Sarah Dallas - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia



British knitwear designer

Born: Bristol, England, 1 August 1951. Education: Studied at Middlesex Polytechnic, 1971-74; Royal College of Art, London, 1974-76. Career: Designed and produced women's knitwear collections under the Sarah Davis label, 1976-88; introduced men's knitwear line, 1987; freelance design work, from 1980; began teaching and lecturing at various institutions; course leader, Royal College of Art, Fashion Knitwear, from 1990; Knitted Textiles, from 1992. Awards: British Design Council award, 1987.

Publications

On DALLAS:

Books

Menkes, Suzy, The Knitwear Revolution, 1983.

Sheard, Stephen, Rowan: Designer Collection Summer and Winter Knitting, 1987.

Sheard, S., The Rowan/Brother Designer Machine Knitting Boor, 1987.

Articles

Chubb, Ann, "Knitting it Together with the Skipton Factor," in the Daily Telegraph, August 1982.

"Designer Knits for You," in Pins & Needles, Fall 1982.

"Sarah Dallas Knitwear Collection," in Design, February 1987.

Dodd, Celia, "Knit Wit in Bold Strokes," in Field, April 1987.

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I feel quite passionately that knitwear should have an identity of its own and be an intrinsic part of fashion rather than an accessory to woven garments. This is something I have always striven to achieve with my own knitwear collections.

Knitwear is incredibly versatile, and is an ideal way of producing your own exclusive fabric, often engineered to suit each garment…. Nothing satisfies me more than to see someone of twenty and someone of sixty wearing the same garment but probably styled in quite a different way.

—Sarah Dallas

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Sarah Dallas is a prominent knitwear designer who ran her own company and now works as a consultant and an educator. It was while studying for a degree in woven textiles that she first became fascinated by the more spontaneous results made possible by hand-knitting. At London's Royal College of Art she studied in the Textile School, but challenged established boundaries to create fashion knitwear.

After graduation, fashion knitwear designers were still quite rare and the knitwear boom was yet to come. Many companies were very conservative in their approach and in order to get her designs into production, Dallas had to set up on her own. Initially she produced knitwear exclusively for the London-based, upmarket fashion shop Bombacha, creating designs made by outworkers on domestic knitting machines. This led to her first independent coordinated fabric and knitwear collection. Building up a market was very time consuming, particularly as it meant shattering preconceptions of the role and potential of knitted garments. Increasing demand for her work led to the decision to move away from hand-knitting to full factory production. The change enabled Dallas to extend her range and output, but also affected the appearance of the fabrics and the finished garments; she did not favor the chunky, earthy look which characterized some hand knits. She was more concerned with creating interesting fabrics suitable for a classic fashion look. For her, fashion knitwear has always been about style.

Dallas' fabrics were usually produced using natural yarns; pure wool for winter and cotton for summer. She had yarns specially spun and dyed in England to match her own specifications and to provide an exact color palette. The basics were the classic neutrals, navy and black, but her talent was in enlivening them with current fashion tones. Black and white were combined in geometric patterns to create simple crew-necked sweaters highlighted by a bright colored handkerchief in a breast pocket—a detail which became a signature of her work.

The Dallas look consisted of bold classic shapes with a feel for current fashion. A concentration on detail and an accent on splashes of bright color characterized each collection. Her ranges sold at the middle and upper ends of the market, with a broad customer profile covering ages 20 to 60. This extensive range was due to the versatility of the look and the uncomplicated styling. Described as "New Classics," her designs won a British Design Council award in 1987.

Since she ceased to work under her own label, Dallas undertook freelance consultancy for British based companies and for those in other manufacturing centres such as Italy, Hong Kong, and China. She designed hand-and machine knit patterns for books and magazines. Much of her work was for Rowan Yarns, of Holafirth, West Yorkshire, creating patterns for people to knit at home. Her emphasis was still on clean lines and interesting yarns; a minimalist approach concentrating on using every element, yarn, color, and shape to its fullest extent in each design.

Dallas became a course leader of the new M.A. course in Fashion Knitwear and Knitted Textiles at the Royal College of Art in the early 1990s. Her intention was to develop the potential of knitted fabrics and fashion, especially since the recession affected knitwear sales quite severely. The future, in Sarah Dallas' view, was in machine knitting and in the use of factory techniques. Hand-knitting became too expensive for a depressed market and machines were increasingly sophisticated. Dallas continued to influence the direction of fashion knitwear through her teaching and her consulting work; each enabled her to preserve high standards and to prepare the way for a revival in knitwear and knitted fabrics.

—HazelClark

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