These last few months, the global fashion industry has been facing not only a massive facemasks parade but also at least a partial blackout. In this light, or rather darkness, it becomes crucial for each fashion brand to rethink its business model and enhance its inclusiveness and sustainability efforts. It also becomes vital for us – Abstract Stylists – to showcase great examples that give fashion a higher mission. Therefore, I am happy and proud to talk to Danute Rasimaviciute – co-founder of The Knotty Ones growing Lithuanian origin knitwear fashion brand that has been driving the sustainability road at full (millions of stitches) speed.
Who are those The Knotty Ones, and how they came into being a fashion brand?
In Lithuania, we have such deeply rooted traditions of knitting, but it felt like they were slowly dying with fast fashion labels taking over the streets.
Roughly 6 years ago, my two close friends (now business partners) Akvile and Sandra and I met for brunch somewhere in the Old Town of Vilnius. We all had just returned from our travels around South East Asia what got us talking about artisanal work in places like Bali. It turned out that all three of us shared the same frustration when it came to local Lithuanian crafts.
In Lithuania, we have such deeply rooted traditions of knitting, but it felt like they were slowly dying with fast fashion labels taking over the streets. Even if you wanted a knit that celebrated local crafts and Baltic heritage, there was nothing that felt contemporary and fresh. It was plain ugly or outdated. So over one too many mimosas, we decided to create that perfect knit ourselves.
A few days later, we told one of Akvile’s friends who was visiting from Australia about our idea. He blurred something between the lines of “you are about to shake up the old-school crafts” and referred to us as”the knotty ones” for doing so. And here we are 6 years later.
Your brand relies on essential social and environmental values. Why do you find this important having them in your DNA?
I love the way you phrased this question. ‘DNA.’ That was exactly it. We never purposely set out to make a big social or environmental impact. It came very naturally to us as 3 female co-founders.
It was more like hey, there are so many skilled women in rural areas of Lithuania who don’t have the same opportunities as, perhaps, we do. Let’s create careers, not jobs for them. Let’s mentor them beyond their craft and make sure that they are paid for their work adequately. Let’s help them have voices in their communities!
As we were learning more and more about the industry’s backstage – from production to materials – we started realizing that we were outliers, and this was not really how 99% of the industry operated. I mean, it’s so f*cked up how the fast fashion industry relies on exploiting people who make our clothes. And as consumers, we sadly often don’t even think about questioning these things. I know I did not know for most of my twenties.
All this made The Knotty Ones to ‘rebel’ even more. We wanted to prove to the industry that you can run a fashion label and make a positive social impact and not jeopardize the environment.
Knitted and contemporary – quite an unusual combination. How do you make these two meet?
Sustainable and stylish doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Knitwear – and sustainable fashion in general – doesn’t have the best rep. For this reason, we’re very deliberate in terms of our designs, materials, and colors. We also put a considerable focus on the way we talk as a brand, photographers, or influencers we work with to make sure it speaks to today’s consumers.
Sustainable and stylish doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
What are your inspirational muses guiding The Knotty Ones through the process of designing a piece of clothing?
There are so many of them. I think, in general, we’re just really inspired by other strong females. That’s why we often treat The Knotty Ones as a platform for other women to express themselves creatively.
Our Heartbreaker knit was designed by Liucija Kvasyte, an incredible young talent we had been following long before working with her.
For our Slabada knit we teamed up with model Giedre Dukauskaite and her best friend, Vaida Stankute. Giedre has been our street-style icon and absolute girl crush for years, so we were humbled about becoming that creative platform for her.
Tell us about your customers: who they are and where they usually come from?
We sell only a small portion of our stock in Lithuania. The biggest chunk of The Knotty Ones production goes to countries around the globe: USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, Scandinavia, France, you name it. It’s hard to put our customers into a box.
Some love fashion and style and are simply tired of sustainable fashion catering for ‘granola types’. Some care about the impact their purchase has on other human beings and want to make sure they contribute to solving the problem, not fueling it. Some are merely looking for a cool, quality knit. The fact that you don’t need to feel guilty about consuming fashion, rather the opposite, is a big bonus for everyone.
Let’s talk about some business now. Could you share with us about your business expansion plans? Are there any new markets or investments foreseen in The Knotty Ones horizon?
Our main focus right now is growing our business in the digital space, especially in the US and Australia, introducing new knitwear lines, and hiring a few new team members. There is no secret that we are currently in talks with multiple business angels and investment funds. We aim to lock a seed investment in the upcoming months, so just in time for the fall season. Do stay tuned!
There is no secret that we are currently in talks with multiple business angels and investment funds. We aim to lock a seed investment in the upcoming months, so just in time for the fall season.
These days our world is facing a blackout, in addition to many challenges posed by COVID-19. How do you see this affecting the fashion industry and how, in your opinion, the latter could contribute towards solving these problems?
What a rollercoaster the last 4 months have been: from brands having to shut their physical stores due to COVID-19 to consumers suddenly needing to reconsider if they are still even remotely OK to continue shopping at brands like Reformation or Anthropology.
I observed fast fashion giants pledging their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, making donations, and calling for equality. But these are the same brands that heavily rely on the exploitation of labor, which disproportionately affects people of color.
I hope that this period allowed us to take a pause and learn. I hope it will encourage us to take a very conscious step to begin to hold ourselves accountable, individually and collectively, for the impact we’re having on other human beings and our Earth, of course. I observed fast fashion giants pledging their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, making donations, and calling for equality. But these are the same brands that heavily rely on the exploitation of labor, which disproportionately affects people of color. We forget to challenge many things in the industry, but it is our job to do so as brands, as individuals, as consumers.