PHOTOGRAPHY BY YARA DE NICOLA
As with most East London designers’ studios, it’s easy to get lost en route to Lucas Nascimento’s Hackney Wick abode. Indeed, at first glance, it’s a lighting and furniture factory. But venture further round and you come to the right place. It’s not rails of samples and acres of fabric that greet visitors, as one might expect. It’s an enormous, industrial-sized Stoll knitting machine.
Brazilian-born Nascimento has confounded those of us who thought we knew what knitting looked like by producing light-as-air, fine-as-feathers modern wardrobe staples. In his debut season of Newgen sponsorship in AW12, there were bafflingly novel carpet-like knits; for SS13, the look was light, fine and sheer – knitwear as you’ve never seen it before. So what’s new for AW13?
The wild-haired 32 year old has been engrossed in the Stoll M1 Plus software that he calls “the Photoshop of knitwear”. It allows him to experiment with new techniques, which he then tailors into the simple yet voluminous shapes (think shell tops and sculpted shift dresses) that are fast becoming his signature. The night before we meet, he created a fabulous double-sided, flock-effect pattern he likens to “oil on water”. It is constructed with a combination of shimmering gauze thread and luxurious chenille, a little like jacquard but with sheen and stretch. Then there’s bouclé yarn knitted with cellophane thread that Nascimento compares to quilting: this squishy, waffled creation will be crafted into a pencil skirt. Prepare to be astounded, too, by fur tightly knitted into yarn – it’s all about balancing wintry richness with a lightness of touch.
Nascimento studied knitwear at London College of Fashion, having learned from his mother while growing up. “I love hand-knitting and I’m really good at it,” he emphasises, remembering the “brilliant” internship he did with Sid Bryan and the gang from Sibling during his second year. It was post-graduation factory visits while working for Neon and Basso & Brooke that piqued a curiosity about what technology could do for knitting.
“We go through the yarns for the season, but it’s always a surprise because they will do something you didn’t think they would,” says Nascimento of the starting point for every collection. He has a beautiful moodboard, which includes a Sixties photograph of Jean Shrimpton, Nefertiti-like in James Galanos, and a tufty-furred rabbit. These images play out in specific details, like the way he wants his knitted fur to look, and the pocket of the Shrimp’s dress, which informs the pouches you’ll see on dresses in today’s collection.
Nascimento has his fashion aesthetic down to a T. Think sleek, modern pieces, such as a column skirt or neat bomber jacket. For AW13, dresses take on a cocoon shape, while jackets are cropped or cut out at the shoulder. Old ladies are a constant obsession. “You must put them in!” he exclaims in his lyrical Brazilian accent. “Their proportions and how they put together their outfits fascinate me.” While we don’t connect ‘geriatric’ with a Nascimento look, those demure lengths and inspired colour combinations make sense in this context. Navy is his favourite colour and appears in every collection. This season, it’s teamed with ochre, grey and blush pink.
At a time when Céline is selling mink sandals, it is savvy of Nascimento to experiment with high-end simplicity: think a rabbit-panelled pencil skirt or fur-sleeved sweatshirt. “I want women to look at something of mine and say, ‘Oh my God, I need that! I want to rock that!’” Nascimento enthuses. Cue a whole new wish list for autumn.