Hope Macaulay has found her fashion-world footing with her signature, oversized color-blocked knits.
Macaulay’s affinity for bright hues, color-blocking and patchwork have helped propel her line to success. The label took off in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers were staying home during lockdowns, and Macaulay was one of the rising fashion labels to grab the attention of Gen Z on social media.
“A lot of other small businesses kind of blew up in 2020 as well, due to the pandemic and everyone being at home and on social media,” Macaulay told WWD. “Because it was all on an online shop, customers were still able to buy. Also my knitters all work from home, so they were still able to carry on working from home.”
Two years after its official debut, Hope Macaulay has been worn by Gigi Hadid, Rosalía, Naomi Osaka, Kali Uchis and other celebrities.
Originally, the line started as a graduate collection during Macaulay’s last year at the University for the Creative Arts. Eventually, it morphed into what is now known as Macaulay’s namesake brand: a chunky knitwear collection made from merino wool in vivid color patterns.
She received positive feedback on social media regarding her collection for school, and kept working on it after she graduated in 2018, deciding to fine-tune certain details, and making sure that her pieces were wearable while capturing the essence of her initial creativity and inspiration.
“It kind of happened really naturally because I created it at school to tick off these modules and to get my degree,” she told WWD. “I did know at the back of my head that I wanted to continue on creating from the brand, so I didn’t feel like I ever had a point of ‘I’m starting my brand.’”
Macaulay, originally from Northern Ireland, had always wanted to work in the creative field, and thought she would end up working for a fashion brand in London during university. She did summer internships for Roberta Einer and Gareth Pugh, and while she said they were good experiences, she realized she preferred working for herself.
“I wanted to have creative freedom, and I felt like to have a career in the fashion industry, I had to move to a major fashion capital,” Macaulay said. “When I moved back home, I definitely wanted to start something here because I absolutely love my home in Northern Ireland, but I didn’t want to give up having a career in fashion.”
With the help of 15 knitters and seamstresses and, of course, her mom, the young designer has put together an elaborate collection of knitwear, including crop tops, sweaters, cardigans, dresses and accessories, including a pet sweater.
“I love color so much. I’m very particular with the colors I use and its combinations,” she said. “Whenever I design, color is just so important to the final product. I love that they can sort of stand out from a crowd as well. My pieces are really eye-catching.”
Macaulay’s knits are differentiated by the oversized and chunky knit work involved in her pieces, which stems from her love of texture and different textiles, especially wool, and her grandmother teaching her how to knit when she was younger.
“Whenever I go into shops, I am always the first one to touch all the knit work pieces,” Macaulay said. “I just love knit work, the textures and even mixing different textiles together. I did a lot of that in university as well. I feel like that’s something that people miss out with my brand — getting to touch it and feel it because obviously it is mainly online now.
“I feel more expressive using wool as well. I can create more expressively. I feel like sewing is very much mathematical, whereas with knits I feel more expressive and creative with the knit work,” she continued.
Since she started her brand two years ago, Macaulay’s label has accrued nearly 250,000 followers on Instagram and has been worn by A-list stars and influencers and fashion enthusiasts alike. She even confessed that she’s stumbled upon TikTok and YouTube videos of people trying to recreate her pieces.
In the future, Macaulay hopes to have more of her pieces in boutiques and retailers, for her consumers to touch and feel the pieces. Currently Macaulay’s knits are available to purchase on her official e-commerce site as well as at Free People and Anthropologie, which she collaborated with last fall.
“I never knew how successful it would be. I definitely didn’t realize it, especially so quickly,” she said. “The fact that this all happened so fast is just totally unbelievable. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.”
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