Common Era Knits is a newly launched brand based in New York City. Made-by-hand knitwear, of the finest fair trade materials: 100% Peruvian highland wool, 100% American grown cotton, Alpaca/Merino blend softer than cashmere. Transparency and sustainability are the core values of Common Era Knits and beautiful, minimalist, comfortable, basic items (aren’t these always the hardest to find, especially in knitwear?) are what they make. I am thrilled at the though of a brand that puts so much price on quality and so much care and personal touch into every piece in their collection. Something (still) rare, something to be appreciated more often, and the kind of clothing to be cherished because it makes you feel loved in it.
The designer behind the brand and who makes everything herself in her NYC studio (every garment is named after a New York street) is a talented young lady with a beautiful mind, Justine, who I am pleased to say that has graced the pages of my blog before, as my guest on my Chic Files series. Justine says she quit her day job “to dedicate my time to living with intention”, and so she started Common Era Knits. I had to ask her a few questions and you can read her answers below.
What is the story behind your knitwear collection?
I wanted to create a knitwear brand for women who value both elegance and comfort. I really like the “old fashioned” idea of fashion: women used to go to a design house and choose designs that would then be made just for them. I value the time and care that goes into making a garment by hand. A sweater, for example, can take up to 12 hours to make. Those 12 hours include knitting the pieces, sewing them by hand together, blocking and then shaping them before sewing on tags. But most women today aren’t used to wearing clothes that are not made in a factory, even if they buy from luxury brands. So I created a brand with a minimalist aesthetic using luxury yarns. This way I know the items are quality and not made in a factory, because they’re made by me. The collection has New York City at its heart, but I hope to design a wanderlust collection soon.
What are the challenges of creating a socially conscious collection/fashion brand?
So many challenges! Originally I just wanted to knit clothes and scarves for people. Then, for my day job, I did a lot of research on the garment industry in India and China. I read a lot of accounts from factory workers who make the clothes for fast fashion labels like H&M. So the idea of making unique knitwear – and clothing made ethically by my own hand – just fell into place with me. The biggest challenge so far has been getting people to trust the quality and pricing of handmade things. So many people still buy clothing haphazardly because they’re cheap and “the thing of the moment.” A lot of people really like the idea of unique handmade things, but at the end of the day they don’t trust them or don’t want to spend a little more. Ultimately, I’d like to see more bespoke clothing houses so that we don’t have to label clothes as “ethically made” or not. People will be more involved in the production of the clothes they wear.
Do you think people are embracing more and more a “fewer, better things” philosophy?
Yes, I do! That’s Cuyana’s tagline. So there’s hope! Cuyana and Everlane are some of my favourite brands right now. They’re transparent about production costs, factory conditions, and they make really quality basics. The idea of fewer, better doesn’t happen overnight though. It’s not just a change in the way you buy your clothes – it kind of has to be accompanied by being a more conscious human in general. For some people that’s a radical change in the way they consume, and for others it’s finding a little more time for gratitude. Every step towards being a more compassionate person is positive. With Common Era Knits I hope to offer people something they know never hurt anyone to produce, and also something they love to wear. It’s a very personal process for me.
Describe Common Era Knits in three words.
Elegant, minimalist, cosy.
photos: Common Era | 1-Mercer St. Blanket Scarf | 2-Mulberry St. Scarf | 3-Orchard St. Hat | 4-Greene St. Sweater | 5-Eldridge St. Sweater