Materials ARKET’s ambition is to raise the quality of everyday design and to make well-considered, beautifully-made products accessible to more people. Kenjiro Kuwana is our Senior Knitwear Specialist and explains his process of developing the just-right composition for each product.
‘I’m into details. I approach the design process in a scientific way, almost like a mathematician, working my way backwards from the answer to find the right questions to the problem. I start with an idea of how the finished product should look and feel and try to puzzle together a solution for achieving the desired result.
That’s why I think knitwear is so interesting. With woven fabrics there is not as much you can do; the process is always more or less the same and most of it happens at the factory. But a knitted product is carefully designed from the inside out which means we can control the slightest details. There are so many alternative options at all levels of the development, from the diameter of the yarn to how you program the knitting machine, as well as a multitude of possible combinations that will produce very different results. With all these different combinations, we have an opportunity for innovation and refinement season by season. With every new collection, we make small tweaks to the details to improve the quality and sustainability of the garments. In many cases, this is something that you as a customer will not notice. But we put a lot of work into perfecting the fit, feel and performance of our products.
‘I’m into details. I approach the design process in a scientific way, almost like a mathematician.’
In our first collection, in autumn 2017, we introduced knitted jumpers made to sustainable standards from a blend of alpaca, wool, nylon and elastane. It was really beautiful, but it had to be dry-cleaned which of course is not optimal. So, in the following year, we started to investigate how to make it machine washable and replaced virgin nylon with recycled polyester. We were also able to source RWS-certified wool instead of the one we had been using before. We then experienced some problems with pilling and decided to adjust the method of spinning the yarn to make it more stable.
We’re still working on fine-tuning the same garment. It looks more or less the same, but for next spring we are working with recycled elastane, and within a few years we will be able to produce it from 100 percent sustainable options. The man-made fibres will be recycled while both the wool and alpaca will be certified responsibly sourced. We have made a similar journey with recycled cashmere, which we started working with in our first collection. Back then we could only source pre-consumer leftover yarns from the production of virgin cashmere. It came with many limitations in terms of colours and available quantities, which meant we couldn’t continue using it as we had hoped to. From autumn 2020, we’re collaborating with an Italian supplier which helps us produce a new yarn from recycled post-consumer cashmere and responsible wool. The quality is fantastic.
Season by season, we’re refining our core materials. I see it as our responsibility to become more and more sustainable as we grow bigger, because then these small improvements can really make a difference.’