When asked if the denim industry has historically discriminated against curvy women, Eleanore Guthrie, Creative Director/Designer of Knorts Denim Knitwear has a smart, quick reply: “The denim industry has lacked the right sizing for all girls,” she says, with a knowing chuckle. Hating the whole denim experience she and so many women encounter, Guthrie put her accounting background and some basic aesthetic knowhow to the test, creating Knorts denim knitwear. About six years ago, at just 21 years old, Guthrie set out to fill the gap between comfort and style, especially for the hard to fit crowd, which, she rightly contends, are pretty much all women.
“Shopping for denim has always been the bane of my existence,” says Guthrie. “I think everyone and every body type can attest to that. The denim I own, I’ve owned for a bazillion years because I hate shopping for denim so much. It’s insane how hard it is to find a flattering fit. Since starting Knorts, I’ve learned about the hardships curvy women face when shopping for denim, because my designs coincidentally solve a lot of their problems. Listening to their stories makes it easy to [incorrectly] interpret the situation as if the industry was acting in a discriminatory way towards curvy people.”
However, Guthrie doesn’t blame the industry. The economics of it simply had yet to prove worthy of good, comfortable designs. “When you think about it from a business perspective, I just think the industry was catering to the highest demand and most profitable part of the market,” she says. “After all, the goal of business is to make money. Today, there’s much higher demand for curve denim, which is why we are seeing a big shift in product offerings. Since this part of the market hasn’t been properly catered to in the past and is otherwise growing, there’s a large money-making opportunity there, so it makes sense for businesses to finally invest resources.”
But Guthrie and her brand are not just there for the market share. This is a labor of love in every way for her. “I decided to start the brand because I wanted stylish clothing for riding my bike in college that didn’t compromise comfort. I also didn’t want my outfit to look like I just walked out of the gym/yoga class,” she says. It’s led her to develop knitwear that looks sophisticated and stylish while being deceptively comfortable. “I don’t necessarily see it replacing woven denim because woven denim is deeply rooted in history and people love that aspect,” she admits. “However, I do see denim knitwear encroaching on woven denim’s market share significantly in the future.”
As for the designs she creates for Knorts, Guthrie is exacting. “All the designs must be 100% denim knitwear, flattering, and appropriate for layering to accommodate weather and temperature fluctuations throughout the day,” she says. “We always try to emphasize details of the fabric, the comfort of knitwear, and communicate the general aesthetic of the brand, among other things. Our designs are made by hand on a loom in Los Angeles, so it’s very important to reinforce that aspect often and to educate people more on what hand looming is.”
Really what Guthrie and Knorts are doing is revolutionary mostly in terms of fit and comfort. Other than that, it’s definitely a close knit, pun intended, cousin to what is already a wardrobe staple. “Denim knitwear is comfortable and practical to wear all year long,” Guthrie instructs. “Despite the fact that it’s knitted like sweaters, it’s the same material as the woven jeans in your closet, just cotton that is made differently. The knitted aspect actually makes the designs more breathable.”
[Note: This article was also published in our current magazine #294, The Bluer Than Blue Issue[