It's the launch of our latest collaboration with Wallace Sewell - the Fairisle Knitted Tank, a beautiful heritage slipover given a modern twist in a palette of playful colour that is synonymous with the Wallace Sewell studio.
Wallace Sewell and Justine Tabak as brands, share the same ethos and values. We both value and champion British manufacturing, and design for longevity rather than fashion trends. Our products have a timeless appeal and are made with high-quality materials that are both practical and luxurious.
Master weavers and colour creatives, Wallace Sewell are enjoying their 30th year in business. With craftsmanship at their core, they weave scarves and homewares that spark true joy. Their products fuse tradition with modernity; scarves in kaleidoscope weaves, blankets in unexpected checks, their jacquard designs for the seats of London Underground blending joy with practicality.
As long term collaborators and personal friends, co founder Emma Sewell, and I, decided to create a knitted tank together, one that would work into our collection whilst unique in its own right. Making just 20 of these limited edition garments between us, this is a true heirloom in the making!
Ahead of the knitwear launch, we sat down with Emma & Justine to chat about knitwear, colour, slow fashion, and long friendships!
How did the two of you meet?
Emma: In the playground of our daughters' primary school. They were best buddies, we got chatting and we discovered that we had both been at the RCA around the same time and became best buddies ourselves!
Justine: A meeting of minds in the playground! We discovered that we had lots of interests and connections in common. I studied Fashion and Textiles whilst Emma studied Woven Textiles. We've enjoyed many years of friendship whilst watching our daughters grow up too.
This is the third collaboration you've done?
Justine: Yes, we’ve worked together before on knits because they sit nicely across both brands. This is our first all-over Fairisle design, and I knew that Emma would weave, or let’s say knit, magic into the colour work!
How did the idea of collaborating come about initially?
Emma: It was a natural progression really. We were always chatting, whether on long walks, over lunch or at the pub, so it was an obvious step to work together on a project - and knitwear appealed to both of us.
Justine: We both have a love of classic, authentic British styling and heritage craft so it was a natural meeting of minds. Each collaboration has been a joy to work on.
It could be said that knitwear is a natural crossover of weaving and sewing, would you agree?
Emma: Yes. Knitting, although very different, is about constructing a textile, similar to weaving but in the form of a garment, like clothes sewing or fashion design. Texture, patterning and of course colour are crucial in both knitted and woven textiles.
Justine: I love how you can create blends of different colours across rows of knitting, much like you can on a weaving loom. There’s no end to the possibilities of knitting with multiple shades and just a tiny highlight of colour across our Fairisle tank makes a huge difference to the blended stripes.
How do you work together?
Emma: Justine gave us a knitted shape to work on and shared their colour palettes for the season. I then came up with the initial ideas for the colouring of the Fairisle pattern, which was passed to the rest of the Wallace Sewell design team for their input. I then presented back with my ideas.
Justine: It’s difficult to say where working stops and starts when you work with a friend as we could be chatting over coffee or having a long country walk…the best way to work! We gave Emma our general colour thoughts and described that I’d like to keep the colours ‘soft and pretty with a punch!’
Do you design for yourselves, or for customers?
Justine: Mmm…difficult! I always think of my customers first but then I also wear my clothes most days so it’s very hard to distinguish! You could say my customers very much reflect my taste and sometimes we delve into their social media, look at their interests and tastes to inspire us in return!
Emma: I agree, it’s a bit of both. We only design pieces that we would want to wear ourselves, but do also consider what our customers would like. Harriet and I had been wanting to create a Fairisle tank with Justine, as we are both fans of the style.
Where did the inspiration come from for this beautifully patterned tank?
Emma: For this project, we had a day out in town, with exhibitions, window shopping, lunch at L’Escargot, and chatted about what we wanted to create together and finalised the colours for the piece. I love working on such projects, exploring how a given group of colours can work together, balancing them whilst creating unexpected pairings and surprises.
Justine: On our day out, we spotted some beautiful faded textiles in the Liberty department store, there was something about all the blends of colour that was exciting. We used a soft gentle pink-toned neutral for the ribbed finishes that we thought would sit well with the dress collection or simply with a pair of jeans.
Wallace Sewell + Justine Tabak pieces are known for their use of high-quality natural materials, designs that transcend fashion trends, and support of UK manufacturing, can you tell us more about this?
Justine: A beautiful Wallace Sewell blanket will be treasured for years and in the same way, our classically styled dresses should be worn for years on lots of occasions. We both love natural enduring fibres and fabrics; where Wallace Sewell uses pure wool and silk, we use traditional fabrics like cotton corduroy, Irish linen, and natural wool.
Emma: As with all our designs, the knitwear aims to create timeless pieces that can fit many wardrobes, based around unusual, yet beautiful colour compositions. We have worked with the mill in Scotland for all the collaborations now, so we have built up a relationship with them. It is wonderful to work with small, family-run businesses that are at the top of their craft.
How would each of you wear this tank?
Emma: So many ways! With double denim, classic wool trousers and a chiffon shirt, or a modern yellow skirt and t-shirt. It works with so much of my wardrobe.
Justine: I would wear the tank to brighten up a plain dress. We have a new dress, ‘the Midhurst’, in sustainably sourced double gauze that is based on an artist's smock and a great foil for the colourful tank. Just add chunky boots and a Wallace Sewell scarf!
What is your perfect way to spend an Autumn/Winter day?
Emma: Going for a slow winter walk with friends, putting the world to rights and often planning new projects. Concluded with a cup of tea or a half of ‘bitter top’ at a cosy pub. I introduced Justine to this drink and now she’s a convert!
Justine: My perfect day would be brunch in my local café, the Acoustic in Newington Green, followed by a walk in nearby Clissold Park where the trees are turning amber and gold. In the afternoon, I’d visit an exhibition and finish off the day with a glass or red in a cosy pub with friends… Emma included of course!
Emma: A glass of red? You mean a bitter top!
Finally, do you knit, yourselves?
Justine: Yes, I am knitting at the moment...a simple chunky knit jumper from a kit by Lauren Aston designs. Emma beats me hands down when it comes to knitting skills though. The last time I saw her knitting was on a train to Norwich where she was crafting some gorgeous fine-knit socks in intricate stripes.
Emma: That's right! Train journeys are ideal for knitting. I’ve always knitted even before I studied textiles. Whilst I was studying at Central School of Art in the 1980s, I worked in a yarn shop in Camden and was endlessly planning new knitting projects, acquiring so much yarn along the way. Having moved these half-knitted projects from home to home over the decades, I am now trying to use up as much of my stash as possible. So, I have completed a knitted denim jacket and a plain tank, both of which I started back in the 80s, but have most recently been knitting socks. On trains!
The Justine Tabak x Wallace Sewell Fairisle Wool Tank comes in three sizes, with size Small fitting a size 10, a Medium, a size 12 and Large size 14. This is a loose fit designed to be worn over layers, we suggest wearing with dark plains and checks...
See the latest scarves from the Wallace Sewell AW22 collection, perfect for adding a splash of colour to a outfit or a beautiful gift.
A massive thank you to the whole Wallace Sewell team for their work on this collaboration. As always, it's been a pleasure. You can explore the world of Wallace Sewell on the below link or visit their London store at 24 Lloyd Baker Street, WC1X 9AZ.