Although a newborn designer to the industry, Liisa Soolepp has already conquered hearts and catwalks all over the world in lightning speed. Hailing from Estonia, this young knitwear designer reflects a clean aesthetic mixed with warm comfort, born and bred for the Northern climate with an ethical twist. Often described as 'talismans', her garments are made to inspire the wearer. We further explored what it’s like to transition so quickly from an unknown brand to rocking it at New York Fashion Week.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
What attracted you to knitwear? What's your favourite part about designing it?
What I like most about designing knitwear is that I don’t have to base everything on the fabric, but can take the yarn and create my own ‘material’ out of it. This gives me a chance to essentially create something from the very beginning. I enjoy the occasional intriguing technical riddle: if I have an idea, then I try to imagine how it can be realised with machines. I rarely get the same result as I envisioned, so it often needs trial-and-error to find a whole different solution.
Usually people who love knitting end up keeping it as a hobby. You have managed to make it into a successful business. How did that come about?
I think, in my case, the transition from hobby to brand creation was quite smooth. After finishing my education, I did a few small-scale collections, which allowed me to try out my ideas. At some point, the interest in my designs grew and it was clear that I cannot produce it all myself to meet the demand. I started expanding my business network more consciously. I didn’t initially plan ahead too much, but somehow one thing led to another. Right now, it’s definitely more complicated. I plan way more, setting goals and missions of which direction to go for in the near future. Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like if knitting was simply a hobby again…
"The constant opportunity to learn and develop skills, and make mistakes and learn from them at the same time, remains quite fascinating, too."
Liisa Soolepp's 'Talismans': Ethical Knitwear #Savant
Image: Jana Solom / MUA: Marii Lotta / Styling: Marian Eespäev / Model: Saskia Maria (Icon)
What has been the hardest part about establishing your own brand? What has been the greatest?
Starting from the positives, there’s still the adrenaline rush and mood-boosting freedom to bring something to life, to create and shape it to your vision. The constant opportunity to learn and develop skills, and make mistakes and learn from them at the same time, remains quite fascinating, too. Sometimes, what brings me down is that you need to do all sorts of administrative work and there’s less time to create because of it. In the beginning, that is. I hope that will change soon.
The classic question: where do you find inspiration?
Classic answer - everything that surrounds me.
"Sometimes I do wonder what it would be like if knitting was simply a hobby again…"
Savant loves different approaches to sustainability. How are you sustainable in your daily life?
I read A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman, where a family wanted to transition to a completely eco-friendly lifestyle and took the environmental costs to account in every aspect of their lives. To conduct this experiment and gain more knowledge, they consulted with 3-4 different experts, who gave advice on how to reduce the ecological footprint. The experiment nearly concluded in a divorce and a ‘if you want to go green, don’t breathe’ mindset.
I sort rubbish, reuse and recycle, take my own bags and boxes to the shop and farmer’s market, and support local eco-producers when buying food.
Who do you look up to in regards to sustainable and/or ethical design?
Well, I don’t have to look far. Estonian upcycling designer Reet Aus has most definitely inspired me. She is probably the world’s most uncompromising ethical fashion designer. I’m also inspired by the New Zealand ethical fashion brand Kowtow.
If you had to describe your aesthetic as an animal, what would it be and why?
A giraffe - feet on the ground, head in the clouds. Practical, yet distinguishable.