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Justine Tabak was established in 2016 with the aim of doing things differently. They became part of the ‘slow fashion’ movement, focusing their efforts on manufacturing small batches of beautifully crafted clothes in the heart of London. Their styles are simple, charming, practical and pretty with a touch of romance thrown in - perfect to accessorise with a Wallace Sewell scarf... or knitwear!
Ahead of the knitwear launch, we sat down with Emma & Justine to chat about knitwear, colour, slow fashion, and long friendships!
How did the two of you meet?
Emma: In the playground of our daughters' primary school. They were best buddies, we got chatting and discovered that we had both been at the RCA around the same time and became best buddies ourselves!
Justine: A meeting of minds in the playground! We discovered that we had lots of interests and connections in common. I studied Fashion and Textiles whilst Emma studied Woven Textiles. We've enjoyed many years of friendship whilst watching our daughters grow up too.
This is the 3rd collaboration you've done?
Justine: Yes, we’ve worked together before on knits because they sit nicely across both brands. This is our first all-over Fairisle design, and I knew that Emma would weave, or let’s say knit, magic into the colour work!
Emma: As friends, it’s been wonderful to collaborate on pieces as we both have different expertise to bring to the projects. It's exciting to see the result of that.
How did the idea of collaborating come about initially?
Emma: It was a natural progression really. We were always chatting, whether on long walks, on the school run or at the pub, so it was an obvious step to work together on a project - and knitwear appealed to both of us.
Justine: We both have a love of classic, authentic British styling and heritage craft so it was a natural meeting of minds. Each collaboration has been a joy to work together on.
It could be said that knitwear is a natural crossover of weaving and sewing, would you agree?
Emma: Yes. Knitting, although very different, is about constructing a textile, similar to weaving but in the form of a garment, like clothes sewing or fashion design. Texture, patterning and of course colour are crucial in both knitted and woven textiles.
Justine: I love how you can create blends of different colours across rows of knitting, much like you can on a weaving loom. There’s no end to the possibilities of knitting with multiple shades and just a tiny highlight of colour across our Fairisle tank makes a huge difference to the blended stripes.
How do you work together?
Emma: Justine gave us a knitted shape to work on and shared their colour palettes for the season. I then came up with the initial ideas for the colouring of the Fairisle pattern, which was passed to the rest of the Wallace Sewell design team for their input. I then presented back with our ideas.
Justine: It’s difficult to say where working stops and starts when you work with a friend as we could be chatting over coffee or having a long country walk…the best way to work! We gave Emma our general colour thoughts and described that I’d like to keep the colours ‘soft and pretty with a punch!’
Do you design for yourselves, or for customers?
Justine: Mmm…difficult! I always think of my customers first but then I also wear my clothes most days so it’s very hard to distinguish! You could say my customers very much reflect my taste and sometimes we delve into their social media, look at their interests and tastes to inspire us in return!
Emma: I agree, it’s a bit of both. We only design pieces that we would want to wear ourselves, but do also consider what our customers would like. Harriet and I had been wanting to create a Fairisle tank with Justine, as we are both fans of the style.
Where did the inspiration come from for this beautifully patterned tank?
Emma: For this project, Justine and I had a day out in town, with exhibitions, window shopping and lunch at L’Escargot, and chatted about what we wanted to create together. I love working on projects like this, exploring how a given group of colours can work together, balancing them whilst creating unexpected pairings and surprises.
Justine: On our day out, we spotted some beautiful faded textiles in the Liberty department store, there was something about all the blends of colour that was exciting. We used a soft gentle pink-toned neutral for the ribbed finishes that we thought would sit well with the dress collection or simply with a pair of jeans.
Wallace Sewell + Justine Tabak pieces are known for their use of high-quality natural materials, designs that transcend fashion trends, and support of UK manufacturing, can you tell us more about this?
Justine: A beautiful Wallace Sewell blanket will be treasured for years and in the same way, our classically styled dresses should be worn for years on lots of occasions. We both love natural enduring fibres and fabrics; where Wallace Sewell uses pure wool and silk, we use traditional fabrics like cotton corduroy, Irish linen, and natural wool.
Emma: As with all our designs, the knitwear aims to create timeless pieces that can fit many wardrobes, based around unusual, yet beautiful colour compositions. We have worked with the mill in Scotland for all the collaborations now, so we have built up a relationship with them. It is wonderful to work with small, family-run businesses that are at the top of their craft.