The eponymous knitwear designer lets us in on her working day, inspiration and design process.
Genevieve Sweeney is a knitwear label I’ve come to know and love over the last year. Beautiful, keep forever pieces in amazing yarns that drape and flatter the figure in a way I thought only fabric could; they are really changing preconceptions of the way we wear knits. The talented designer behind the label is someone I’ve been wanting to catch up with for a while on the blog, as part of my ongoing feature, showcasing inspirational brands and people.
DESCRIBE YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY/WEEK
My working day changes from week to week depending on the time in the fashion season. I typically work 7 days a week, either from my studio if I am knitting or designing, at home if I am doing admin, or in Scotland/Derbyshire/Leicester if I am developing designs or producing a collection. There are many roles I have had to take on other than designing, such as social media, updating websites, liaising with press or buyers, accounting etc. For me it’s fantastic to learn new skills but it can sometimes be a challenge to do it all at the same time.
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE YOUR OWN BOSS?
Since graduating, I had always wanted to start my own label but I felt I needed to work in the industry first to get a better understanding of how to organise and run a collection. My role as Creative Design and Development at Hugo Boss taught me so much from sketch to production as well as learning to program knitting machines and deal with technical issues in production, it was an incredible job and I learnt a lot there.
I have always loved knitting! Creating a form from a ball of yarn fascinated me as a child and I started knitting my own patterns for my toys when I was 7. When I was 16 I realised that there were actual jobs and career paths in knitwear. When I found a degree in fashion knitwear, my future was set for me!
RAISED IN BELGIUM, WORKED IN ITALY AND NOW LIVE IN LONDON. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BITS ABOUT EACH PLACE?
I was living in Belgium until I was 8 years old, it was a very quiet town, a little like the film, The Sound of Music. Growing up speaking two languages (english and french) has really helped me later on in life with job opportunities. I spent the rest of my childhood in Hertfordshire and was very lucky to have my grandparents who gave me a very creative platform to develop my interests in art and fashion and who also taught me to pattern cut and sew.
Later I worked for Rag & Bone in New York which was very creative and vibrant. The city was crazy and I loved the lifestyle; brunches, flea markets. After that I moved to Lake Como which was the complete opposite, very tranquil and a much slower pace; it took me a while to get used to shops closing at 6pm. The view of the lake is something that will always stay in my heart, the colours were different every day with the snowy peaks in the distance. Working for Hugo Boss opened up a lot of possibilities; learning Italian, how to program knitting machines and working closely with factories and yarn mills. Now I am back in London I love it more than before, it’s a very inspiring city with so much culture and support for emerging designers and start up businesses.
WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL STYLE – HOW DO YOU LIKE TO WEAR YOUR PIECES?
My personal style is about feeling strong and confident in an outfit. I love sheer knitwear, skinny jeans, oversized jumpers and statement boots. I do wear a lot of black and navy but I love texture, layers of fabrics (especially knitted layers) and the silhouettes of men’s shirts and jumpers.
ANY OTHER FAVOURITE BRANDS/PRODUCTS?
I love Dries Van Noten, Celine, Victoria Beckham, Paul Smith and Dear Frances.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO ON YOUR PERFECT WEEKEND?
All day unlimited prosecco brunch, then walking around Mayfair to see all the independent art galleries. Or a long walk in the countryside with a pub stop, next to a fire with a glass of red.
TELL US ABOUT THE LATEST GENEVIEVE SWEENEY COLLECTION – WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PIECES?
AW16 was inspired by a trip to Iceland. I loved the tones and contrasting colours from Ice whites, aurora blues/green to dark navy lakes and pops of hot pink accents in the Harp concert hall. I draw patterns from the nature and architecture that I come across on my travels and emphasise it in my knitwear through contrast yarn mixes and jacquards. This collection really takes you from day to night with subtle detailing on core styles, luxurious yarn blends and embossed textures, which are highlighted with metallic accents. The quality and attention to detail is very important to me and is achieved by working with some fantastic knitters in the UK.
SS16 was inspired by a trip to Morocco. I loved the muted golds, dusty navy, sunset reds and YSL blue. Repeat pattern and exaggerated patterns in knitwear is a strong theme in this collection, with a strong style in silhouette such as deep back jumpsuits, culottes and tshirt shaped dresses. I wanted to change the audience’s perception of what knitwear could be.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 3 WORDS
Passionate, Determined, Creative
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
“Happiness is not a goal… it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt