Louise Dungate is a knitwear designer, maker, and founder of eponymous luxury knitwear label, Lou Dungate. She lives and works in London.
Having recently closed her small independent shop, The Knit Club, which she ran for five years, Louise Dungate is busy working on her latest venture, an eponymous luxury knitwear label that is due to launch AW16. No stranger to the fashion world, Dungate spent seven years designing, making and selling beautiful, chunky knitted accessories under the name Louise Dungate Knitwear. However, although successful, she found it difficult to scale the business while she was hand making everything herself. "I used to hand knit every piece, which was such a labour of love. It’s taken me a while to work out how I can maintain my values of craftsmanship and quality, whilst fulfilling slightly bigger orders. Even though it’s a new brand, Lou Dungate reflects many of the values I’ve always had whilst hopefully representing a vision of what I’d hope a luxury fashion brand stands for in modern times." We sat down with her to find out more.
WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN BACKGROUND?
My background is a little unconventional. I didn’t formally study knitwear design, yet somehow I have been designing and knitting professionally for seven years and ran a small, independent knitting shop for five of those. Understanding stitches, yarns and fabric gauge is second nature to me now but working with factories and suppliers is very new to me, and the technical terms are different so I do feel like I’m learning a new language as I go.
What motivatED YOUR REBRAND?
Everything! The world is a different place to when I first started designing, even though that was just seven years ago. Ultimately, it’s mostly been down to the manufacturing process. I used to hand knit every piece, which was such labour of love, however I found it difficult to scale the business when I was making everything myself. It’s taken me a while to work out how I could maintain my values of craftsmanship and quality, whilst fulfilling slightly bigger orders – and also without compromising my wish to manufacture in England. Even though it’s a new brand, Lou Dungate reflects many of the values I’ve always had whilst hopefully representing a vision of what I’d hope a luxury fashion brand stands for in modern times.
whAT DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS INVOLVE?
Seeing as I’ve only just launched my first collection, I’m not sure I have it down to a fine art yet, but I've certainly loved every minute of the creative process so far! Firstly, I selected a beautiful cashmere yarn that was milled in Italy and can be traced back to source in Inner Mongolia. It’s absolutely divine. Then I made an outline of my collection; knowing that my first collection was only going to be accessories was helpful as it gave me a focus. I then looked towards my sources of inspiration. I’m obsessed with sculpture and line art by artists such as Jean Arp and Christiane Spangsberg. I love things that are still but look fluid, or have a sense of motion and femininity. Then I sketch and sketch and sketch until I see lines that I like. I root around through all my old knitting books, to find stitch ideas and decide on colours. Once designs are ready, they go to the factory for sampling. Seeing the pieces together for the first time is a good chance to give the collection a final edit. When the first box arrived back from the factory last November, I cried because I was so pleased and relieved.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR NEW COLLECTION?
I was inspired by the merging of different shapes in art and love the stark contrasts between geometric lines and fluid shapes. Knitwear is such a rich and versatile discipline - you can create anything! With that being said though, I’ve consciously kept the collection small and considered. My aim was that each piece has its place in a timeless wardrobe. The use of colour adds depth to the range, and the process of choosing colours is something I really enjoy doing. I like imagining how people will team my items up with things they love wearing, and how they will make them their own.
YOUR COLLECTION IS HANDMADE iN ENGLAND AND BOASTS SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL CREDENTIALS - WHY IS WORKING IN THIS WAY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I think it should be important to everyone because it affects us all. I’m not the only person who found the Rana Plaza disaster to be incredibly upsetting and a huge wake-up call. It changed my outlook on so much, because I realised that I just didn’t know where my clothes were made or who by. My collection is made in a factory in North London, 30 minutes from my door and I can pop in anytime I like. It’s an incredible place and the people who work there are truly valued.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU RIGHT NOW?
At the moment, every day is different. Since closing my shop last month, I've been busy working from home on Lou Dungate, doing everything I can to build the brand from scratch. It's daunting but also very exciting!
WhO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE WEARING YOUR DESIGNS?
Someone who appreciates good knitwear! And my friend Hilary Archer because she designed the beautiful “Lou Dungate” monogram and I promised to cover her in cashmere in return.
WhICH KNITWEAR DESIGNERS DO YOU LOVE?
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Feeling loved, appreciated and respected by the people who you love, appreciate and respect.
Which women do you admire and why?
I admire my mother who moved to England from Malaysia at the age of 18 to work for the NHS for over 30 years. She has survived breast cancer twice and is just one of the happiest and wisest women I know. I also have a lot of love for Anya Hindmarch. I think she’s just brilliant and I really respect what she’s achieved in business.