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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Bethan Juliff, Knitwear Designer Extraordinaire: New S/S 2012 Season Preview Interview

Discover the intricate knitwear designs of Bethan Juliff, Fashion Fringe finalist and creator of sculptural wonders.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Bethan Juliff Knitwear by Sarah Ryan
Bethan Juliff Knitwear by Sarah Ryan.

Bethan Juliff‘s creative knitwear secured her a place in the finals of the prestigious Fashion Fringe competition, and she is now taking part in the Centre for Fashion Enterprise Market Entry programme with Toby Meadows. This talented designer is going places!

Bethan Juliff Knitted Dress by Janneke de Jong
Bethan Juliff Knitted Dress by Janneke de Jong.

What is your design background? Where did you study and what made you decide to go into knitwear design in particular?
I studied Textiles HND at Newcastle College where I specialised in hand knit. I was taught the basics by my Nan at a young age and I decided to try out some new techniques and ideas for my final project after being inspired by Claire Tough‘s CSM graduate collection in 2004 and seeing the Vivienne Westwood 2004 exhibition at the V&A which featured some amazing knitted garments. It was then that my tutor encouraged me to apply for the Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textile BA course at Nottingham Trent University to which I was later accepted and joined the course in year 2.

Ophelia bridal-Bethan Juliff
Ophelia bridal gown by Bethan Juliff.

Why did you decide to launch your own knitwear collection? It’s definitely not easy to construct an entire collection from knit, but with the likes of Mark Fast doing well do you think it is becoming easier?
After graduating I moved to London and after 2 years of working and designing on computer packages I realised I missed the practical side of knitwear. I find with my own designs that working with the yarns yourself is the only way to know how the knit can be changed and manipulated into different techniques and shapes. I understand why people think it would be hard to have a collection made entirely from knit but I find the opposite to be true and could go on forever! What I love about Knitwear is that there is such a vast range of products and yarns. There’s no reason why a beautiful evening dress can’t be knitted in fine silk or a summer dress sculptured from cotton, yet I have found the general understanding and perception of knit is very limited to cable knit jumpers and socks. In reality the possible products are never ending. I truly love doing it and every day I spend attached to my knitting machine I still look forward to knitting the next day!

Bethan Juliff 2012 by Claire Jones Art
Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Claire Jones Art.

Your knitwear is very sculptural, how did you learn to work in this way and do you use any special techniques?
The sculptured shapes which appear in the S/S 2012 collection have been achieved from 4 years of developing my own techniques. I understand my knitting machine really well now and once I decide on a pattern or a shape I like to just sit down and make it 3D. The possibilities available within stitch work in knitwear means there’s always a new way to do something.

Isabella Bethan Juliff
Isabella dress by Bethan Juliff.

The dresses in your latest S/S 2012 collection are inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, why did you choose this as inspiration and how did your research translate into wearable designs for the modern woman?
I always find the question about inspiration quite hard to answer as I think my designs are mostly inspired by the medium of knit rather than outside sources, but at the same time it’s a bit of a running joke in my family that I go through stages of becoming enamored with certain periods of British history such as the Pre-Raphaelites and this influences the way I like the collection to be styled, seen and photographed. Throughout design history there are certain shapes which will always compliment the female body. When designing for the modern woman I try to produce garments that give the perfect silhouette but hopefully in a more contemporary way.

Bethan Juliff By Vicky Fallon
Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Vicky Fallon.

What do you suggest that your clients wear with a knitted dress to best show it off?
I would probably just say your best pair of heels. Hopefully they shouldn’t need much else… apart from maybe a Bethan Juliff Poppy broach!

The Lady dress by Bethan Juliff
The Lady dress by Bethan Juliff.

Can you let us into any secrets as to what to expect from your upcoming A/W 2012 collection. I hear you have secured an exciting sponsor…
I’ve been really lucky with the support I have received from places such as The Roof Gardens above Kensington High Street and Mannakin London who sponsored my S/S 2012 launch. For the upcoming A/W 2012 collection I have secured a yarn sponsorship from Yeoman Yarns which has been a huge help in the creation of each new garment. I’m very excitedly working on A/W 2012 at the moment and it’s by far the most challenging collection I have produced to date. The techniques from last season have developed further and as always there’s a new technique for the new season which has been quite time consuming! 

bethan juliff by hayley warnham
Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Hayley Warnham.

What do you think took you to the final stages of the Fashion Fringe competition last year, and what did you learn from the process?
I absolutely loved being part of Fashion Fringe last year. I was really excited to get through to the final stages. I think the best thing that I took from the process was realising that I had confidence and knowledge I didn’t know I had. When faced with a Dragons’ Den like situation and 15 minutes to pitch your business in front of some of the most inspiring people in your industry, it’s surprising how all of the planning and practicing overrides the terror of standing in front of one of your favourite designers, such as Roland Mouret.

ophelia by Bethan Juliff
Ophelia by Bethan Juliff.

You are currently enrolled on a prestigious course at the Centre for Fashion Enterprise. Can you tell us more about what you will be learning and why it is so important to have this vital support for your work?
The Centre for Fashion Enterprise is such an amazing help for young designers who feel as if there is no support but need to take their businesses to the next level and don’t know the best way to do it. I’m part way through the Market Entry Programme which focuses on a huge range of things from legal advice on how to expand your business and I have found every session to be such a huge help and support. Also, being surrounded by likeminded young businesses makes you feel less alone and that it’s possible to achieve success if you keep at it and work hard.

Bethan Juliff 2012  by Clairejonesart
Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Claire Jones Art.

What sort of prices do your garments sell for and where can people get hold of them?
The S/S 2012 collection ranges in price from £449 to £1,350 and currently it is exclusively sold on www.bethanjuliff.com. The upcoming A/W 2012 collection will be launched next month and will be available to stockists.

Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Hayley Warnham
Bethan Juliff S/S 2012 by Hayley Warnham.

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