Rather than look to the latest textile production techniques for inspiration, one Danish knitwear designer is looking to the past to create her stunning sweaters. Using all but forgotten traditions like beading and loop knitting, Lærke Bagger makes extraordinary garments with surfaces covered in salvaged beads and big, shaggy loops of yarn.
Bagger tells Creators that the history of textile design is a constant influence on her work. “I have a huge collection of vintage knitting books and magazines that I use almost everyday. I’ve been collecting them since I was a teenager and they are probably my most treasured items. I’ve purchased most of the books in thrift stores and I just love them. I find that in these books you’re presented with the raw and un-styled way of knitting and it is then up to me to transform it into a contemporary expression.”
Although Bagger went to The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, she says she already knew what she wanted to do with herself long before her studies began. “From a very early age the only thing I wanted to do was knit. School was just something I did because I had to, don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed knitting far more. So when I discovered that I could actually study knitwear, I was thrilled and the only thing left to do was apply for the school.”
She may not have needed any help figuring out what she wanted to do, but Bagger’s studies were beneficial in other ways. “The most important thing that my time in school has taught me is how valuable process and method is to good design. My professors were highly focused on training us in various ways to generate and visualize new ideas creating a space for young designers to explore their own methods of creativity and in that sense we became more individualistic and accurate in our work. It was a very experimental and playful time and very defining for my style in design and aesthetics today.”
With an artistic and academic background, Bagger began to revitalize traditional processes like loop knitting and bead knitting in her knitwear designs. For instance, in her Beaded Armour collection, Bagger hand-knit one-of-a-kind sweaters covered in beads. “The initial inspiration came from traditional Greenlandic beading techniques combined with the overall aesthetics and tactility of medieval armor. My objective was to create a luxurious [sweater] with a simple silhouette but a very evocative expression that would make women feel both comfortable and sexy. I’m a lazy dresser and I wanted something that didn’t require two hours of trying on outfits in front of the mirror to look fabulous.”
This historic aspect of this collection isn’t just in the technique used to created them, Bagger says. Her sweaters can contain thousands of beads salvaged from various sources. “It’s actually very romantic and I like the fact that it’s a very personal piece of clothing that contains as many little stories as the number of beads. Some of the beads may come from Morocco or Istanbul and some of the beads from a grandmother’s necklace.”
As a knitwear designer, Bagger wants to make garments that are appealing and fashionable, but she’s also conscious of the textile art tradition in which she works. “I feel very much a part of the history and tradition, I’m borrowing from it in my work everyday. And someone has to continue the history and tradition of the craft and I love being part of it. Knitwear is so many different things and I love that you can ‘art it up’ or ‘art it down.’ I have worked both conceptually and commercially and I find that both genres contain interesting aspects in regards to how you develop and target your design or product. The creative freedom of conceptual design helps you to determine your own personal style and identity as a designer and the constraints and limitations of commercial design provides the opportunity to work with a target based design that sometimes require you to compromise on your own personal aesthetics. In my opinion both genres are essential to becoming a good designer.”
Says Bagger, she intends to continue to make work that plumbs the historic depths of traditional textile production. “My greatest inspiration has always been the tradition and history surrounding the craft. I feel very privileged to have this great inexhaustible source of knowledge to lean on. I wouldn’t get much work done if I didn’t have these resources already at hand.”