The Spanish knitwear specialist has found its market niche with a new definition of luxury that has special implications in Japan. “Invisible” is the term Yolanda Estévez and Pedro Castellanos use during the interview. We would add eloquent and tangible. But in reality, the softness and fluffiness of the world’s best knits speak for themselves, meticulously crafting a new chapter in the history of ‘slow luxury’.
-Knitbrary (Knit+library) was born with a mission...
-Pedro: Our project is to create a portfolio that takes in all the world’s best quality knits. Always 100% natural and hand-knitted at their place of origin.
-How did such a personal project come about?
-Yolanda: Knitbrary was the result of my need to create something I could identify with and be proud of, both personally and professionally. After years working as a designer in the textiles business, I was looking for a project which was about time, dedication, creativity, quality and true appreciation of craftsmanship. When I told Pedro about my idea, I was surprised by his enthusiasm and how keen he was to set it all in motion.
-Yolanda: I’ve worked with all kinds of categories, but I’ve always had a weakness for knitwear and the craftsmanship that gives every garment a unique and emotional dimension. I adore the creative process it entails. When you’re making a garment, you’re literally creating the fabric, stitch by stitch.
-What Knitbrary values create its "slow luxury" positioning?
-Pedro: We’re committed to meticulous craftsmanship. It’s about dedication and always allowing for sufficient production time. Plus exceptional quality, creativity, sustainability... It’s about identity and emotion.
-Your claim is "Timeless knitted beauty". So timelessness is also key to what you offer.
-Yolanda: We want them to be garments that stay with you as you go through life. They become part of your experience, grow old with you and can be passed down the generations.
-How does the creative process develop?
-Yolanda: I begin by noting down words, ideas and adjectives connected with images and memories... I imagine colours, volumes and silhouettes. I select categories and titles. It all starts to take shape bit by bit in the hands of our knitters.
-Design depends on category?
-Yolanda: Always. The design is deliberately simple and timeless to enhance the fibres’ natural attributes and exceptional colour development.
We love the spontaneity you get from crafting colour in the traditional way. We develop our own colours from organic pigments, applying them directly to fibres and drying them in the sun. That way you get little veins, different hues and nuances of colour that make each garment unique.
-What are the different fibres we can find in your exquisite archive?
-Pedro: There are garments made from baby alpaca wool, Suri alpaca, royal alpaca, pima cotton and vicugna. In the future, we want to add in other great categories like cashmere and yak, all 100% natural and made at their place of origin.
-Where do you get your raw materials?
-Pedro: In the Peruvian Andes. We find a wide variety of spun wool of the highest quality there and great artisans who preserve the traditional art of knitting.
-How do you coordinate with local artisans?
-Pedro: On our first trips to Peru, we looked for the people we are now working with. We go there twice a year and spend between four to six weeks with the artisans on each trip, developing the new articles and reviewing each of the garments we are going to offer our customers. We learn a lot about their trade and the value they attach to their craft. It leads to mutual feedback which enables us to grow together.
-What about production and lead times?
-Pedro: Much as we’d love to ignore the times dictated by the fashion industry, we have to fit in with the dates the market imposes: trade shows, client orders... But as it’s a crafted process, we make sure we are well ahead of schedule when it comes to choosing fibres and spun wool, and getting colours... Some of our garments might take up to six weeks to knit. That means we have to start work on a collection about a year and a half in advance.
-Your products are numbered, limited editions or even one-offs. Is it possible to grow and stay true to that philosophy?
-Pedro: We’re convinced it is. Our customers really appreciate that difference and understand all the work that goes into every article. They get a numbered product with details about how many make up that edition.
-How many designs do you bring out each season?
-Yolanda: We always start out with a higher figure, but developing each item is a challenge. So in the end, we bring out about 20 designs per collection, for both men and women, although, to be honest, I make increasingly few gender distinctions.
-How did you go about your global strategy?
-Pedro: Right from the start, we knew we wanted to go global, to go for the world market and focus on specialised trade shows. We showcase our men’s collections at Pitti Uomo and women’s at Tranoï. Gradually, we’d like to take part in other top exhibitions, say in the USA or Japan.
-How many PoS do you have outside Spain and where are your main markets?
-Pedro: Owing to its unique sensitivity, tradition and culture, Japan is our main market, and that’s followed by central European countries like Austria, Switzerland, France... Right now we have 20 PoS in 10 countries. Our products are available from very select multi-brand retailers. Our export rate is over 80%.
-And your e-shop? How’s it doing?
-Pedro: We launched it for the European Union with our first collection and we have high hopes for its potential. We’ll soon be delivering to other countries too, including the USA, Japan and Russia.
-Any new markets you’ve set your sights on?
-Yolanda: The USA, Canada, Russia and China are all extremely interesting.
Knitbrary close up:
Head office: C/Orzán, 33. 15003, A Coruña (Galicia).
Main markets: Japan, Austria, Switzerland and France
Export rate: 80%