Meet the burgeoning knitwear designer & Central Saint Martins graduate, Eleanor Butler-Jones. Having graduated this year with a BA in Fashion Design & Knitwear, Eleanor went on to establish her own brand — using techniques she developed during her time at CSM.
Exclusive to Aspect Online, Eleanor Butler-Jones has created a concise capsule collection of bags — all created using her zero-waste lycra knit technique.
Shammi Popat sat down with Eleanor to discuss her production process, her zero-waste initiative and the experience she picked up interning at Kiko Kostadinov and Acne Studios.
Where did you grow up and when did you decide you wanted to study knitwear?
I grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire just outside of Sheffield. I really wasn't academic in any shape or form at school, and the only subject I was good at was textile design. My textiles teacher Miss Judd was definitely a huge influence on why I went into a creative degree/career. I think it came pretty naturally really, I remember going to an open day at Central Saint Martins when I was about 16 and knitwear just felt like the perfect bridge between fashion and textiles.
A lot of your work is focused around the celebration of nature, how do you feel your upbringing has formed the inspiration phase of your design process?
My upbringing has definitely been a huge influence on my work - even if I don't realise it all the time. I spent so many of the early years of my life in the garden or out in the countryside so naturally feel I am drawn back to nature within my research. When it comes to my process I think it’s very intuitive, I try to work with the way a knit or a fabric wants to sit instead of forcing it into shapes.
Your ‘Suiting for the Garden’ BA Graduate Collection was made during lockdown, could you speak to us how this effected your process and the inspiration around this collection.
Honestly it was the biggest whirl wind - we went from tutorials in the studio every couple of days, being surrounded by all your best friends from the past 5 years to moving back home and having zoom tutorials every week. It definitely wasn't the collection I intended to make but never the less I actually think I taught me more than I would of learnt making my original collection. Prior to CSM getting shut down I intended to knit pretty much my entire collection on the big industrial knit machines at uni - this was for all the crinkle pieces. Luckily I massively over knitted for a previous swatch sampling unit meaning I ended up with surplus crinkle knit samples which I was able to transform into garments.
If anything I feel more inspired now after coming out of producing my last collection with so many restrictions. I’m hoping to bring out a new and much larger collection in the coming months that combines everything I learnt producing my last collection and so much more crinkle knit.
How did you come across the handmade method of your ‘crinkled knit’ bags during the design process?
Completely by accident!!! In second year of Fashion Knit you go to Florence, Italy for the Pitti Filati Yarn fair, with this comes the Florence project which is a swatch sampling project.
When I started to sample I actually intended to knit a gingham pattern but with a dodge machine (and a slight lack of knowledge) I ended up inventing a new technique that has now become my trademark.
What made you want to copyright the knit you developed and how did you learn to copyright?
I remember when I was doing my portfolio just prior to going into my placement year I had a portfolio with a tutor who had been in knitwear for quite a few years. She told me that I’d really developed something special and that I needed to keep it safe for my graduate collection. In final year there was actually a lecture about copywriting and protecting your work - I went and it basically walked me through the whole process of protecting and gaining the rights to my work.
Could you talk us through the sourcing of your materials and how you implement zero-waste in your design process, and the importance that entails as a designer?
With my materials I aim to work with either dead stock or materials that have been
produced within the UK. With each bag I make I fully shape it on the machine meaning there is no excess of waste material. Although by doing this takes much longer to produce each bag it means I’m not producing any waste and actually saving on materials.
You previously interned at Kiko Kostadinov and Acne Studios, how did these experiences help mould you into the designer you are today?
I really couldn't of had a better time at either of these companies, I honestly couldn't fault them! I had such amazing bosses and really made to feel like part of the team. I was trusted with a lot of responsibility and really respected and appreciated which is something that I hope to of taken through to working with my own interns. There is a lot about the way the industry works that uni will never be able to teach, I think it was really important for me to work in industry on collections from start to finish to truly see how it works.
What was your research process and inspiration around forming the crinkled bags you have exclusively stocked on ASPECT?
They are definitely a spur off from my collection research - I really wanted to create something that was wearable and much more accessible than something like a top or a jumper. The sling shape bag was originally inspired by an old Russell and Bromley bag that I’ve worn to death, combined with so much research that I did on knotting. Then the drawstring shape came trying to find a way to give a bag or a garment shape without necessarily making the knit itself shaped, this is the exact approach I had to so much of my graduate collection.
It was really important to me that the bags I produced were something that both myself and the people around me wanted to wear. I’ve always loved a good bag that you can just chuck everything in and not have to think about - these super stretchy bags are definitely perfect for exactly that.
Interview by Shammi Popat