"For me, it's all about the shape. I think my aesthetic is quite clean, but there's always something happening in the fabric - and the shape is dictated by the idea of the fabric."
So said knitwear designer Tom Scott when The Fashion Informer met him in his showroom, Kaleidoscope Consulting, earlier this summer and asked him to walk us through his creative process, which has resulted in one of the most unusual-yet-wearable sweater collections we've ever seen.
A Pennsylvania native, Scott studied textiles in Philadelphia before transferring to the Scottish College of Textiles, where he graduated with a degree in knits. Following stints as a freelance textile designer (for Calvin Klein and other major designers) and a gig as men's and women's accessories designer for Ralph Lauren collection (scarves, hats and gloves being his main thrust), Scott launched his own women's knit accessories line in 2001, and added clothing to the mix two years later. The line retails for $300 - $2000, and is now sold at Barneys New York and several boutiques nationwide, including Ikram, Shelly Steffee, Zero Maria Cornejo, Noodle Stories, Stel's, Impulse, Butter and The Grocery Store.
"I've always hand-knitted and hand-crocheted; my grams taught me how to crochet when I was little," said Scott. "My grandma was actually a lace maker - she's Scottish - and my father was a carpet weaver."
Clearly, the textile apple didn't fall too far from the tree in the Scott family, though the designer says when it comes to his eponymous line - which boasts an upside down label on every garment - he's as much about the process as the end result. "I think I was more fascinated with the knitting machine and figuring out how to manipulate stitches on the machine," he explained. "And it also gives you instant gratification, where weaving is such a [labor intensive] process and it takes such a long time to complete a fabric."
We had attended Scott's fall '07 Fashion Week presentation back in February - funded with the $25,000 winnings from his 2007 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation award and inspired by the idea of introspection and not taking things at face value (hence the amount of back interest on a lot of the pieces) - and when we asked about the inspiration behind his spring '07 collection, he whipped out a little handmade book and opened it on the glass table in front of him.
"It was a mix," he said while flipping through the pages, which featured bleached-out Polaroids and type collages using the same old-school font found on Scott's clothing label. "I first started thinking of the Antonioni film, 'The Red Desert,' because I love Monica Vitti's character - she's quite prim but a little bit crazy. And I was also playing with the idea of underpinnings or underwear - a clean foundation upon which to build. So there's this whole melding of concepts, though the overall theme is controlled chaos. At least that's the term I kept using."
In practical terms, this translated into sleeveless asymmetrical cardigans that curve around the body, sheer pullovers with "dissolving yarn" seams that drape from the neck or torso, upside down dresses and pullovers that turn the classic crewneck, quite literally, on its head and - our personal favorite - a tri-panel twisted front racerback top with a detached button placket that functions like a knit necklace.
For spring '08, which Scott previewed last week at AB Projekt Galerie during Berlin Fashion Week, he'll continue to expand on the underpinnings theme from this season and riff on the idea of proportion and body consciousness. "Like a really fitted tank dress with a baggy, almost droopy one on top," he said.
"It's a stream-of-consciousness process," added the designer, who works mostly by draping and often takes old sweaters apart and puts them back together in different ways to see how they fall on the body. "Sometimes it's a big mess," he laughed. "I always have a very clear idea of what I want, then I put it on the form and it's like 'Oh, that's totally wrong.'"
What happens then?
"I manipulate it, and sometimes I scrap it," he replied. "I'd say 25 percent of the time it works and 75 percent of the time it doesn't. But sometimes, I cut something out wrong and it's like, 'Oh, I love that!' A lot of my things are mistakes. I'm always just playing around, really."
For more info on Tom Scott, visit www.tomscottnyc.com. To read The Fashion Informer's review of Tom Scott's fall 2007 presentation, visit http://thefashioninformer.typepad.com/informer/2007/02/tom_scotts_intr.html.
Photos © The Fashion Informer