Wrapt was started not long ago, in 2018, in Joburg. Their beautiful knitwear first caught our eye when they teamed up with a well known local designer at SA Fashion Week, helping him produce a fascinating runway show with eye-catching knits.
The small Wrapt team makes limited edition knitwear using beautiful natural yarn and vintage domestic knitting machines (the kind that some of us may remember from our youth that is moved by hand from side-to-side). Their garments are made from hand-dyed merino wool, cotton and mohair.
A selection of Wrapt knitwear has recently been added to our Equilibrio online shop. We sat with owner Hannelie Bekker, snuggled with various samples of wool and yarn and eventually came up with our favourite colour combinations that are both classic but also trending this season. We have these available across a number of her products: Wrapt cardigans, wraps, scarves and Go-to Tops.
1. Wrapt Merino Cardigan, Charcoal & Coral, available in a short or long version, R1,750 – R1,890 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
2. Wrapt Merino Scarflet, Charcoal & Coral, R475 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
3. Wrapt Merino Wrap, Charcoal, Coral and Black, R1,250 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
1. Wrapt Merino Cardigan, Indigo & Lime, available in a short or long version, R1,750 – R1,890 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
2. Wrapt Merino Scarflet, Indigo & Lime, R475 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
3. Wrapt Merino Wrap, Charcoal, Indigo, lime & plum, R1,250 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
1. Wrapt Merino Cardigan, Black & Teal, available in a short or long version, R1,750 – R1,890 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
2. Wrapt Mohair & Silk Scarflet, Blue, R610 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
3. Wrapt Go-To Top, Ivory, R975, BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
1. Wrapt Merino Cardigan, Grey & Plum, available in a short or long version, R1,750 – R1,890 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
2. Wrapt Mohair & Silk Scarflet, Grey, R610 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
3. Wrapt Go-To Top, Grey, R975 BUY ON EQUILIBRIO
GETTING TO KNOW HANNELIE BEKKER AND WRAPT KNITWEAR
As with all our clothing on Equilibrio, we support local production and have visited the Wrapt knitwear facility, currently based in Westdene, Joburg many times. We also got to know Hannelie and her business a little better through this question and answer session.
Q: Yours has been a fascinating journey that has taken you from building and managing TV channels for 27 years to a knitwear business. You’ve always had a love for textiles, what prompted you to finally pursue a career in the textile & fashion industry?
A: I had a wonderful career in TV, but after the said 27 years I started feeling that my competence and experience outweighed my enthusiasm. I didn’t like being the person in the room who said: “No, that won’t work, we’ve tried it many times before…” I didn’t like feeling jaded about what I was doing.
It was also clear that the television landscape was on the brink of seismic change. Change doesn’t scare me at all – but I found the particular nature of what I saw ahead exhausting.
At the same time, I was falling head over heels for knitting, and since the change was unavoidable.
Q: Giving up a long-standing career in TV to pursue a passion to create a knitwear business is an enormous step and huge challenge – what would you say was your biggest “asset” in this process?
A: A lot of what I learnt in my tv career has turned out to be portable: a broad understanding of business, respect for consumers, experience of conceptualizing brands, strong nerves, and a high tolerance for uncertainty and fluidity. But probably my biggest asset has been my experience of assembling teams from scratch (I worked in a lot of start-ups) and leading them through the early, scary phases of building something. Knitting is labour intensive, so I recruited a team of three early on – and they are not just employees, but my allies in building Wrapt.
Q: Did you go to the Seattle-based, The Knitting School before or after committing to a change in career? How did you end up there?
A: I’d already left my TV job when I went to The Knitting School, and I was maybe 85% committed to making a go of this “knitting thing”. I saw the course as a kind of test: I thought that if I loved a 10-day immersion in a knitting studio, and wanted more afterwards, that would be a very good sign!
I started out looking for machine knitting courses locally and found nothing: there are lots of machines around in SA, but very few active knitters.
Even after widening the search I had a shortlist of only two courses that seemed really substantial, one in London and one in Seattle. I chose Seattle. I loved every minute of both the course and the trip, and I left there itching to do more.
Q: You’re a very young brand but we’ve already seen you on a number of SAFW runway shows. Can you tell us more about some of the designers you’ve collaborated with and how this came about?
A: I met Clive Rundle, one of SA’s most revered designers, about 3 months after the launch of Wrapt. He’d been looking for someone to knit leggings; when he asked if I could do that I said: “Erm, I guess so…”. A few months later models were on the runway at SAFW sporting entire knitted outfits: leggings/shorts, tank tops and cardigans, all in intricate fair isle patterns, and knitted in pure merino wool. Those outfits have been featured in Vogue Italia and Wanted – it’s all a bit surreal!
That was for A/W19; for S/S20 Carlo Gibson from Klipa Denim asked me to design & make a few strange but lovely long hooded cardigans as part of his very inventive show.
In both cases, I was working with gifted designers, and I found the collaboration incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Both led me into territory I wouldn’t necessarily have gone into on my own – and both expanded what we thought we were capable of, which is what the best kinds of collaborations do, I think.
Q: Who or what inspires your knitwear and designs?
A: The starting point is always the yarn. I’m endlessly fascinated by the fact that a piece of string can become a garment. We work only with natural fibres (merino wool, linen, cotton) and they are so beautiful, that I try and make them shine – a bit like making simple food using the best ingredients.
Secondly, as much as I want people to buy from us, I belong firmly to the “buy less, choose well, make it last” school of thought. So I try and design things that are modern, but also timeless. Nothing pleases me more than the thought of someone wearing & loving their Wrapt jumper for years.
For this reason, much of the inspiration comes from the things in my closet and those of my friends and my customers that we can’t bear to part with. That perfect zippered cardi… that oversized cashmere top… that jumper that fits just exactly right… I’ve had customers take off their jumpers or sending me pics to explain just what it is that makes them special.
And lastly, colour entrances me: one of the big challenges is deciding on a colour palette when I want all the colours!
Q: What piece of advice would you give yourself 2 years ago when embarking on this journey?
A: A plan is just a plan. Adjust it as you learn, or as opportunities arise.
Q: What’s next in the evolution of Hannelie Bekker, her team and the WRAPT knitwear business?
A: There’s a very exciting development on the horizon. We have bought three industrial knitting machines to enable us to automate some parts of the process – especially for commercial orders. As a consequence, we no longer fit into my house, so we are moving to premises at Victoria Yards on August 1st. The space is a great fit for us: we’ll be surrounded by people making things. Apart from our production facility, we will also have a small showroom there, so customers will be able to see how things are made, and also touch and feel and try on right there.
See the Wrapt knitwear collection on Equilibrio. Click here.
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