Similarly, knitting, which probably originated in Egypt between 500AD and 1200AD, leapt forward in increments (a
notable one being William Lee’s invention of the stocking frame knitting machine in 1589) on its way to a modern-day
scenario whereby the simple concept of intermeshing loops of yarns underpins high-tech performance fabrics that are
used not only to bolster the athleisure and casual-formal canons but also those in aerospace, healthcare and the
You would think that textile innovation would reach a saturation point, that there would be no more free space to
advance into. Try telling that, though, to a certain producer of high-end cashmere and wool products founded in the
Italian textiles hotspot of Trivero in 1924. The latest range of fabrics from Loro Piana — a brand whose research
and development visionaries are to textile innovation what Bentley and Aston Martin’s powertrain engineers are to
automotive innovation — is a high-tech improvement on a form of knitting (and not the variety associated with
rocking chairs, amorphous Christmas gifts and amicable Olympic divers, but that named after the island, Jersey, on
which it was first practised in the medieval period).
Jersey has — it is a textile, after all — come a long way from the heavyweight wool garments once made for nautical
types whose modern, tight-fitting, crew-neck ancestors are today still known as ‘jerseys’. And Loro Piana’s new
range of jersey fabrics takes the material into even more exciting realms, in the process redefining sartorial
borders, reinventing formalwear and facilitating more fluid interpretations of conventional gender boundaries and
use categories (and as regular readers know, our status as “the modern voice of classic elegance” does not preclude
us from championing the blurring of the lines between active and formal, urban and rural-wear or traditionally
masculine and feminine forms).
‘Single jersey’ (also known as ‘smooth knit’), the most common knit fabric, is made with a single series of needles
on single-bed machines and has two distinguishable faces: one whose V-shaped stitches create a smooth surface;
another whose stitch arches are piled. ‘Interlock knit’, meanwhile, which is produced by two series of needles using
double-bed machines, is less elastic and more compact than other types of knit, and has a ribbed knit-like
‘Pique’, created using single-bed machines with two rows arching upwards and downwards, has the distinctive texture
we’ve come to associate with sporty polos, while ‘Milano stitch’ — comprised of alternating lines of tubular and
plain stitching — is stronger and weightier, and suitable for jackets and suits. ‘Pile fabric’ has a second yarn
knitted onto a smooth base, leaving small raised rings that, once they’ve been teaselled, call to mind the
appearance of velour and offer abundant thermal insulation; ‘double structure’ sees two single jerseys invisibly
bound together (ideal for overcoats and jackets).
Finally, the collection includes a fabric whose existence can be attributed to arguably the most important invention
in woven textile history: that patented by the French weaver and merchant Joseph-Marie Jacquard in 1804, which
simplified the manufacturing of intricate design patterns such as brocade, damask and matelassé, and whose heirs are
still generating reams of cloth in beguilingly intricate colour configurations to this day.
What all these new jersey fabrics have in common — besides being created by the looping of a single strand of yarn
using the best raw materials in the world — is greater elasticity in all directions, making Loro Piana’s sweater
jackets, outerwear, dresses, skirts, jackets, overcoats and trousers not only more comfortable but superior in terms
of drape and silhouette, not to mention wearability and dimensional stability. They offer enveloping comfort,
two-way stretch and impressive adaptation to the wearer’s movements.
They’re also available in a vast range of solid shades and patterns, in a wide range of weights, and having been
subjected to as many different finishes applied to them (including Storm System, a recent, environmentally friendly
upgrade to the game-changing treatment Loro Piana have applied to their natural fabrics since 1994, which improves
their performance against the elements).
It’s now a century since Coco Chanel sent jersey’s sartorial cache skywards, also sending seismic shocks through
women’s fashion, by introducing the fabric to her collections. We’re convinced she’d approve heartily of the
sartorial trailblazers at Loro Piana and their significant upgrade of jersey fabric and all its admirable
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