Interview: Chanan Reifen | A Knitted Soul


Fashion, Interviews, Israeli Designers, Textile Design Interview: Chanan Reifen | A Knitted Soul

If you’ll ask me what kind of designers fascinate me the most, I’d say it has to be textile designers and especially the knitwear kind. These guys have a willpower made out of steel. I mean, can you imagine sitting and weaving or knitting away day in and day out, waiting for a pattern to finally show itself? And we didn’t even mention these damn mistakes. Ho boy, when these occur… there is no undo button!
For these reasons and many more, I’m beyond excited to share with you a near and dear interview with Chanan Reifen. Chanan is an energetic guy, who seems to do it all, without taking a second to breathe, ever since he graduated from FIT back in 2015.
To be honest, I’ve known this wonder boy for a long time, way before I knew he’d turn out to be a mighty knitter. So sitting back (while he went to school and then interned in Milan and back in the US), trying to be polite and super patient was killing me! Waiting for him to start doing his thing in the real world was really nerve wrecking.
Anyway, it’s time to let Chanan do what he does best, which means talk about his world (among other things) and charm you along the way. Seriously, this guy is the real deal and there is a lot more to come out of his mighty hands.

You can get in touch with Chanan at: chananreifen {at} gmail {dot} com



this is definately

I’d love to hear about you, your journey, how it all began.

I was born in Jerusalem, near the Hebrew University campus, where my parents met at Med school. Growing up, we moved around a lot. My parents are really enthusiastic about traveling and have embedded an enthusiasm for exploration in me and my sister. By the time I was 18, I had lived in 4 different countries. I feel that the desire to create and innovate started from that. After I completed my Army service as a medic officer in the home front command, I backpacked through Central America. A couple of friends and I rented a boat and sailed around Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, stopping at all the small villages around the lake. I was fascinated by how the only way to distinguish one village from the next was through the different textiles. That was when I realized how important knitted textiles and surface design were in creating identity and character.

Where do you live, what do you like about it and how does it affect your creations?

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The true origin of “hipsters”. One stop out of Manhattan, New York. Brooklyn is the origin of many influential designers, artists, musicians, social leaders etc. Brooklyn is an international culture melting pot. The diversity enriches my creative mind; I’m constantly exposed to modernism, traditions, urbanity and art, on the streets and while visiting this city never ending museums.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of being an Israeli designer?

As a designer there are several attributes that I consider Israeli. For example, my sense of urgency to innovate, while keeping a casual approach. As an Israeli-designer, trained in the US and Europe, my ability to adapt and express internationality in my designs is my strongest advantage. Israeli design has a sense of resourcefulness and functionality. We always try to have a reason for what we are doing, design should be more than just “pretty” it needs to serve a purpose.

What makes you different from other designers?

Design needs to excite and to me, fashion is a fantasy. Knitwear and knitted textiles are a medium to express that excitement and novelty. I consider functionality and focus on volume and color, all while portraying ideas I research and express in the work. I have a lot of experience working in a great variety of designer brands, this sets me apart as a designer and gives me the skill to be a part of a team while maintaining individuality, contributing to a vision with my specialty knowledge (knitwear design and development).

Which materials do you work with?

I love mixing natural yarns like Cotton, which has no stretch, with Lycra or other elastic materials. It allows you to alter the characteristics of non-stretch yarns while maintaining their quality, thus playing around with volume. Cotton also retains color quite well, which I find helpful when expressing strong graphic concepts.

Can you describe your work process?

Research! Good design comes from good inspiration research. I start by researching images or reading about a topic, pulling together and collating visual research. It’s a crucial step in starting the design process. I create a mood board to express a “feel” of the artwork. A choice of material and yarn follows; here I consider tactility, flexibility, color options and technical solutions and applications. I create a few “swatches” to test the textile and pattern of the knit, how it could later construct a garment. Then the pattern is planned, a flat demonstration of how the clothing will be built. Finally the knitting occurs whether knit in whole or cut and sewn.

What does a normal day in your life look like?

I start my day with the most difficult task of carrying a coffee cup on a crowded subway car. This is my greatest challenge. If I made on to the subway and managed to finish my coffee on my commute to work I know the day will be just fine. Once I get to work, I spend the next few hours researching and sketching ideas, attending fittings and design meetings. I do my best to meet up with friends and prefer to have dinner with company, sharing conversation with close friends is the best way to decompress after a busy day.

Graduation projects are my absolute favorite. Can you share a little bit about yours?

In my thesis project “Resident Transient” I used knitted textiles as a platform for memories. Objects and garments that carry memories of our homes and identities which we carry with us in the most intimate way, even when we are far away from our original homes. I was inspired by the graphic qualities of neo-tribal prints and the voluminous silhouettes of backpackers distorting them with colors and texture.

What is the most unusual piece you have ever designed and which one was your first?

The first piece I designed was a yellow green rib sweater inspired by the daisy fields of Israel. I loved it and thought it was so cool even though the colors were a bit much. The most unusual piece I designed never made it beyond the studio doors. It was a asymmetric jacquard tank with one too many pieces. Not really marketable, even though I was super proud of it.

Is there anything in particular that fuels your creativity as a designer?

Creativity cannot really be forced. The result is always better when it comes naturally. Anything can fuel it and inspiration can come from any direction.

Can you tell me which designers inspire you?

I love Nicolas Ghesquière, Mary Katrantzou, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Thom Browne, Preen, Peter Pilotto, JW Anderson, Loewe… The list really goes on forever, I’m drawn to these designers as they are not afraid to challenge traditional silhouettes and demonstrate excellent use of color.

What about some web sites and blogs that you visit when you’re in a need for a boost of creative inspiration?

DesignBreak, obviously! Pinterest is addictive, something that can start as a light jog can become a marathon of imagery. I sometimes prefer buying print. Some of my favorite magazines are Wallpaper, Surface, Love and AnotherMan.

Are there any up and coming designers that you like at the moment?

I think that Jonathan Simkhai is doing a really great job!

What was one of your biggest lessons learned since starting out?

Sometimes the best thing you can do, is to let go. Knitwear is a science, it is so accurate and calculated but errors can be a blessing. Especially when working with overseas factories, sometimes things can get lost in translation, but this is a great opportunity to be surprised by the outcome.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?

The most rewarding thing is the unknown. The journey never ends and being excited about the future is almost as exciting as realizing it.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Be on purpose”, advise from my mom. Having goals and dare to pursue them.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Saturday morning I head over to a local bakery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’ll have a Bagel or a Doughnut or both, depending on what occurred Friday night prior.

What’s your favorite neighborhood in NY/Brooklyn and why?

I love Williamsburg, where I reside. Williamsburg has the best boutiques, the best coffee, restaurants and galleries. The original hipster-neighborhood, great for people watching too! I know you’ve been away for a while but…

what’s Israel’s best-kept secret?

Every year, when I visit in the summer, my best friends and I go on a road trip that ends somewhere in Misgav in the north of Israel, at a secret restaurant, with the best deserts. I really can’t tell where it is as I am never the driver…

What are you working on right now?

In the works is collaboration with a colleague I studied with at FIT… Stay tuned. I’m also consulting for a variety of companies.

What’s next? What is your dream?

My dream is to never stop making and creating. I hope the creativity and curiosity never fade. I wouldn’t mind being the creative director of Balenciaga at some point :)

And finally, please share with us something nobody knows about you.

I speak Italian quite well. Grazie mille per avermi su DesignBreak.

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