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Knotty but nice: why Lithuania is the new home of sustainable knitwear

Doing
pebbles make ripples

Georgina Wilson-Powell

6 April 2017

Sandra, Danute and Akvile are three best friends who have turned a fashion brand into a way of enabling local Lithuanian craftswomen. The Knotty Ones is a sustainable contemporary knitwear and everyday essentials brand based in Lithuania and it’s setting an example in Eastern Europe for transparent, ethical and inspiring fashion. 


Fashion Bloc talks with The Knotty Ones about their vision for positive fashion.

Fashion Bloc: What is The Knotty Ones?

Akvile: The Knotty Ones is a sustainable knitwear label inspired by women with an attitude and traditional Nordic crafts. We recently introduced a line of everyday essentials (T-shirts, shirts, etc.) in addition to our knits.

FB: What are your values?

Danute: First and foremost, we believe that all humans are entitled to earn a living wage and work in safe working conditions.

There are millions of garment workers around the world – roughly 85% of them are women. Fast-fashion companies have moved their production to countries where the implementation of laws protecting workers are virtually non-existent and garment workers are exploited. This means that millions of people around the world are quite literally risking their lives to make our clothes.

We wanted to create something that makes you feel good wearing it. Not only because you looked great, but also because you knew that women who made your sweater got paid fairly, worked in a safe environment, were able to provide for themselves and their families, and last but not least, enjoyed themselves in the process.

Sandra: We always joke that “being cool is nice, but it’s cooler to be nice.” We have deliberately thrown away the fast-fashion model and instead have been focusing on ethical production by empowering our craftswomen, celebrating artisan work, establishing personal relationships with our suppliers and thinking about the impact our supply chain has on nature.

View as a slideshow

The Knotty Ones 8 Pebble Magazine

Pastel knits take on dress form thanks to The Knotty Ones


The Knotty Ones 5 Pebble Magazine

It takes between two and four days to make each piece


The Knotty Ones 8 Pebble Magazine

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Pastel knits take on dress form thanks to The Knotty Ones


The Knotty Ones 5 Pebble Magazine

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It takes between two and four days to make each piece


FB: Why is local craftmanship important to you?

Akvile: All three of us are excited about the challenge of taking knitting, such an old-school Lithuanian craft, and turning it into something cool, contemporary and relatable to modern women.

FB: Tell us more about your production chain.

Akvile: We source our wool yarns from Norway. The cotton yarns are recycled from high-quality fashion fabrics that our suppliers in the Netherlands get from European textile manufacturers. We just started working with a new supplier in Portugal that specialises in organic cotton and eco-friendly fabrics.

Our knitwear is handmade by craftswomen around Lithuania. The majority of them live in small towns and villages where jobs are extremely scarce. Most of our knitters are stay-at-home mums that appreciate the flexibility of knitting. The rest of our garments are ethically produced in a family-run garment factory in Kaunas, Lithuania. 

Each year, 80 billion items of clothing are purchased around the world. This is 400% more than just ten years ago. We promise you don’t need that much crap.

FB: How long does it take to make a knitted dress?

Sandra: Depending on how complex the dress is, it takes at least two-four full days for an artisan to make just one knit. In that sense, each product has its own individual story. We always try to remind our consumers that a lot of hours and love are put into each and every knit which makes it unique. It’s not just another fast-fashion item to be tossed away after few wears.

FB: What is your inspiration?

Danute: Given that the idea for The Knotty Ones was born while the three of us were somewhere between the rice fields of Bali and the hustle of Seoul, travelling would be pretty high on our list.

Akvile: Yes, it was actually in Bali that we got super inspired by local Indonesian crafts and started thinking of turning our Nordic craft of knitting into something cool. The Baltic knitting techniques and traditional patterns are quite something.

Sandra: We also find a lot of inspiration in each other and how different we are. That’s one of the perks of going into business with your BFFs.

The Knotty Ones 2 Pebble Magazine

The Knotty Ones support fair trade at every stage of the production process

FB: Did you have a wake-up call or was ethical production always in your brand's DNA?

Akvile: The social aspect was always a super important part of it, but we didn’t label it per se. When we started out, we didn’t even question the fact that craftswomen need to get paid fairly for their work and have good working conditions. It was just obvious.

But the maths wouldn’t match. Our fair pay alone even was higher than the final retail price of many fast-fashion brands. We kept asking ourselves how is that even possible? What about the costs of materials, logistics, marketing budget, paying wages and making a profit? We quickly learned that fast-fashion brands cut costs not only by opting for extremely low-quality materials but also at the expense of exploited garment workers and inhumane working conditions.

We realised that we had to be transparent about production and demand other brands to do the same. That’s the only way to make an actual change in the industry.

View as a slideshow

Woman modelling Knotty Ones jumper with back to the camera

The Knotty Ones knits are made by stay at home mums in Lithuania who have their knitting skills passed down through the generations


Woman modelling green The Knotty Ones cardigan

Lithuania is known for its complex knitted patterns and textiles


Woman modelling Knotty Ones jumper with back to the camera

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The Knotty Ones knits are made by stay at home mums in Lithuania who have their knitting skills passed down through the generations


Woman modelling green The Knotty Ones cardigan

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Lithuania is known for its complex knitted patterns and textiles


FB: Do your customers embrace sustainable fashion and ethical production or do you have to educate them?

Danute: It depends on the market. In some countries, the understanding of sustainable fashion is virtually non-existent but it’s quickly picking up around the world.

I think it could be compared to healthy living in a way. Today’s consumer is much more educated on, let’s say, a balanced diet, the importance of exercising and the effects of fast food compared to years ago. You can feel the same shift in the fashion industry. People are more and more interested in fabrics that are 100% natural; they carefully select what they wear and they check to see if their clothes were ethically produced. The change is ahead.

FB: Give us one piece of advice on how to live a more sustainable fashion life.

Akvile: Each year, 80 billion items of clothing are purchased around the world. This is 400% more than just ten years ago. We promise you don’t need that much crap.

One of the best bits of advice ever was to stop thinking of price per garment, but instead to always focus on “price per wear.” You could buy a top at Zara or H&M that you will wear a handful of times for one season before throwing it away, or you could invest in a piece that will last you for the next ten years. Not only the “price per wear” will be lower but you’ll be doing a massive favour to the planet.

Danute: Another tip that I personally love is from Marc Bain, a New York-based fashion reporter. He suggests setting a goal of not spending any less than $150 for every clothing purchase, which sounds insane and so counterintuitive, but it’s enough to have you seriously hesitating, which is the real point. It makes you think if you want that item and how much you will wear it. It’s an investment rather than a cheap buzz of getting something new.

Sandra: So, I guess, to sum up, we suggest shopping less, but better.

Fashion Bloc is a London-based fashion platform with a mission to help independent fashion brands grow regardless their geographical presence, budget and influence in the fashion world.