For want of a better word, the sun is trying to shine right now. The clothes are slowly coming off too.
Born from a love of dancehall music and island life, and inspired by Caribbean travels, Knots & Vibes is the crochet creation of former 9-6 PR girl, Luci Wilden. Seen on the likes of Aluna George, Ray Blk and Vashtie, each piece is made to order and fully customisable. Primary colours not for you? Try pastels. Need a choker and pom pom earrings, just because? Not a problem. Fused with elements of Rastafarian culture and style, the range was created with Island Gyals and Dancehall Queen in mind, bringing a taste of flavour back to the UK.
Late last year, Luci Wilden took a break to move to Jamaica for a few months and work on Knots & Vibes as a brand. Now she’s back, the trial and errors have passed, she’s firm in the belief that “Dancehall Ah Mi Everyting”, a lyric from Vybz Kartel’s Dancehall, is basically her life ethos in a sentence and Jamaica is definitely a better location than her back garden. “I’ve been to Jamaica a few times now so I’ve got friends I can hang out with”, Wilden adds, “This was my fifth trip so I’ve become really comfortable over there and the culture naturally influenced my designs. I spent a large chunk of time in Portland, but also Oracabessa (St Mary), Kingston and Negril”. Aside from the beach days and waterfall visits, it’s alright for some, huh?, much of her time was spent crocheting and organising photo shoots. “Shooting some of the Dancehall dancers in Kingston was definitely a highlight, I’m in awe of them! Most importantly, I finally had the time to develop new designs like bikinis, netted skirts and shorts along with the “Dancehall Denim” collection: jeans, jackets and shorts with lyrics emblazoned across them”.
“I haven’t been crocheting for long so I’ll be the first to admit I’ve still got a lot to learn!” Luci Wilden begins, talking about how Knots & Vibes came to be. “I bought a couple of crochet pieces in the UK and one day just decided I wanted to learn. I can be really determined once I’ve set my mind on something! My mum actually used to crochet about 25 years ago (she now prefers to knit) so she showed me the basic stitches; from there I followed YouTube tutorials and books. At first I was just making things for myself and friends, but when I started to get loads of enquiries it felt natural to turn it into a brand. It’s completely coincidental that crochet has been a big trend for Spring/Summer in the past. It wasn’t a strategic move in the slightest!”
Crochet is a quiet trend. Somehow it’s always there but never a huge deal. But it is popular, there’s no doubt about that. “I always try to add my own signature to pieces since there is so much crochet around, a lot of which looks really similar. A lot of people make things with the Rasta colours, so I’ve tried to do things I haven’t seen anywhere. For example, fusing the colours in different ways and including woven beads into the tops. I also offer customising where I can add crochet trims, frills or appliqués to just about anything”.
As a lover of fashion, the endless passion is everywhere and the opportunity for progression is rife. So how do you know what the right path for you is? “Although I am aware of trends”, she continues, “I only occasionally take them into consideration. I always want the brand to stay true to my interests and what I like. I think the ‘Dancehall Denim’ collection really embodies that. I wasn’t sure whether anyone else would really get it, but I’ve had so many people asking to buy the ‘Dancehall Ah Mi Everyting’ jacket that I knew I would have to make it a series”.
“Growing up in South London, I’ve always been around Caribbean culture”, Luci Wilden tells as she reflects on the cultural influence on her brand and the stylised undertone. “It was about 6 years ago that I started getting heavily into reggae and dancehall. From there I’ve gradually become more and more immersed in it. I’ve travelled to the Caribbean quite a few times and it’s been a massive inspiration to me, both personally and professionally, to the point where it now kind of defines me. Ask anyone about me and the first thing they’ll say is that I’m obsessed with anything Jamaican!”
So heading back to Jamaica was an easy decision then? “On a personal level, I learnt the true meaning of strength and independence, when I went back to Jamaica recently. It probably sounds really glamorous spending 3 months there but in reality I was washing from a bucket and sweeping up chicken shit. I also when through a short time in hospital, a hurricane scare, a break-up and a bike accident. So it wasn’t without its hardships! In terms of Knots & Vibes, I was able to create endless content for social media, which has really helped build the brand and its identity. I met a lot of people who were really into my work, so that was hugely encouraging! I actually met an Italian girl who recognised the top I was wearing and asked if it was Knots & Vibes. She was shocked when I told her I’m the designer!”. A small world to say the least.
“It’s funny because until I started Knots & Vibes, I’d never been interested in having my own brand. Probably because I’ve seen from the inside how hard it can be! Working in PR has definitely given me an insight into what does and doesn’t work, what the press are receptive to and the logistics of the fashion industry from production to marketing and sales”.
A typical day for Luci Wilden is spent freelancing in PR for a few days a week, while the rest of her time is spent fulfilling orders, designing new pieces, and researching how to push the brand forward. Often she’s sat crocheting for up to 6 hours a day; “Yes my hands do hurt, and yes I am becoming more and more short-sighted… but it’s all worth it!” she adds. Starting your own brand is very rarely a money making scheme though. The early days are hard. H.A.R.D. Working 24/7 and investing your personal money, you make sacrifices. It has to come from a passion and love for what you are doing. Otherwise what’s the point?
“At the beginning there was a lot of experimenting with different stitches and shapes, and seeing how they turned out. These days I’m constantly researching and I love turning that influence into a design. Even the smallest aspect like a colour combination, or a particular styling accessory to use in shoots. I always have a million ideas in my head at any one time, but as each piece takes hours, it’s going to be a slow process bringing them all to life”.
As one fond of layers and for black all year round it’s hard to understand the crochet concept, but for Luci Wilden, if her customers are anything like her, “they’ve been wearing crochet bralets on their nights out all through winter!”
Knots & Vibes are keeping a lot of details “under wraps for now”, but it’s exciting. With an Instagram feed full of colour and culture you wouldn’t expect anything less. Spring/Summer is steadily approaching… I said the sun was trying to shine OK? And it’s often hard to transition between the seasons when the forecast is unpredicatable. But one thing you can rely on is the choice you have to dress yourself for fun, for you. Weather appropriate? Not for me.
Knots & Vibes is anything you want it to be. It’s cute. It’s fearless. It’s confident.
model IMI SMITH