Soft, elegant, and durable with a touch of gravitas. Designed in North Vancouver and hand-knit in Ayacucho (a tiny Peruvian town tucked in the south-central Andes), Bare Knitwear creates ethical and cozy garments with a story.
At the helm is Kelsey Adair; she founded Bare in 2014 with the intention to create long-lasting, luxurious garments that showcase intricate craftsmanship, with a slow fashion philosophy at the forefront.
When launching Bare four years ago, Adair teamed up with a European developmental organization that works with small hybrid groups and co-ops to employ marginalized people around the world. One of the organization’s partners works with vulnerable women, specifically mothers, in the Peruvian Andes who are skilled in knitting both by hand and loom, embroidering, and crocheting (Adair asked that the organization not be named in order to protect the privacy of the artisans). After travelling to Ayacucho in 2014, Adair knew this was the right partnership for her project.
“On the outskirts of Ayacucho there is a lot of domestic and sexual violence,” she says. “I saw how hard it was for women to hold a job there—there were a lot of women selling potatoes and popcorn on the streets. A lot of what the organization does is focus on empowering these women.” By hiring them to do something they grew up doing, Bare gives women not only an income, but also autonomy.
The collections from Bare embody a wonderful air of diversity, handmade with baby alpaca, cotton, or baby alpaca chaine fibres. The merge of weaving’s artisanal heritage with chic West Coast-inspired designs allows these knits to be suitable for every woman in the Pacific Northwest, especially during the long and soggy months of fall and winter.
“We only introduce very small collections and essential pieces,” Adair explains. “A lot of the pieces we sell can take up to 13 hours to make, so it’s important to us that we design [garments] that are wardrobe essentials and are investment pieces that will last. That’s our goal.”
Customers can shop Bare hats, scarves, sweaters, and the best-selling Kimono Coat online, or stocked in Vancouver at Charlie & Lee, Nineteen Ten, and Lynn Steven. This past summer, Bare was also featured in Holt Renfrew’s social responsibility pop-up boutique H Project.
“I love working with a select few retailers that get what we do,” Adair asserts. “Moving forward, we are going to be focusing on supporting the stores that really align with our brand and share the same customer.”
Adair is deeply involved with the production process in Ayacucho. She travels to Peru every year to work closely with the artisans and develop the final designs for each collection. “It’s a really collaborative process working with these women,” she says. “We are empowering them, but also teaching entrepreneurial skills. They help with the design, and we work on teaching them to understand different markets. It’s business education in the simplest form, and I get so much joy in being able to do that.”
Whether draped in an elegant Travel Wrap, or sporting an Andes Beanie and Vintage Crew, Bare Knitwear pushes fashion you can feel good in.
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