In his workshop in Lille, Xavier Brisoux, a graduate of Central Saint Martins in London, knits exceptional pieces where volume takes center stage. His concept of High-Sculpture Knitwear (Maille Haute-Couture), both surprising and intriguing, will be on show at the Révélations fine crafts fair in Paris from June 7th-11th.
Although trained in ready-to-wear, Xavier Brisoux is a knitting aficionado, a textile world that he describes as “limitless”. Tired of a rhythm that demands high levels of production at a relentless pace, the designer put an end to his career in fashion. “I didn’t have the time to follow through on my ideas, which was extremely frustrating,” he recalls. Instead, he spent several years experimenting in his workshop in the northern French town of Lille. “When working with fabric, there always comes a time when you have to cut the material to create volume, but I quickly realized that knitting gives the freedom to do most anything, including sculpting. Volume can come from a single yarn!”
For Xavier Brisoux, "volume can come from a single yarn" © Isabelle Soum
With his flat knitting machines from the 1970s, Brisoux mastered the technique of pleating to create abstract volumes in knitwear. This meticulous technique consists of putting stitches on hold while others are knitted, which gives the shapes volume. “It was an obsessive and repetitive period of experimentation. I decided to never cut the yarn and to knit from one single piece. I love the idea of Ariadne’s thread; if it is cut, it doesn’t work!” His pieces are, indeed, created with a single yarn: cotton (preferably recycled), but also lurex and viscose–materials strong enough to be ‘deformed’. “Given the number of carriage passes, the material has to be sturdy. My pieces are quite heavy and the yarn has to be able to handle that weight.”
From Hyères Fashion Festival to Frank Quietly
These sculptural works, dubbed Maille Haute-Sculpture, are inspired by American comics characters, one of Brisoux’s great passions. “I let the knitting machine guide me and it was during the weaving process that the models were born. I never draw beforehand. I just let the yarn take me where it will!” The designer created a dozen “superheroine” outfits, of which seven took to the catwalk at the International Fashion Festival in Hyères, in 2020. “To present my book to the jury, I asked comics artists – including Frank Quietly and David Finch, two superstars – to sketch my silhouettes. It was an extraordinary experience!” For one of the characters, Brisoux knitted a scepter. It became an object of its own, and was the starting point for Totem, his collection of decorative sculptures. More recently, the artist has added wall hangings to his portfolio. He has also collaborated with multidisciplinary artist Isabelle Soum to design stunning knit pieces cast in resin.
Xavier Brisoux's Totem series ©studio b helle
For the last edition of the craft fair Révélations, in Paris, Brisoux produced six Totems, which earned him the title of laureate of the Ateliers d’Art de France 2022. Be it knitwear or decorative objects, his work holds a unique place in the world of fine crafts. And what about in the world of packaging? “I’ve always dreamed of creating an habillage for a bottle of champagne and I have a few projects in the wings!”
Brisoux will be showing his latest works at the Révélations fine crafts fair in Paris on June 7th-11th.
Brisoux in his studio in Lille © Christophe Sarrazin