You know that frustration when there’s a specific cut or style you want, but you can’t seem to find it anywhere? When it became tiresome, Rachael Warner, the designer behind the statement knits of Spratters & Jayne, went ahead and started making her own apparel. Talk about bold and daring! It’s still cold outside and I’m gushing over Spratters & Jayne’s chunky knit scarves that aren’t just comfy and practical for San Francisco weather, but are both unique and classic staples. Find out more about the designer and the luxury brand below!
Describe your line in three words.
“Timely, timeless and lush.”
How long have you been in the biz and how did your shop get its start?
“It all started when I couldn’t find the extra-chunky knits like I wanted to wear. That was before they really took off. So I did what we do back on the farm in North Dakota, I started making things myself. And immediately it seemed people were offering to buy them… off me, my sister, my friends— we were all being asked about the scarves every time we wore them! It was really surprising and flattering. That’s when I thought there was more to this, so I launched the company in the fall of 2009, and my hobby became my business.”
How did your passion for knitwear initially begin?
“My grandmother’s friend taught me to crochet when I was a kid in North Dakota. I took to it and it just sort of stuck.”
Tell us about yourself. What did you do prior to starting your own line?
“I’m trained as a photographer, mostly music and fashion. Those are things that are still really important to me; a strong image, dramatic style. I love music. One of my sisters is a musician, my dad was in a band and still sings…. I have music on all the time. It really seeps into the line. I worked with the designer Judi Rosen for a few years too. She’s pretty much responsible for the sexy high waisted jean. It’s impossible to wear her stuff and not look amazing. I learned a lot more there than I realized at the time.”
Where are you guys based? Is your shop inspired by your surroundings at all?
“I live and work in NYC, it’s a constant source of inspiration. Everybody has their own idea about the city, but the best thing is that, in reality, the city is always surprising you. Spratters & Jayne is like that. Things you think you know that become new and exciting all over again. There’s so much that’s specific to the city, but I pull from other places and experiences too. I think growing up in North Dakota has had an equal amount of influence on the process.”
What do you think makes your knits unique?
“Two things: style and craft. The works are handmade by female artisans in Peru, Bolivia and India. The fiber art traditions in these places date back centuries and the hand work is so exquisite! By working for themselves, these women are able to take control of their finances and live in ways they might not be able to otherwise. That’s really important to me. There’s also the creative aspect of making something that hasn’t been seen before or re-making something in a new way.”
What are the inspirations behind your designs?
“Every year I start with the color. I pick a color story that sort of inspires and shapes the collection. There will be silhouettes or things that I see that I’ll sketch out and play with over the year. I watch a lot of period dramas —costumes and pageantry…photography, music too. Just making something by hand, the whole arts and craft movement especially.”
Do you have a favorite piece from the collection at the moment?
“Fringe Cowl! We were calling it the “jellyfish” or “squid thing” before we gave it a name. The hair stylist at the photo shoot called it “The Tina Turner.” It’s a long tube with about a foot and a half of fringe all the way around it. Super slinky and sexy, but still warm and practical!"
Have you tried working with bloggers yet? Why or why not? Who do you enjoy collaborating with?
“I’ve worked with some very good bloggers, and would do so again. Plenty of people doing great work out there, Garance Doré at garancedore.fr, Geri Hirsch’s Because I’m Addicted and all the folks at Into the Gloss, come to mind. Bloggers are like everybody else, some fantastic ones and some not so good. We want more of the first!”
Who else works with you behind the scenes and what do they do?
“It’s a group effort. I’m lucky to have some very talented people helping me. Some that work with me and some that are just encouraging. There are about five ladies who come in once a year and help me translate my ideas into more functional things. Many of them have a lot more experience than I do with particular types of stitches or construction methods, so they’re crucial to prototyping. Thanks ladies! I have a strong network of other designers, friends and vendors who along with my family help me keep my wits. And an assistant who comes in to manage other things— sometimes work related— sometimes just getting me another energy drink.”
What would be your advice to someone looking to start their own line? What can they expect?
“Work, listen and have patience. It’s a lot of fun and feels glamorous sometimes but it’s a lot of work. You’re not owed anything and sometimes the return on your hard work is not immediate if it comes at all. Finding people who believe in you or what you’re doing is essential. You can help each other out and keep each other sane.”
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of owning a line?
“We’re a brand that’s born of style. We believe in the power of fashion to transform people. But we also make all of our items ethically. Sometimes people want to pigeonhole us in a way, like if you’re working with co-ops or collectives you can’t be high fashion or it has to look like a granola bar or something. I just want to make great things in a fair way. That’s challenging, managing perceptions and actually getting the works made. Other designers and vendors are breaking down these barriers too and slowly it’s getting better. The best is when someone sees a design for the first time and they just ‘get it’. This look comes over their face and it’s the best!”
Have anything exciting planned with your line?
“This year we’ve expanded the line some to offer additional accessory items and new types of fibers. Lots of hats and gloves in addition to cowls, wraps and scarves. We have 100% Alpaca, 50/50 Alpaca and Acrylic blends, 100% Peruvian Highland Wool and now we have Indian Popcorn yarn. It’s really beautiful stuff with an irregular texture and strips of reflective fibers in it. So romantic looking!”