Fan Mail for Jhane Barnes

Jhane Barnes's Twitter photo

Jhane Barnes’s Twitter photo

Perhaps you have never heard of Jhane Barnes, born in 1954, but she is one of my very favorite designers. I hunt for her menswear on ebay, primary silk or cotton sweaters, and refashion them to fit me. So far I have remade five of her sweaters for myself, two for my sister, and I have another on my sewing list. I’m not much of a collector, but I make an exception for her intricately woven, colorful knit fabric.

A sampling of my Jhane Barnes sweaters

A sampling of my Jhane Barnes sweaters

Barnes went to FIT and began making menswear right of school in 1976. Only a few years later, in 1980, she won the Coty Fashion Critics Award. She wracked up other prizes for her innovative menswear, which featured simplified designs combined with intricate fabrics. When she first got started, she wove her textiles herself. She then began to work with mills in Japan; when that got too expensive, she moved her production to China.

In 2013, Barnes stopped designing clothes altogether. Here is an excerpt from a blog post from that year. “Making a quality product at a price that retailers and consumers want has become nearly impossible. Competition continues to drive down retail prices, and it’s gotten to the point where I can’t maintain the quality I’ve always offered unless I price myself out of the market.” If the truth be told, I am part of the problem–I’ve only bought her expensive clothes used.

These days Barnes makes textiles for furniture and flooring. She has a few other irons in the fire, like furniture design and a line of eyeglass frames. There must be tens of thousands of her sweaters still out there, but I still feel like they’ve become an endangered species.

This entry was posted in 2000s, 2010s and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fan Mail for Jhane Barnes

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    I love her clothes, too. I mixed two different knits (from men’s polo shirts) to make a luscious knit top, all in tans and blacks. Have a men’s blue sweater and a men’s robe in oranges (not a knit) to use someday. Her stuff is incomparable. I’m glad to know there are others who recognize her genius!

  2. Another wonder I’ve never heard of — thank you. There was a segment on Craft in America about a weaver named Randall Darwall — his hand woven work is not cheap, but reasonable when you consider his time and materials…. You can hear him discuss factory versus hand weaving (and see some of his beautiful work) at http://www.craftinamerica.org/shorts/randall-darwall-on-handmade-vs-industrialized-weaving/ or watch the whole program at http://video.pbs.org/video/2236010468/ It includes three other artists, as well as about 12 minutes of Darwall showing and demonstrating his work.

  3. Fabrickated says:

    How interesting! I will certainly search out more about Jhane and her colourful knits. I would love to see your remaking handiwork too. Is a men’s jumper made very differently to a ladies (apart from the sizing?)

  4. Lizzie says:

    I can see why you are so fond of these. Lovely!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.