Design notes from Niela
The alternative, contemporary Shetland knitwear
Nielanell knitwear is designed and made in the Shetland Islands—Scotland's most northerly archipelago, a UNESCO Global Geopark and home to a storied culture of knitting.
Founded by me, designer Niela Nell Kalra, our knitwear studio produces collections of unusual, luxury knitwear. Worn by freethinkers from around the world, Nielanell builds on the renowned quality and skill of Scottish knitwear manufacturing to create garments for modern life.
Detail from the Conversation Pieces collection
My artistic, ideas-led approach to knitwear
I work with layers of meaning, and my collections develop from an artistic approach to the design process. Rather than a visual source of inspiration, designs mostly derive from a conceptual starting point—whether it be the importance of discussion with friends, to looking at the idea of borders and how they divide our landscape.
The influence of Shetland may not be immediately apparent, but our island community is knitted into my designs and is constantly inspiring.
Perhaps its my combined Indian and Scottish heritage that means I'm in love with shawls and wraps (and now I live in Shetland, a shawl capital!). This is my favourite: the Marlet wrap.
The importance of the wearer
Theories of wearing, and the comfort that can come from a second skin of knitwear, also feature prominently in my practice as a designer. How the wearer feels, and their well-being, is my main design impetus.
Art for wearing
This varied and conceptual source material, combined with a love of colour (which results in some pieces being made in a multitude of short-run colourways!) has resulted in frequent comparison with visual art.
For our part, we don’t see a hard-and-fast distinction between art and craft. We like to blur the boundaries. To us, and to many of our customers, Nielanell knitwear is art that you can wear.
I invite you, the wearer, to add you own layers of meaning to our knitwear, as it continues its journey with you and is passed on to other, future wearers.