Patrick Byrne, Menswear Designer
We meet some incredibly talented designers and makers who love wool, each of them has a fascinating story to tell and we’re always interested in hearing their views on the industry.
We hope you enjoy our first ‘Wool Works’ chat with new Irish menswear designer Patrick Bryne about his plans having recently completed an MA…
Hi Patrick! In 2015 you completed the MA in Fashion Knitwear Design at Nottingham Trent and chose to specialise in wool knit and jersey. Can you tell us a bit more?
I’m originally from Ireland but had moved to London after completing my BA in Fashion Design in 2009.
I spent about 5 years in a luxury British Heritage menswear company in the production department working on Sportswear and Knitwear but in my free time I was undertaking various textiles and knit courses so when the time was right I decided to take the leap and apply for the Masters course at NTU.
My MA collection was really an exploration in wool knitwear to try and test the possibilities of combining traditional and technological applications to produce a contemporary but wearable menswear collection.
The inspiration came from examining social and youth identity photography in Ireland in the 70s and 80s but also combined with my own personal knit heritage passed from my mother and grandmother.
I produced everything within the facilities at NTU combining power machinery, hand flat machinery and hand knitting itself. I gained sponsorship from Knoll Yarns in the UK, which I chose to pursue, as they are a renowned supplier of beautiful traditional wool yarns.
I used probably about 70% Wool across the collection, the other 30% made up of British Alpaca and Italian Cotton yarn. The only synthetic material used was a vinyl, which I bonded to a lambswool jacquard to make it a reversible fabric.
How did you come across Knoll Yarns? Can you tell us about the yarns you used?
I had worked previously in industry before I started the MA and Knoll had been a supplier to the company I worked for. I used a range of their wools, from their Tweed range, Donegal and also their lambswool. I was insistent in using British or Irish yarns in my collection as I wanted to challenge the perceptions and stereotypical design uses of traditional yarns.
100% Merino Lambswool Yarn Card by Knoll Yarns
What have you been doing since your graduation?
I finished the MA late last August and returned to Ireland to take a breather after a pretty intensive year. At the same time I had submitted a project to a company called Santoni Shanghai, who are an Italian circular seamless machinery manufacturer based in China and spent two months in Shanghai designing, developing and producing a menswear seamless collection to showcase Santoni’s machinery possibilities and experience another side to knitwear not previously known to me.
That must have been a really interesting experience, can you tell us your thoughts on the differences between manufacturing in the UK and China? You mention circular knitting – what excited you about this particular process?
I had experienced manufacturing both in the UK and China prior to the MA and they are very two different categories.
For me, It’s a huge subject area that has a lot of depth, China has a greater desire to advance in manufacturing efficiently. The UK is slowly picking up manufacturing again but is more niche and has a better finesse in quality. Circular knitting is an area that is on the increase with active-wear becoming a huge industry, so it was really great to get hands on experience in one of the world’s biggest circular machinery suppliers.
Having experienced flat-bed knitting using Stoll and Shima Seiki machinery, the circular machinery works in a totally different way, but once you can get around how it works the concept of circular seamless knitting is incredible.
While in Shanghai we visited various yarn manufacturers including Sudwolle’s China plant which was amazing. To see the spinning and dyeing processes of Merino wool is something I haven’t experienced first-hand on such a huge scale and I am delighted we had the chance to go through each step to get a better understanding of how Merino wool is processed.
What do you think the challenges and opportunities are for young designers thinking about setting up on their own?
I’m currently in this situation of limbo in either to pursue working in industry for a company as a designer or to take the leap and go it alone as an independent. Financially speaking it’s quite difficult to get going, and although there are a lot of entrepreneur schemes in both the UK and Ireland it can be overwhelming to try to understand where to begin.
On the other hand there is a huge increase of knitwear appreciation within fashion and it’s a great time to be involved as a knitwear designer.
We agree – and there’s definitely quite a buzz about Irish design talent at the moment in both interiors and fashion – who inspires you? Either from home or anywhere!
I think the drive last year by the Irish Design 2015 initiative has really promoted Irish Design internationally and brought a lot of Irish talent to the forefront.
Personal favourites of mine would be Laura Kinsella who is a millinery genius and the innovative womenswear designers Danielle Romeril and Richard Malone who are both showing at LFW. I have to mention another fellow Irish NTU graduate Fintan Mulholland who produced a beautiful award winning knitwear collection and definitely is one to watch for the future.
On your website you talk about sustainability – please tell us how you source your sustainable fabrics and yarns – what does sustainability mean to you and why is it important?
It was important for me to explore sustainability in my work using natural fibres rather than synthetic as I feel that the overall quality of natural fibres and fabrics is unbeatable.
I guess coming from a luxury menswear background and developing an appreciation for the best natural qualities has pushed me to try to minimise the use of any synthetics in my work. It’s also important as it’s supporting home-grown industry such as mills and suppliers and also less damaging to the environment.
As a knitwear designer do you knit yourself?
Yes, although I’m more technically minded and prefer using power knit machinery, I have a hand flat knitting machine always set up in my home. I try to hand knit and I’ve recently learnt to (somewhat badly) crochet. I feel that sometimes being quite hands on with an initial idea in hand knit then translating to machine is extremely useful as a knitwear designer.
Lastly, being The Campaign for Wool, we have to ask what do you enjoy about using sheep’s wool in your work?
I think the history behind sheep’s wool, from a heritage point of view but also the new advances in technology applied to Merino make it an exciting material to work with. I also have a soft spot for the smell of lanolin you get in unprocessed wool!
If you are a designer or manufacturer who works in wool and would like to participate in a future #WoolWorks chat we’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch and tell us about yourself.