The exhibition ‘Knitwear. From Chanel to Westwood’ in the Kunsthal Rotterdam offers an inspiring survey of fashion knitwear from the 20th and 21st centuries. From 12 December you can see more than 150 works from the famous English collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield, covering over a hundred years of knitwear history. Among the exhibits are rare designs that are being shown here for the first time, from nostalgic and romantic to rebellious and over the top. The material and technique of knitting is a constant source of inspiration for designers.
Highlights include rare Chanel cardigan suits, 1930s woollen swimwear and vibrant Missoni patterns from several decades. There are Edwardian petticoats in red and black chevron stripes, knitted evening dresses from the 1930s by ‘Coco’ Chanel, and conceptual designs by Comme des Garçons and Julien MacDonald. Not forgetting Bill Gibb designs from the 1970s and later, innovative designs by Vivienne Westwood and Sibling, who give classic knitwear styles a new twist with their cashmere leopard print twin-sets and other playful creations. The exhibition also explores technological innovations in hand, machine and industrial knitting and the current renewed interest in handicrafts.
Passion for knitwear
The items of knitwear clearly reflect the emancipation of women in the 20th century. Their more active lifestyle changed women’s attitude to clothing and they looked for comfort in knitted and crocheted garments and underwear. The modernist twin-sets were also attuned to the elegant metropolitan fashion of Paris, London and New York. The exhibition further covers the trend – born of necessity – for women to make their own clothes and recycle knitwear during the Second World War, the influence of Hollywood stars in the 1940s, as well as the big fashion designers and artists who have been turning woollen and jersey fabrics into futuristic and dazzling designs since the middle of the last century. But in going far
beyond a historical survey, ‘Knitwear. From Chanel to Westwood’ reveals the passion behind knitwear.
The exhibition is a collaboration with the Fashion and Textile Museum, London.