KNIT’S NEW WIT

Byline: Daniela Gilbert

NEW YORK — Take one look at Nicole Lin’s knitwear collection, Claude Juang, and it’s clear that Lin is a woman who does things her own way. When she established her company — named in honor of her late father-in-law — a year ago, she knew she wanted to change the face of knitwear, and it looks like she’s succeeding.
“So much of what’s out there in terms of knitwear is very traditional,” she offered. “I wanted to make it younger, so that it would appeal to a wider scope of people.”
Just one way of doing this, says the 30-year-old Lin, who holds a graduate degree in museum management from Yale and worked at the Guggenheim Museum before launching her knitwear collection, is through the use of innovative fiber combinations.
The spring 2001 collection, for instance, features separates and dresses made of fibers such as cotton and rubber, which, according to Lin, holds its shape well and resists sagging.
“Traditionally, knitwear is made of fibers that sag when you wear the piece,” said the designer. “What I’m hoping to do is introduce certain fiber combinations that are easier to wear and look better.”
Another unusual blend Lin is using for spring is a mix of a one-ply metal yarn and silk; it features a subtle iridescence and also retains its shape.
The best response, however, has been to a 100 percent paper fiber that Lin is using for both separates and dresses. “It’s very crisp and flowy, it drapes really well and it’s cool and comfortable,” noted Lin. “Pieces made of this fiber have been the most popular so far.”
The spring collection features a variety of looks, including sleeveless tops and dresses with ruffled details at the neckline, as well as skirts with ruffled asymmetrical hemlines. Textured patterns are a consistent theme, showing up on such looks as dresses with hazy horizontal stripes, a sleeveless argyle sweater and a group of asymmetrical tops, skirts and dresses with brightly colored diagonal stripes. While the color palette is mostly soft and neutral with subtle robin’s-egg tones, Lin also plays with some brighter, more pumped-up hues, including blue, yellow, orange and pink.
Andrew Tolentino, owner of the NoLIta boutique Lusso, added Lin’s designs to his store’s mix because of their diverse looks. “The concept of our store is new luxury; ‘lusso’ means luxury in Italian,” he offered. “Claude Juang fits in well, because it really defines new luxury. It’s not conventional knitwear; it’s aggressive, younger and very fashion-forward.” In addition to the finest yarns, Tolentino said he was attracted to the line because of the “looming technique that is second to none.”
At Marion’s Boutique in Brooklyn, New York, owner Sarah Shabot said that the line has sold very well thanks to its fit and design. “I chose the line because it’s different from what was out there in terms of knitwear; it has a certain flair,” said Shabot. “It’s knitwear that’s designed to be easier on the figure yet is still very feminine.”
The collection, which wholesales from $90 for a top to $1,500 for a gown, has also been picked up by Cami in Roslyn, N.Y., and The Porcupine in Hilton Head Island, S.C. In addition to specialty stores and boutiques, Lin hopes to sell to department stores in the future.

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