Photo: Jamar Stephens

Photo: Jamar Stephens

Afiya Francisco is a Style Expert, television and fashion personality, speaker, and brand ambassador. The Style House is a multimedia platform designed to help women approach their personal style with confidence, simplicity & joy. 

Evolution of a Label – LINE Knitwear

LINE Knitwear, and its sister line John & Jenn, are adored on a global scale for their combination of luxe fabrics and creative knits in everyday construction. Season after season, at World MasterCard Fashion Week, a runway seat to LINE is a coveted possession and the buzz continues at store level. So what do you do when you achieve an enviable formula of success? You change it up. Design duo John Muscat and Jennifer Wells discuss:

It’s easy to get comfortable in what you’re doing. And it’s also dangerous.
— Jenn

Line and Personal Style

John: A lot of women need a reason to add something to their wardrobe, she wants to be excited and she wants to see something new, but it shouldn’t be so difficult to wear that it’s a puzzle in the morning. If she’s going to add it to her wardrobe it better be special and it better be amazing because she’s got lots of clothes and she doesn’t need anything else. So you have to give her a reason. 

Jenn: I like the fact that it’s the go-to. Like the go-to cardigan, the go-to leather jacket; it’s your favourite cashmere that you throw on – so it’s easy to wear but it’s special. You want to put it on all the time.

What’s next?

John: We’re going through a massive evolution. 

Jenn: We’re rebranding a little bit. We’ve got a new design team, that’s exciting. 

John: We’re vertical in Asia now which is huge. Everything is changing and everything is about to change. You’ll start to see the tweak of it in holiday. 

Jenn: Well, I do think that it started in Fall ‘14. We dabbled with more commodities: expanded our jacket component, sweaters as outerwear jacket components, more dresses. That’s transitioning into holiday and into Spring ‘15. 

John: I don’t think that we’ve had such a cohesive team, until this point, it takes a long time to build. The team now, [compared] to how it was before, is like night and day. Everything is just coming together and a cohesive vision is being executed. 

Jenn: We’re finding different factories and experimenting with different fabrications. And we’re using some imported fabrics that we’re mixing, and it’s changing the taste, which is exciting. 

At John & Jenn's Toronto studio.

At John & Jenn's Toronto studio.

What will that look like to the customer?

John: You’re going to see the collection hit a whole new level. I would never talk up the collection before it’s out there but I think you’re going to look at it and say, “wow that’s Line?” It’s just going to evolve.

Jenn: For fall we have definitely expanded the sweater as outerwear component and the jacket component and I think that these items are great in your wardrobe because they’re transitional. Our weather is so weird that you kind of need something starting in October and it may not snow until December. And then the same again in March. We also expanded what we started doing last year which was adding a lot leather details onto outerwear and also to the everyday sweaters, like trims. There’s a lot more attention to the stitch techniques and combining of yarns and fabrications. 


Let’s talk summer...

Jenn: The trick with summer is to do knitwear that’s lightweight enough and can still be transitional. We experimented with a lot of open work and drop stitches, a lot of linen and lighter weight fabrications. 

A hint of what’s to come for holiday...

Jenn: We played with metal & chain. Holiday, for us, is party-wear-slash-that-new-thing-that-you-want-to-have. Maybe a little bit of gift giving but really those yummy sweaters that you just want to wear around from October to February. Runway is always a little snippet to what we’re thinking about for the main collection so we did play with angora and colour. I think that people are getting a little bored of black all winter so if you can inject a little bit of colour it makes people happy. Like are you going to wear black until March?

John: There are two big stories here: cashmere colour and angora. 70% angora. In the past, we would have dialed it down a little bit, we would have done a 30% angora. We’ve gone all the way. Luxe cashmere - three gauge. The other element is true holiday, as we see it; chain detail, continuing with outerwear, party wear.

What is your design process?

John: The roles that Jenn & I play are this: I leave her alone, she starts the process with her team and then I come in at different points and I edit. I’m an amazing editor but I’m not great at the start off point, the launch point. That’s always kind of been who we are and we’re circling back.

Evolution of the brands

John: The market changed when everything crashed and I think that everyone scrambled, and has has continued to scramble since then, because it keeps changing and shifting. We’ve now taken the point of view of, “We’re going to do what we want. We’re not going to chase anything. We’re going to stay true to what we want to do. As opposed to do ‘what she wants’”. Because a lot of brands are playing that game, “What does she want? What does she want? What can I get her to buy?”, and when you go into that panic state you’re not true to yourself or the brand. Even with John & Jenn, the evolution there, is that it was always meant to be the cooler younger sister of Line, at a better price point. So the big message is that were staying true to the brand no matter what happens, that’s our perspective and what our go-forward is. We’re not going to be scared of anything.

Angora is a great example. People don’t wear angora, we don’t care, then don’t buy it. We love angora and we put it into the collection. And what is everyone loving? The angora. Whether it sells or not, it’s aspirational and that’s what we’re going to continue doing. 

You need to have a very delicate balance between reality and fear, because fear will hold you back creatively and disconnect you from the collection. I always ask everyone “would you wear it?” and if they say “no” then it shouldn’t go into the collection. They would say, “well I’m designing it for her”. Well there is no “her”, you’re the her and that’s the only place that you can design from.

Jenn: It’s easy to get comfortable in what you’re doing. And it’s also dangerous.

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