Image: Unsplash

There’s a white doily crochet pattern shirt hanging in my closet, right next to a multicoloured crochet crew neck top; both of which I have barely worn since purchasing them towards the end of last winter. I knew then that the crochet trend — one of the most talked about in fashion at present — was a thing, but had I looked even more closely I would have come to realise that it’s not merely another fashion trend. It’s one that has the potential to change perceptions about what constitutes luxury.

Crochet is an aspect of a trend that’s come to be known as “craftcore”. It’s one that also includes hand-knits, macramé, tapestries, tie-dye, quilting, and other traditional, homey techniques that have inspired a movement of sorts.

As early as 2020, a deluge of craft-based content began springing up on all corners of social media — YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram, you name it. Crocheting and knitting had somehow shed the stereotype as a hobby for senior citizens, becoming a fad for younger generations, sharing the hobbies they were picking up as we were all locked away in our homes due to governments around the world ordering Covid lockdowns.

Remember that banana bread you were making during level 5 lockdown? That Udemy knitting class you soon abandoned? Well, you’re one of millions around the world who were using their hands to make stuff, and for many designers — and now brands — this rediscovery of handcrafting inspired a shift in perspective, making craftcore the huge trans-seasonal trend it has become.

Subtle T's Hues of the Desert.
Subtle T's Hues of the Desert.
Image: Subtle T Facebook.

A simple search for key words related to the trend brings up a slew of small brands that sprang up in this time but I would be remiss if I did not note that some, like SA’s very own Subtle-T, had already been exploring crochets ahead of the pandemic. Subtle-T’s “Hues of the Desert” range, showcased at African Fashion International’s Joburg Fashion Week in 2018, is a case in point.

Back in May 2020, Ella Emhoff, model and stepdaughter of US vice-president Kamala Harris shared a post on Instagram wearing a crochet hat. About a year later, she launched a three-piece limited edition collection with womenswear brand Batsheva. Delsy Gouw’s Memorial Day crochet brand emerged as a favourite of Emhoff’s and other celebrities.

High-end designers and brands tapping into the craftcore movement include JW Anderson, whose patchwork cardigan worn by Harry Styles ignited TikTok mania, leading the brand to post a “Harry Styles cardigan knitting tutorial” YouTube video.

In March 2022 we reported French luxury brand Chloe’s embrace of artisanal craft under the creative direction of Gabriella Hearst, who notes that “this thing we call luxury has become overindustiralised”. Locally, brands like Viviers, Uni Form, MaXhosa and others have long been championing a craft-based sensibility. In Uni Form’s case, specifically, this involves working with rural craft communities — an important tent of sustainability.

The nature of trends is such that many are fleeting, but some represent tectonic shifts — critical changes in the global environment. The pandemic represents such a moment, so it’s quite unsurprising that some of the trends that came about during this time may have staying power. I would argue that craftcore is one of them, and the next few years — or seasons at the very least — will demonstrate the many innovative ways in which designers and brands are going to incorporate the trend and perhaps encourage a rethink of how we define luxury.

As the craftcore trend also coincides with an increasingly important question of sustainability for younger consumers seeking out brands that value a conscious approach to production, a slow approach to production that handmade, homespun trends like craftcore inspire, may trigger a reset. It’s an ideal environment for artisanal, made-to-order design to thrive.

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