I visited knitwear designer Lindsay Degen at her Brooklyn studio last month. The young designer’s whimsical Claes Oldenburg inspired lingerie collection has been getting lots of attention, with features in WWD, Teen Vogue, and T Magazine.
“I’m a knitwear designer, but I collaborate with a lot of other designers to make other things. I’ve collaborated with VPL, Cooperative Designs and some other people for their lines. But now that I have my own line, since I only knit, I want woven designers and jewelry designers, filmmakers—I want to collaborate with everyone who has a specialty. So now I’m working with a few different people for Fall/Winter to do that. There’s a girl named Claudia Baethgen who is the assistant designer at Gary Graham and she’s doing the wovens, and she’s incredible. And Katelin Gibbs, who I share a studio with, does jewelry and I hope to pull on a few more people along the way.”
Knitting was always a huge priority. I learned to knit when I was three but I didn’t really start knitting until I was eight. My grandma taught me, we didn’t have a great relationship but she taught me and it stuck because it’s something that keeps your hands busy; but there’s times where you have to think a lot about it, and times when you can kind of coast and think about other things. It’s kind of really math oriented.
Most of the time if I lounge around too much in the morning I have trouble getting momentum so I get up, brush my teeth, wash my face with ultrabland from Lush. You don’t really wash your face with it exactly, it’s almond oil based so I just smear it on and use an astringent to take it off. It makes my skin feel really clean but also not too dry, I hate that—overly dry. Then I just use a very basic fragrance free moisturizer and go. I go to my studio and I can get pretty messy throughout the day. When I get home I use Trader Joe’s shampoo and conditioner. I have one dreadlock that I have to oil, that is a major part of it because it’s bleached so I have to make sure it is not too dry. So I use Moroccan tree oil on that. At night I use ultrabland again and use the same moisturizer.
I don’t like to wear makeup to the point where you know that I’m wearing makeup. Um, I use Lorac on my face because I have really sensitive skin so it’s pretty light, and then I use black MAC eye shadow as eyeliner in carbon. I like to darken my eyebrows a little bit as well. That is my basic makeup routine. I like being kind of pale and then having dark hair and dark features; I think it’s a good look for me. Sometimes in the summer I use my winter color Lorac powder to look paler.
When I went to RISD, I really liked fine art but then I also really liked fashion, so when I came up with this collection for the last fashion week. I realized through the presentation process, not really a fashion show, but a presentation, that you have a space and it can be a gallery, and you have models, but it can be fashion. Also I want kind of the sterile fashion people who are really serious to come into one of my spaces and be like, “this is kind of fun” because I think there is this overly serious issue in fashion and fine art.
It was actually a struggle to stick with one collection through fashion week and still be talking about it in October. I’m excited to make new things. It’s like, this is old news for me let’s make new stuff! I am really looking forward to next fashion week and am really excited about what I’m working on.
Every once and a while I like to throw on some crazy lipstick. Illamasqua makes a great black lipstick that I love and wear out at night. If I’m going on a date but I also don’t know if it will go anywhere I like to wear lipstick, like a first date. Several lipsticks mean several different things to me though. I’ll go for red during the day just to feel sexy or if I’m going to SOHO, and then I’ll notice everyone is wearing red lipstick so maybe I’ll opt for pale purple. I never wear too much eye makeup, I think it’s one or the other, eyes or lips.
Because everything is hand-operated there is no electricity in any process that is happening, so it’s very green. Everything is handmade by me and the knitting machine. It’s a machine but it doesn’t plug into anything—it’s just me moving it back and forth with two needles. Well the last collection I didn’t duplicate, so each piece is worth the value of a fine art piece. I don’t think it will always be that way, I think I will have to resort to factories but even for this next season I am looking into production and so far I know the names of the technicians. So Instead of saying “Handmade by Lindsay Degen in Brooklyn” it will say “Handmade by Michael in Austin, Texas.” I’m still micromanaging as much as possible.
When you knit and when you come to the neck drop, you have to knit each shoulder individually. When I do that, I sometimes mess up and I’ll knit twelve more rows on one side than the other and then I’ll have a lopsided garment and I’ll have to problem solve. I think that the essence of what makes my pieces my own is what happens when I need to problem solve after I have made a stupid mistake.”
-As told to The Formula / Photos by Aimee Blaut in New York