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Australian knitwear labels have taken over my Instagram feed so I decided to find out why

IMAGE VIA @SCARLET.AND.SAM/INSTAGRAM

Words by Stephanie Chadwick

Not your grandma’s knitting.

The Instagram algorithm has struck again, informing me of the latest sartorial craze: Australian-made knitwear. Upon opening the app, I was met with an onslaught of crochet bucket hats, chunky knitted tote bags, rainbow knit boleros and patterned sweater vests.

I quickly found myself heading down an explore-page rabbit hole, stalking knitwear brand after knitwear brand (it appears I have very little impulse control when it comes to hopping on the latest trend bandwagon). Suddenly, all signs (and all save-worthy grams) seemed to point to wool as this season’s favourite fibre. 


Looking for more ways to procrastinate? We’re with you. Come on over to our Fashion section. 


Like all viral fashion trends, it feels like this penchant for locally-made knitwear happened overnight (and like every well-dressed person I follow got the memo before me). But unlike more ephemeral trends (tiny sunglasses, I’m looking at you), there is something about this move towards knitted garments and accessories that has staying power.

We saw the rise of the knitted cardigan and bra co-ord last year thanks to brands like Khaite, and it seems the shift to knitwear is growing even stronger and, certainly, even chunkier. In a move towards sustainable shopping practices, and with aspirations of creating a capsule wardrobe, I’m on the hunt for pieces that are going to carry me through several seasons.

And, unsurprisingly, Australian knitwear labels – particularly ones offering crochet tops and vibrant knitted bags – have rocketed to the top of my wishlist. Eager to know more about what it takes to run a knitwear label in Australia, I reached out to the founders of Australian knitwear brands Scarlet and Sam and Goodbye Baby. As it turns out, in 2021, sometimes all you need to kick start a label is a viral Instagram post – and in this instance, a pair of knitting needles.

 

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A post shared by 🌷POLYCHROME 🌷 (@polychr.ome)

Knits gone viral

Scarlet Robertson and Sam Holt are the founders of the Melbourne-based label Scarlet and Sam. Scarlet and Sam’s signature piece (and what helped their brand explode in popularity) is a stripey crochet long sleeve top in vibrant colours of ocean blue, stark white, burnt orange, fruit tingle pink and purple.

“Knitwear has been around forever. We suppose what is different about the current trend is the unapologetic use of vibrant colour. We think people are less afraid of expressive colours at the moment, and they pair very well with the textured stitching in crochet and knit,” Sam explains.

Scarlet believes that, aside from the bold colours, their designs stand out in the saturated knitwear market thanks to their unusual structure. “We create sleeves and necklines from traditional crochet methods, playing with the opacity of the pieces, rather than garments for outer-layer wear as is typical with knitwear,” she says.

Now, the fashion duo – whose tops have been spotted on the likes of Yan Yan Chan and Jacquie Alexander – is working out what’s next for Scarlet and Sam while staying true to the ‘it’ brand identity that earned them their following to begin with. 

 

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A post shared by Scarlet & Sam (@scarlet.and.sam)

“The interest in our work came so suddenly that we are still catching our breath, but we are super excited for the opportunity to develop new styles. We do not want to leave behind the colour and vibrancy of our first range, but we do want to explore the capabilities of crochet,” says Sam.

Melbourne-based label Goodbye Baby has a similar origin story. The brand’s founder, Georgia Jones, was knitting out of boredom for family and friends as an iso-project back in 2020, and didn’t anticipate the interest a picture of one of her knitted tote bags would generate.

I posted a photo of the first bag on my Instagram – it was a lilac one with a little handle. She was a bit wonky and needed a lot of tweaking but that didn’t stop my DMs from blowing up. I think I had like 20 orders after I posted that photo,” she says.

Since that initial Instagram post, Goodbye Baby’s bags have been spotted on the Melbourne Fashion Week runway, featured in Permanent Vacation’s latest campaign and are now stocked in New Zealand-based concept store That Looks. Like other newly-emerged local labels, what started as a pandemic project has quickly escalated into a full-time business.

Georgia attributes her success to giving buyers the ability to customise their bags. Goodbye Baby bags are handmade out of 100 per cent recycled materials, which means no two bags are the same. Who doesn’t love a custom moment? 

 

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A post shared by 🎀 Georgia 🎀 (@goodbye__baby)

“They can add in extra colours, make the handles longer or shorter, make the bag huge or tiny – really anything they want,” she says. “You can’t really do that with other brands, and people like having something custom made for them and being able to be involved in the design process.”

Gone are the days of cross body bags and bulky carry-alls – fashion obsessives like myself are opting for brightly coloured mini handbags, and Goodbye Baby’s knitted designs fit the bill. “I typically wear dark colours, so having a bright, coloured bag is a really fun way to introduce colour into your outfit,” says Georgia.

Australian knitwear labels like Scarlet and Sam and Goodbye Baby have been key players in this movement towards knitwear in unconventional styles and bold colours. They have inspired me to be playful with an element of my wardrobe that I once saw as nothing more than practical. As it turns out, knitwear is good for more than keeping warm.

The next time you’re considering purchasing a woollen garment, might I suggest swapping out the basic pullover for an unexpected crochet top or a one-of-a-kind knitted accessory? If my purchases are anything to go by, you won’t regret it.

You can pre-order Scarlet and Sam’s tops here and shop Goodbye Baby’s range of bags here

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