It’s easy to understand why someone like Carlo Volpi would have a deep and abiding passion for wool. The breathable fiber is a natural insulator that can be weighted to keep its wearer warm in winter or cool in summer. It’s also flexible, easy to manipulate, and easy on the environment. As a man who knits, however, Volpi is a bit of rare breed, which explains why his own take on the centuries-old practice is less than conventional. For his thesis project at the Royal College of Art in London, Volpi experimented with stitch types, gauges, and textures to create a flamboyant menswear collection that turns traditional notions of masculinity on their heads.
In his pieces, Volpi challenges the stereotypes associated with a typically female-dominated craft. Drawing upon the imagery of the sports uniform, he creates garments that resemble more textured, cabled versions of soccer jerseys and slacks. In his brightly colored, intricate designs, the masculine and feminine realms combine to make for visually stunning pieces. In addition to being striking examples of some very complicated knitting, the clothing also raises questions concerning gender and identity.
“As a guy who knits, I still get the odd look every now and then when I say I can knit. I also teach a hand knitting class in a college here in London and on the first day of term, occasionally there is someone who doesn’t really believe I am the tutor or that I will be able to teach them properly because I’m a man…I think our ideals of masculinity and femininity are constantly being redefined and I do love a man who embroiders, bakes or knits as they bring a whole new sensibility to the craft.” says Volpi.
His collection transforms lightweight, fairly plain sportswear fabrics into more bulky, odd-sized garments that play with the appearance of men’s athletic clothing. Of his work, Volpi explains, “My work is a visual exploration of a stereotypically male domain, like football, baseball, boxing and other testosterone-charged sports, and a personal comedic and slightly camp reinterpretation of this topic.” Colder colors typical of sports uniforms are swapped for vibrant hues that look as though they were directly taken from a pop art painting or comic book. Notions of team identification, costume, sexuality, and traditional craft, all intertwine in Volpi’s complex clothing.