There’s something comforting and undeniably primordial about the coziness of wool in cold weather. So it’s refreshing to see that in this era of high-performance fabrics and technology-driven manufacturing, a revival in classic knitwear is underway.
Leading this resurgence is U.K.-based Last of England, offering the kind of jumpers that refresh the country’s woolen heritage. “We noticed that people wanted authenticity and quality, not disposability,” says founder Tom Percy. “So we make cashmere jumpers that will never grow old—to traditional patterns—in the U.K.” The process of making each of the brand’s pieces (all of which are knitted in Hawick, an ancient wool town near the Scottish border) has been likened to the Slow Food movement—a way of raising awareness for time-honored practices that have fallen under the radar. The results of this careful manufacturing process include the sumptuously chunky Fisherman Rib Camel cashmere jumper ($426) and the Honeycomb Stitch cashmere V-neck ($346).
Combining ancient techniques with thoroughly modern business tactics borrowed from the likes of Supreme, the Tailor Retailored drops limited-edition sweaters every 2 to 6 weeks. Made with the best cashmere sourced from China and Mongolia, the limited-edition releases (which are typically 20 to 100 pieces) augment the brand’s permanent collection of classic turtlenecks, cardigans, and sweaters. Again, the cozy designs are woven in Scotland—the first country to perfect the carding process for cashmere, resulting in the ultrasoft fabric we know today. The brand’s intriguing name also hails from the northern U.K. country, coming from Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s novel Sartor Resartus, which translates as “the Tailor Retailored.” If you can’t snag one of the brand’s limited-edition designs like the Hampton five-ply cashmere cardigan (roughly $1,190), go for the fine Eòin crewneck cashmere sweater (around $330).
But perhaps the most famous of all of the U.K.’s classic knitwear brands is John Smedley. Claiming to produce “the world’s finest knitwear,” the 233-year-old brand’s fine-gauge jerseys have earned the family-owned company a Royal Warrant. Founded in 1784 in Derbyshire, the brand did not open its first shop in London until 2010, putting its knits—which are still produced in the company’s original water-powered mill—on the global map. Since then, the brand has become renowned for its Merino knits made from New Zealand wool: Think enduring V-necks, crewnecks, polos, and T-shirts that flatter with their slinky silhouettes (pullovers from $180 and jackets from $420).