Posted Thursday 18 October 2012
Knitwear designed by a Kingston University graduate has been flying off the shelves at leading fashion chain Topshop after she was named one of the winners of a national competition promoting the use of real wool.
Henrietta Jerram was keen to blend a contemporary twist with the heritage of the wool industry when she came up with designs for two jumpers that caught the retailer's eye. "I love traditional multicoloured Fair Isle patterns which really remind me of being warm and cosy. But I also wanted to come up with jumpers that were fun too, so I started to play with sheep and wool puns," the 23 year old from Malmesbury, Wiltshire, said.
Her competition-winning Sheep Thrills sweater comes complete with sheep-shaped elbow pads, while a second bright pink jumper is emblazoned with one of the farmyard animals and the slogan Sheepish. "I drew the sheep and then scanned them in to my computer so I could work with the shape further. Animal prints and slogans are a must-have item this season, so it makes it all the more exciting that my designs have ended up out there on the High Street," Henrietta said.
The competition organised by the Campaign for Wool matched students from design schools across the country with a line-up of major retailers, including Harvey Nichols and John Lewis. Although Topshop originally planned to make just 50 of Henrietta's jumpers, bosses were so impressed with her quirky Sheep Thrills design that they ordered 1,000. They also commissioned another 500 of Henrietta's Sheepish design.
"It's all been such a whirlwind and so exciting," Henrietta said. "What's really great too is that 5 per cent of the jumper sales will go back into fashion education programmes across the United Kingdom as part of the Wool School initiative."
Henrietta's sweaters have struck a chord with knitwear fans right across the country. "I opened up the Telegraph's Stella magazine, which is my favourite, at the weekend and saw a picture of my Sheep Thrills jumper. I was completely overwhelmed. It was the perfect reward for all my hard work," she said.
Proving that she is right at the head of the new flock of fashion designers, Henrietta - who grew up surrounded by countryside - is now packing her bags to take up a job at leading US label Abercrombie and Fitch. "Just a few months ago I was still at university and hoping my final collection would make it to the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week," Henrietta said. "I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd soon be off to become a design associate at such a big international brand and have people rushing to buy my designs."
Academic director of fashion Elinor Renfrew said that Kingston University prided itself on its strong links with industry and the high-quality real world experience this gave students. "Henrietta's success reinforces the importance of working with the biggest names in the business," Mrs Renfrew added. "She's always been a strong illustrator and really tapped into what Topshop was looking for. Plus her design was original and commercial too. Now we can't wait to see what she produces next."