of time. If you are creating pieces that can fit within those different stories happening, you can cater to a broader range of people.”

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