How The Knotty Ones empower Women

The Knotty Ones // Everyone here knows I love knitwear. Not only wearing it but making it myself, as well. A few months ago I came across this brand and got curious about their business and structure. Knitwear, only natural fibers, cool, timeless designs, fair wages, women supporting women – whats not to like? Empowering woman in their craft, making them feel valued and supported – and not just the bra-way of support – but with real living wages, which are seldom paid, The Knotty Ones revolutionize the fashion industry in their own way. This way woman in Lithuania more easily get to be independent from their spouses. Their working schedule is suited individually, so each and every (wo)mom can care for both – their children and their work.

We took a very conscious decision to use only natural materials for all our knits — be it fair trade cotton or wool or wool/alpaca blend. It’s always natural.

Fashion Fika: Let’s start with the raw materials – the wool. Do you use a certain kind of wool? Is it mixed materials, only natural materials or maybe even certified?

The Knotty Ones: We took a very conscious decision to use only natural materials for all our knits — be it fair trade cotton or wool or wool/alpaca blend. It’s always natural. The exact type of yarn depends on a the exact model, but we are very cautious when picking our suppliers and only work with those that follow sustainable practices.

If speaking of our wool yarn specifically, the wool fibers used in it are untreated, which means that it is only washed and not exposed to any chemical treatment prior to the dyeing. This highlights the fiber’s natural properties, while it provides also a better shape and texture quality.

FF: To my understanding, the team of „The Knotty Ones“ work internationally from New York to Lithuania. Do you create the designs yourselves in New York or do you work with (independent) designers? How often do you publish new designs?

I think the general issue with the industry right now is that most young women don’t realize that they are actually supporting exploitation of other women (given that 80% of garment factory workers worldwide are women) by opting for fast fashion or what impact it does on the plant. We do believe that educating consumers, in general, is our responsibility.

TKO: That is correct. Actually our co-founder Sandra will be allocating to Bali for a few months, so we’ll be New York- Lithuania-Bali based for a bit 🙂
All our knitwear is made in Lithuania.
As co-founders, all three of us we are very much involved in the design process. That being said, we find creating designs to be a perfect medium to empower up-and-coming female designers.
Majority of our knits were designed in collaboration with Liucija Kvasyte. A few years back she was named as #1 emerging young talent in design in Lithuania and we just don’t have enough nice words to say about this young women. It’s amazingly rewarding to work with young female talents and help bring their work to larger audiences.

As for releasing new designs, we do that on an going basis to freshen up, but as a general rule we try to move away from fast fashion model with new items being constantly baked. We’d rather focus on creating pieces that are timeless and can be worn many seasons from now.

FF: On your website, you write that the knitters are paid fairly. Does Lithuania have as minimum wage and if so, are they paid minimum or maybe even living wage (which, as you most certainly know, is often above minimum wage)?

TKO: Lithuania does have a minimum wage and by fairly we mean that they are being paid above a minimum (as you said a living wage).
The exact agreement depends on a knitter. As you know most of them are stay at home moms. We want to provide them with a flexibility they need in their lives given they often have a full house of kids. For some of them, it’s a full-time job, for others it’s an opportunity to earn extra income for a few hours of knitting a day while their kids are at school.
We want to make sure our knitters choose themselves what suits their situation best.

FF: Your great, modern designs also sell a lifestyle. Do you aim to make fair fashion more attractive to a younger audience or do you rather sell to existing audiences? Could you characterize your audience?

TKO: The Knotty Ones woman is her 20s or 30s and is a bit of a rebel. She’s a bad babe, but ultimately cares about people around her, including ones that make her clothes.

I think the general issue with the industry right now is that most young women don’t realize that they are actually supporting exploitation of other women (given that 80% of garment factory workers worldwide are women) by opting for fast fashion or what impact it does on the plant. We do believe that educating consumers, in general, is our responsibility.

FF: You mostly work with stay-at-home knitters to facilitate their lives, which I think is great! How did you find the knitters who work for you and how do you ensure their knitting proficiency?
Do you give them the possibility of further education in the craft of knitwear?

TKO: When we initially started looking for knitters with the goal of creating cool modern knits we posted a few ads in local newspapers in Lithuania. To our surprise, women that applied for our job listings weren’t grandmothers (as we expected them to be), but rather young, stay-at-home moms in rural areas where jobs are extremely scarce. Yes, they wanted financial independence from their husbands, but also they wanted to able to provide for their families themselves. In a way we saw our knitters as rebels too — these women no longer wanted to rely on their men for financial stability as previous generations did.
It all happened naturally.
Our knitters now have a network and most of the new team members come by referral from existing knitters which helps us ensure knitting proficiency. They honestly are extremely talented women.

They absolutely have an opportunity get further education in the craft. E.g. Our Heartbreaker Knit might be one of our most ambitious knits, so our head knitter Marina organizes workshops on it for other knitters.

But I think it’s also important to note that we train our knitters beyond the craft. They also learn about basic accounting, managing shipments and stock, running training sessions. These are the skills that they can take with them and also apply in their future.

FF: How do you ensure the quality standards if you work with so many individual stay-at-home knitters? I can image the distribution of material for the workers is a rather high expense or am I mistaken?

TKO: Our head knitter is responsible for quality control. No knit goes out into the world before she is satisfied with it 🙂
Distribution of materials is not really a high expense. Lithuania is pretty small and shipping/ transportation within the country is rather cheap. Or at least it’s nothing compared to the cost of materials themselves and women’s salaries.

FF: On average, how many hours do knitters work on one garment? Are they paid per hour or per garment?

Purposely we avoid one-fits-all model and want to facilitate as much flexibility as possible.

TKO: It really depends on a garment. Something as easy as knitted panties might take a few hours while our heartbreaker knit is a project for a few full-days. Again, what/how our knitters are paid depends on our agreement with each knitter. Purposely we avoid one-fits-all model and want to facilitate as much flexibility as possible. Some of our knitters take on so much more responsibilities (e.g. quality control, stock update) that it simply wouldn’t be fair to pay per garment. Others are paid per garment, given that they work on a few knits a month and need a flexible schedule.


All pictures: The Knotty Ones

FF: Apart from your online shop, where else can my readers find your beautiful knitwear pieces (in Germany)?

TKO: Besides online, where we just added some new colors at www.theknottyones.com, we are currently available in zwo

LNFA Concept
Obergeschoss Budapesterstrasse 44 10787 Berlin

Wood Stories
Karl-Marx-Platz 15 12043 Berlin

FF: Good think I’m in Berlin next week – I’ll make some time to check out your handknits in person!

Thanks for the interview and your time! 🙂

I just love the idea of supporting stay-at-home Mums internationally and offer them a free, ultra individual working schedule to suit their needs. Drop me comment if you see problems with this model or have thoughts on this topic.

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