New form

Meet knitwear designer A.Roege Hove –the first Danish Woolmark Prize nominee in ten years
By Lakeisha Goedluck | Fashion | 13 May 2023

A few years ago, every Danish It girl had one of Amalie Røge Hove’s original bags in tow. Simplistic in design, the knitted ribbed handbag looks deceptively miniature when empty but morphs into magnificent shapes when full. After causing a stir with her small-to-statement accessories, her brand A. Roege Hove sent the fashionable set into a tailspin when she unveiled her debut ready-to-wear collection in 2019. 

Every season since, she’s made international headlines at each Copenhagen Fashion Week. From high-neck tops made from knitted diaphanous layers to form-fitting asymmetric dresses designed to accentuate the body, Røge Hove is adept at creating shapely, sultry knitwear that transcends seasons. At the end of 2022, the designer was shortlisted for the illustrious International Wallmark Prize – the only Scandinavian talent on the line-up. With a studio nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Røge Hove and her talented team work on a selection of domestic knitting machines to create designs that signify a new evolution of the craft: each collection serving as proof that knitwear can be simple yet stunningly clever.

GALLERYA. Roege Hove FW23

LG: You have a master’s degree in textile design from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. How do you think your education informed your brand?
ARH: What I liked most about being at school is that I felt that I had time. I was in the knitting room alone a lot [laughs], just testing things out and trying to find my language. At school, there’s no pressure to sell the pieces you make. You can test so many different processes and take advantage of making things with your hands – just explore. I really knew that knitting was what I wanted to do and, at some stage, one of my teachers helped me find a cheap knitting machine. I moved it into my living room and just started knitting my own designs. 

LG: You’ve also had hands-on experience working in-house for brands like Cecilie Bahnsen and Mark Kenly Domino Tan. Did your time at those brands influence your vision at all?
ARH: I was quite aware that I didn’t have much experience within the fashion industry. During the final two years of my master’s, I applied for internships and work. I started at Cecilie Bahnsen and then went on to work at Mark Kenly Domino Tan to get a sense of what I didn’t get at school. The work processes and design processes at those two brands are very different, although I was doing knitwear at both of them. 

Tan had done a lot of knitwear before but Bahnsen was at the stage where she’d never experimented with it. In that sense, it was an amazing opportunity for me to create a design language within her design language – I had my own little craft going on within her universe. We were just three people when I was there; she’s such a hard worker, I saw both the good and bad sides of having your own brand. For me, it was so valuable to see how strict she was with her design style. She confirmed for me that brands don’t have to do everything: you can operate by refining what you do. When I started my label, I took that same attitude to the extreme in terms of being strict about how we work and the materials we use. Initially, we only created replicable compositions in cotton and nylon. [Our outlook] has evolved since then but looking back, it helped to set the brand DNA at an early stage.

It’s valuable for us to work intuitively”

James Cochrane

LG: In that case, what was the very beginning like? How did you go about creating the first prototypes?
ARH: The first thing I made was a knitted bag and we still have those bags within the collection. I’m not great at drawing, so I visualise something in my head and then I go straight to the machine to see if it’s technically possible. That bag, for example, was based on a construction principle. I thought, this is the way I want to knit and this is how I want to take advantage of the machine. I’ve always looked at how I can make as much as possible while the yarn is running on the machine; I don’t want to cut the yarn just to cut it. In that sense, I often think: how can I work around the body? That’s been the ideology I’ve been working with since school and I went in so many complicated directions to achieve that while studying. Eventually, I discovered that it’s not about overcomplicated methods – it’s about seeing the strength in something simple but clever.

LG: That ties into your brand tagline which is “Conceptual knitwear challenging traditions.” Each collection seems like an evolution of the one before it because you work with similar silhouettes. How have you managed to create an aesthetic that’s distinctly A. Roege Hove?
ARH: When we present a new collection, it’s just a snapshot of where we’re at in the process of constantly developing our knits. We truly work up until the show. I imagine it as if we work in a lab: we make a test sample and then see how it performs in terms of shape and colour. It’s really about making something on a machine, putting it directly onto a body and then considering what it inspires us to do next. We work both with and against what the knit naturally wants to do. With every new collection, it’s not about wiping the board clean and starting afresh, we constantly change minor things like the tension or swap the yarn. Even faults or mistakes inspire something new. It’s valuable for us to work intuitively. Essentially, the framework of what we do is tight but within that there’s room to test.

LG: With each collection, there seems to be a distinct focus on creating sculptural shapes that emphasise the form of the body.
ARH: The thought process is often: how do we want to display the body with this collection? We block some parts of the body and emphasise others. It’s about looking at the cut-outs or the way certain materials meet each other, the shapes we create provide a sense of continuity, so it feels like a cohesive collection in the end. We tend to produce the same silhouette in a different yarn or with a different technique. By adapting a design in that way, you end up seeing something new each time. It also depends on who’s wearing it because then you see something new again, their body size changes the shape of the garment and the way you perceive that style. That’s also why we have so many fittings, so we can see a piece in a new light. We knew that if we wanted to evolve our design process, we needed to work with different types of bodies to lead to different outcomes.

“…designing is a constant learning process.”

LG: Another major aspect of your design process is honouring sustainable principles, as you design with an eye to keep waste to a minimum. As you expand and become more commercial, how do you feel you’ll be able to stick to this ethos?
ARH: There can be certain challenges when you’re a small brand and then there can be new hurdles when you’re in the process of growing. We knit everything in shape, so we don’t use cut-and-sew processes – which has been the case since day one. Because we work in that way, sometimes pieces take a longer time to knit. In that sense, scaling can be more problematic because production requires more manual labour. We’re now producing garments in Italy and Ireland, so it’s about finding clever ways to work. There will always be challenges with working sustainably but there are challenges in all aspects of design. When it comes to building your own brand, you’ll never reach a point where you’re like, “Oh, great, everything’s good. There are no challenges left.” It’s about leveraging the expertise we have at our factories and about me supporting my in-house team. 

LG: It seems that the challenges you can end up facing aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
ARH: At the beginning [of your brand journey], your biggest worry is whether people want the pieces you’ve designed. Then, when you discover that they do, you have to figure out how to produce them. Next, it’s about working out whether you want to produce a particular style again. I think designing is a constant learning process. 

LG: It was so interesting at your last show to get an insight into your process by seeing a garment being pinned onto a model in real time. What did you hope to be the impact of doing that?
ARH: During our design process, we have this point of transformation where the garment goes from the hanger to the body. Some pieces look so tiny on the hanger and then stretch and evolve on the body, to the point where you’re like: “What just happened there?” I’m also hyperaware that some people at our show have, unfortunately, never been able to touch one of our garments. For this show, which was our fourth, we felt on top of what we do and at home within a show setup, so it was the ideal time to give people a true feeling of our styles and what they can do. The idea was to give people an insight into what we do in the studio and provide them with additional storytelling. We wanted to create a moment where [the audience] had the chance to get to know the brand a bit better, or felt encouraged to become a little more curious about the materials.

James Cochrane

LG: You’re clearly making an impact as you’re the only Scandinavian finalist shortlisted for the International Woolmark Prize (IWP) this year. How does that feel?
ARH: I’m very happy to be included. I didn’t even know if we had a chance when we applied. It means a lot to feel like we’re qualified to participate. It’s easy to look at other new brands in London or Paris and think about how amazing they are. I just really appreciate that we can be a part of it. Now that we’re almost at the end [of the competition], I’ve been able to assess how much the IWP has been a great fit for us. It’s been so rewarding in terms of the network we’ve been able to build as a result – whether it be the connections we’ve made with yarn mills or factories. No matter what happens on Monday, after making the Woolmark collection, we’re still working with that same wool and the partners we’ve collaborated with going forward. As a new brand, it can be difficult accessing specific factories or people because perhaps we’re not a large enough company on paper, so that’s the true value of a prize like this.

LG: If you were to win the prize, what effect do you think it would have on your brand beyond the connections you could make?
ARH: I’d firstly be really happy that my little brand could achieve that. Of course, the financial side would be helpful but the support in terms of the value chain is what would benefit us the longest. It’s a scary thought to think about winning but what we talked about in the studio is the prospect of spending the prize money on creating even better processes for the brand. Allowing ourselves to free up time to work on new projects or with new machines. We’re currently working on making our own yarn, which is both an interesting and expensive journey. For me, it’s a really important [venture] because it means so much to the craft and to the brand. It’s a great way to look into doing things differently. But, anyway, I don’t want to jinx it!

Follow A.Roege Hove on Instagram.
The winner of the Woolmark Prize is announced on Monday 15th May.

James Cochrane


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