Retail News, Events, Locally Made

Employee of the Moment

Rain and Jack, a new locally based knitwear line, puts you to work in the design process.

November 12, 2009


This is a story about two knitwear designers that became so successful that they were no longer actually designing or knitting. You know how that kind of thing can happen. Businesses don’t run on their own and all that jazz. The two designers, Si and Helen, recently decided to join forces and launch Rain and Jack, a sort of couture-minded interactive apparel and accessories concern based in the International District that allows you to design, for instance, a lambswool throw, and them to knit it.

Your part of the design process is as integral as their part of the design process. Each season Si and Helen curate a color story and some minimal, modern, color-blocked ways that the palette can conspire to create arm warmers, key-hole scarves, felted-wool caps, king size blankets, and capes. You step in (virtually, that is; online) and choose your colorway, and they hand- or frame-knit (more on that below) it on your behalf. Two weeks later, you’re cozily and cleverly accessorized—and pretty darn sure that you’re a genius, too.

(Rain and Jack is also sold in retail settings; right now, Juniper and A Mano carry the line. In this instance, shop owners and buyers create the colorway for the pieces they’ll carry.)

Also integral to all of this are the materials and the timing. Si and Helen believe in the new model of luxury, in which value is placed on craftsmanship and mindfully sumptuous elements (the softest New Zealand wools, Italian linens, and organic cotton). This story is about you understanding and appreciating that artisans, ones who formerly created sweaters for the likes of Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom, are working smart and caring for each piece as they go. There are no stacks of scarves in Si and Helen’s loft-like work room. Just spools of yarn, old- and new-school knitting machines, a windowsill full of thriving plants, and mugs of tea. For the most part, they make their goods to ordermdash;to your order, *much like a traditional couture house would.

Tomorrow, Friday, November 13 from 5 to 8pm and Saturday, November 14, from 11 to 6pm, Si and Helen will be at Kobo at Higo demoing their knitting machines and showing how online customization happens. There will be some premade items available and promotional pricing on your designs.

As perfect and pleasing as the design process is, the actual fabrication work is really interesting too. The video below shows how the frame-knit machine work can still very much be filed under “hand-knit.” Home-knitters, armchair designers, and lovers of small batch anything should really consider seeing it in person.

After all, you’ll probably want to get to know your new coworkers.

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