By STEPHANIE KING, @franklySPking
Irreverent and inspiring: those are the key fibres of SIBLING, the UK mens knitwear label headed by design triumvirate Sid Bryan, Joe Bates and Cozette McCreery. While unrelated, the trio started the brand in 2008, choosing the name SIBLING to make their unapologetically avant garde pieces feel more inclusive.
SIBLING’s granny-gone-punk aesthetic riffs off knitted classics and showcases the three friends’ stellar knitting skills collectively learned from working with powerhouses Alexander McQueen, Lanvin and Giles Deacon. In 2010, SIBLING extended their inimitable signature to womenswear, launching Sister by SIBLING.
The brand’s consistently tongue-in-cheek take has earned SIBLING both international press coverage and the illustrious European Woolmark Prize. How did its founders weave themselves into fashion’s history books? Here are the 10 ways SIBLING made knitwear new again:
1. They made granny garb cool.
Rooted in knitwear, SIBLING’s foundation in the traditional textile is unusual considering the current focus on advanced fabric manufacturing technologies. But the label’s famed ability to modernize the classics — twin sets and argyle sweaters included — has turned the ‘stuffy’ craft of knitwear unbelievably cool. Mutating styles typically worn by a more mature audience, SIBLING incorporates long-established production techniques into their zany creations. The result? Scare Isle Knit Monsters (pictured above) and other updates to old-fashioned designs.
2. They always find the fun in fashion.
It wouldn’t be a SIBLING collection without a dash of subversion and a heavy dose of cheek stitched into every piece. The humour and witty undercurrent is a defining feature of the playful brand. From the outset, Bryan, Bates and McCreery have injected lightheartedness into every collection, showing that the industry renowned for taking itself too seriously can certainly make a joke. Who could forget SIBLING’s outrageous pom pom headpieces (pictured above)? The SS13 raffia toppers were reminiscent of dandelion seed heads.
3. More specifically, they made men’s fashion fun.
In the world of SIBLING, there is no such thing as too much whimsy. Nor is there such a thing as ‘too feminine’. SIBLING intends to unsettle and push past boundaries – particularly those pertaining to men’s dress. What’s wrong with paillette embellished frosty white sweaters or 5 Star intarsia tracksuit sets, their SS13 line wants to know? Is there anything the matter with men in pastel crochet knickerbockers (SS14)? And surely AW13’s knitted mittens and beanies enlarged to almost-comical proportions require no special occasion to be worn?
4. They made ordinary items extraordinary.
SIBLING has mastered the art of beautifying the banal. Boring balaclavas have been transformed into beaming masks, embellished with sequins and flower-trimmed ears; doilies have been refashioned with acid bright edging; humble hair extensions have been converted into statement necklaces. The trio’s boundless creativity highlights the potential in everyday objects, inevitably encouraging wearers to do the same.
5. And are leading a colour comeback.
SIBLING and Sister by SIBLING’s collections comprise a kaleidoscope of colour. Fire engine red leopard print panels, cobalt blue fur trims on scarlet cable knit sweaters, pastel cashmere co-ords: these are a mere glimpse of the spectrum of tones used. And Sister by SIBLING boasts an equally loud palette. The label has highlighted neon orange in crochet skirts, lime green in woven shift dresses, and pink and violet in colour-blocked ensembles. Seeing as Bryan, Bates and McCreery have no intention of dimming their penchant for pop colours, it would appear their wearable rainbows will continue to make the world a brighter place. Literally.
6. But, underneath it all, they know knitwear.
Really, though, they know knitwear. Bates and McCreery describe themselves as long-obsessed with the craft, where Bryan ultimately went on to specialize in it. Their designs, although incredibly fun, possess a strong level of workmanship. Both SIBLING’s and Sister by SIBLING’s garments are the products of impressive feats of engineering. The majority of their past pieces have taken upwards of 100 hours to complete, where Sister by SIBLING’s springy SS14 circle skirts, AW14’s superfine rib knits and AW13’s oversized loop stitch scarves attest to Bryan’s knitting prowess. (K)nitwits, they ain’t.
7. They’re innovators.
Spearheading the new wave in knitwear, SIBLING’s design team has pioneered several new techniques. Whether it’s yarn jackets made to look like distressed leather (SS13) or Sister by SIBLING’s bouncy knitted ‘bouclé’ suits (SS14) , exploring novel production methods ‘is the whole point,’ maintain the founders. The atelier, a ‘loom laboratory’, is equipped with industrial hand-flap machines that allow the proudly British label to manufacture every garment in-house. Reportedly, SIBLING’s next challenge is to tackle denim. A surprising move, perhaps, but it is precisely the brand’s unpredictability that has SIBLING lovers coming back for more.
8. They attract consumers worldwide.
Is anything less than universal appeal to be expected from the designers who’ve worked across the world? Considering Bryan, Bates and McCreery’s time in Milan, Paris and New York, it’s no surprise their design sensibility attracts a global audience. Taking inspiration from universal themes — from pop and punk to rock to rebellion — SIBLING’s creations can be worn by anyone. According to the trio, everyone can be part of the SIBLING family. And that is exactly why the label has price-lead collaborations, realizing their couture-esque runway pieces are often above the average budget. As they told Dean Mayo Davies of Hint Magazine, ‘SIBLING may be made in London, but it’s for the world.’
9. They support others within the industry.
The SIBLING crew are self-proclaimed supporters of fellow fashion brands. All three founders make a concerted effort to focus on only one or two collaborations a year, ensuring they invest the time required to develop their projects’ concepts. That mentality has proved beneficial. The label’s work with brands Topshop/Topman and Grenson was highly successful, while their runway show collaborations with Sophia Webster and Swarovski received glowing reviews.
10. And they conquered both the women’s and men’s markets.
SIBLING have permeated the typically impenetrable womenswear market and achieved similar success as their men’s label. The founders have lamented that initially, buyers and the press were skeptical of their now highly acclaimed menswear line. Even for SS!3, it was suggested that the label’s collection be marketed as womenswear before its premiere at London Collections: Men. Similarly, the trio were discouraged from entering womenswear because of its supposed competitive nature. But given the huge momentum menswear has gained in recent years and Sister by SIBLING’s win of a Topshop NEWGEN sponsorship, both brands’ accolades speak for themselves.