[DEEP DIVE] FAIR ISLE MOHAIR
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE" where we take a look into the inspiration behind some of our favorite Engineered Garments pieces. In this installation, we are actually featuring a fabric, the Fair Isle Mohair, new for the Fall/Winter 2021 season. Used in a number of the items, this fabric has a deep and rich history.
Off the craggy northern coast of Scotland lies the windswept archipelago of Shetland, home of the Shetland sheep. Indigineous to the region, and bred over the centuries with sheep brought by Viking and Roman invaders, this breed produces warm, soft, and durable yarn which is produced in a range of natural hues. Hundreds of years ago, Shetland wool was settled on as England’s competitor to Spain’s luxurious Merino wool, setting off a booming wool industry among these islands. This brings us to Fair Isle - which today is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom.
While most Shetland products are solid knits - with the occasional design mixed in - Fair Isle items are always created using traditional patterns, typically geometric shapes which mirror and repeat, and are knit in vibrant colors - usually with only two colors per row. The origin of this style is unclear - some say it came from shipwrecked 16th century Spanish sailors, who showed the islanders how to knit and use madder, bisort, and lichen to dye the yarn, while others claim the technique came from Scandinavian traders. At any rate, the Fair Isle sweater gained widespread attention in the 1920’s after being worn by Edward VIII, Prince of Wales, and reached the heights of its global popularity during the 1950’s.
Growing up in Aomori, Japan Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki assumed that the Fair Isle print was just another pattern. It wasn’t until he read an article about Fair Isle in an issue of Popeye magazine around the age of 14 that he discovered the history of this design. During this period he also frequented thrift stores around his hometown, scavenging for pieces of Made in USA fashion left behind by servicemen stationed in Japan, artifacts of the dreamy American lifestyle he had fallen in love with through movies and television. It was in these vintage shops where Daiki first came across mohair sweaters, soft items made from the hair of the Angora goat. While Daiki considered mohair sweaters to be feminine at first, he changed his mind after seeing the UK mods' stylish mohair suits and the mohair cardigans worn by actors like David Janssen in the 1960s television show The Fugitive.
This time, inspired by both the Fair Isle pattern and mohair fabric he was exposed to as a youth, Daiki has put together a Fair Island Mohair collection for the Engineered Garments Fall/Winter 2021 collection.
Unlike its Shetland wool counterparts, this fabric comes from Italy. Daiki tends to choose Italian fabrics for their creativity and high quality. Although they can be pricey, Italian manufacturers try to provide something new, and their fabric is useful for making uncommon products. The Fair Isle Mohair fabric is made from a blend of synthetic fibers, wool, and mohair, providing a balanced material that is stretchy and supple without being too soft. There are two fabrics to choose from, the Grey/Red or the Mustard/Maroon, both of which feature classical Fair Isle motifs such as the selburose star and diamond shapes.
A wide variety of items are available in these two Fair Isle Mohair Fabrics. The Knit Robe offers a truly cozy option, with its hoody, belt, roomy front pockets - even coming with a conveniently placed breast pocket, to hold the odd small item. The Crewneck Cardigan is another simple choice, expertly showing off the fabric with just a bit of contrast coming from the lining placed on the placket of the cardigan. There is also the Hooded Interliner, which shows off the Fair Isle print on top a distinctly military-inspired silhouette. This Fair Isle Mohair looks good on whichever piece you choose, and it wears in well - gradually becoming smoother and finer over time.
As a whole, the Engineered Garments Fair Isle Mohair items form an extraordinary ensemble, blending two histories to create uniquely EG products.
The Engineered Garments Fair Isle Mohair in Grey/Red and Mustard/Maroon is used in the production of the following items:
- Button Shawl
- Crew Neck Cardigan
- Hooded Interliner
- Knit Robe
- Long Sleeve Hoody
- Wrap Knit Vest