In this interview, we speak with the brilliant Danute, co-founder of The Knotty Ones. A driving force for change, Danute and her two best friends set out to create a knitwear brand that not only uses sustainable materials, but works to support female knitters in rural Lithuania to provide them and their families with financial stability. Danute shares with us their organic journey to helping women in marginalised areas, the positive shift she's seen in consumers holding brands accountable, and reveals her 'pinch me' moments along the way.
Tell us about the beginnings of The Knotty Ones; what was the ‘a-ha’ moment between the three of you that drove you to start the business?
"It happened over brunch when we were in our mid-twenties and probably had one too many mimozas. We were talking about how fast fashion was really taking over the streets and the beautiful craft of knitting that we have in Lithuania was slowly dying out.
The biggest question we had was why on earth no one can make a piece really honouring the craft that has been passed from one generation to another in the region, but also create something that looks contemporary and cool. And just like that, we set out to create one ourselves, because that’s something we truly couldn't find on the market."
The Knotty Ones Founders, (L-R) Sandra, Daunte, Akvile
We’d love to hear more about the craftswomen you support in Lithuania; how did your journey with them begin?
"Funny enough we never set out to do that intentionally. I think we approached it with a level of naivety when we started the company. Of course we were going to pay living wages to the women we hired. And of course we will do everything in our power to make sure that we support and empower them.
We took it for granted – but reality is that’s not how 99.99% of fashion operates.
We also never purposely looked for artisans in rural areas of Lithuania. But the women who answered our ads were almost exclusively in marginalized areas. It quickly started to make sense. Of course, women there didn’t have as many opportunities there and we were in position to change that. So we did."
We adore your unique knitwear designs - can you tell us more about the design process behind each piece?
"Thanks so much! I think what makes us really unique is that we purposely took a strategic decision not to release collections. Instead we focus on individual pieces that we keep in our assortment for years.
We draw a lot of inspiration from local Baltic landscapes, traditional Baltic knitting techniques and our Pagan roots. We approach our designs as a very collaborative process between knitwear designers and our artisans themselves, after all they are the real experts here."
How do you decide on what materials you use, and what role does animal welfare play within that?
"We work with a number of audited yarn suppliers always making sure that our wool yarns have cruelty-free certification. That’s one of the non-negotiables. It really comes from around the world. E.g. We source the merino wool for our Laumės knit from a family-owned supplier in Italy.
For our Laimės embroidery we source the yarn from a sheep farm in Latvia and then hand-dye it using herbal dyes based on traditional Baltic recipes."
What’s your proudest moment when it comes to the brand?
"There have been so many pinch-me moments. Our first Vogue feature, my favorite Hollywood celebrity purchasing a knit from our online store, our Head of Production Marina (who was also the very first knitter we ever hired) getting her drivers test as part of our Knitters Dream Fund initiative."
What can we expect next from The Knotty Ones?
"Sooo many things are we’re working on. This spring we’ll release some crochet pieces which is totally new to us. Very exciting!
We’re also working on a new knit from recycled denim. As someone who lives in jeans and oversized knits, I’m personally excited about this one. That’s like two of my favorite things in one.
We will have a pretty amazing collab dropping in the fall, but I can’t disclose any details just yet."
What makes you feel optimistic about our planet’s future?
"I definitely feel a big shift in consumers. We get challenged on everything that we do (be it the yarns we select or factories that we partner with) and I love that. People really start holding their brand accountable."
Are there any tips you’d like to share with our Stripped Community on how you approach leading a more sustainable life?
"Invest in pieces that mean something. I always say that we vote with our wallets. With each purchase we should really question what kind of values we’re supporting."
Thank you, Danute!