In physics, string theory suggests the universe is made up of tangled strings. While sometimes contested, this concept aptly describes the universe of knitwear designer Kim Haller. “You start with just a string and you have to figure out: How many ends of it do you want to use? Do you want it to be finer or thicker? Are you mixing it with other yarns? What kind of tension do you use?”
Kim Haller launched her eponymous knitwear line for the fall 2014 season, but her introduction to the industry dates back to the late eighties, when she was recruited as assistant knitwear designer for Calvin Klein. Haller spent four years at the company learning the ropes, and eventually became primary knitwear designer.
Over the past 25 years, Haller has designed for Michael Kors, Jason Wu, DKNY, TSE Cashmere, and Derek Lam, among others, through her consultancy business. “The first season I designed for Michael [Kors], I created a kimono-style chunky cardigan that was knit out of a yarn where they took the finest Italian cashmere and knit it into shoestrings,” says Haller. “They actually knitted the yarn.” Her time spent working with design industry magnates was rife with formative lessons for Haller, helping to hone her detailed eye.
The now-Brooklyn-based designer (who was born in rural Indiana and raised in Australia before moving to New York to study at Parsons School of Design) had wanted to create a line of her own for years, but earning practical industry experience during her time as a design protégé proved to be time well spent. “Everything that I needed—all the connections, the mentors, and the different viewpoints—it was just ripe and ready to go,” she says, explaining the early breakthrough of her namesake collection.
Haller’s desire to modify the conservative perception of knits also contributed to her successful debut, as she challenged design conventions by creating daring pieces, unique in the realm of knitwear. “I like pushing sweaters beyond the limits of what’s normal, because I’ve designed so many normal sweaters over the years. It’s very exciting for me to see something that’s different,” she says. “I knew that I wanted to push the boundaries of knitwear in some way, but I didn’t really know what it was going to look like.”
Having released only three collections, Haller is still discovering how to push these boundaries, but is well on her way to a refined signature aesthetic. “It’s easy for me to design pretty clothes, but there are enough pretty clothes out there. If you really want to do something and make a name for yourself, it has to be pushed beyond just pretty,” states Haller. “There has to be something special.”
Haller’s designs are definitely just that, with a choice of knit dresses, from chunky to sheer, as well as vintage lingerie-inspired bodysuits. Envisioned originally as showpieces to be layered with her more conventional knits, the bodysuits were not intended to appear on retailers’ racks. When Haller earned support from places like Opening Ceremony, she knew she had stumbled upon the “something special” and introduced the bodysuits into her inaugural collection (where a velvet snakeskin-patterned Perla lingerie set was the season’s bestseller).
For fall 2015, Haller continues to skew sexy, showcasing three new bodysuits—the Cecily, the Lolita, and the Riley. The more demure of the season are the Cecily, incorporating a viscose-Lycra blend (viscose is a synthetic likened to silk) in a compact stitch to hold the body in, and the Lolita, made from a combination of merino wool and a viscose. Both the Cecily and the Lolita feature an opaque bodice—the sleeveless Cecily’s emblazoned with bold text while the black-and-white body of the Lolita is more playful with a floral brocade print and delicate straps. The Riley is this season’s most daring (and possibly the most daring knit on any rack), featuring full-length sleeves and a crewneck with Haller’s technical pointelle stitches forming a sheer geometric pattern in fine black yarn.
Some Kim Haller classics include the Aby pullover—a long-sleeved cable-knit made from a 100 per cent merino yarn in charcoal blue—and the high-waisted Clara skirt, which incorporates a heavy waffle-inspired stitch of a merino-nylon blend, giving the floor-skimming skirt an element of durability that still has the feel of a natural wool. Haller’s technologically advanced pieces combine idiosyncratic textures, colours, and patterns in a distinctive yet practical way.
With the brand’s first spring collection expected to deliver in February, Haller’s full knit ensembles have every climate covered, intending that your universe—or at least your wardrobe—be composed of yarn as well. “I love the idea of finding a way to make head-to-toe knit dressing completely not look like head-to-toe knit dressing in the classic sense of what people think that is,” she says. “The [brand] challenges women to come out of their shells and show themselves, show their beauty, and their femininity, and their sexuality in a fun way, I believe. And I think that that is a lot of who I am now, and who I’ve grown into.”