Kiwi label Amélie is creating the handmade knitwear of our dreams
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE BRANNENWORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE
"When I started knitting, I was doing it because I genuinely just loved it and loved creating pieces for friends and whānau."
Knitwear has a timeless appeal. Whether it's a perfectly cut chunky knit, a sleek cardigan, a mohair scarf or an adorable balaclava (up until recently I wouldn't have thought balaclavas could be adorable, but times have changed), a reliable piece of knitwear can see you through many seasons of life.
New Zealand designer Nat Robb caught the knitwear bug when her mum started creating crochet bags for members of their family and her brother began knitting to make pieces for his girlfriend. She started working on her own creation, a jumper for a close friend, and when friends saw what she’d created they began putting in orders. Eventually, Nat started selling her knits on Instagram and as demand increased, she realised she’d inadvertently launched a knitwear label.
She named it Amélie after a close family friend and launched a website where she sells her range of jumpers, cardigans, balaclavas and boleros. Working out of a small beach town on the East Coast of New Zealand, each knit is made by hand and it's a priority of Nat's to use only traceable natural materials.
The label has gone from strength to strength in recent years; it's been accepted into a show for New York Fashion Week and Nat was approached by Hailey Bieber's stylist to provide knitwear for the megastar (seriously impressive stuff for a tiny Kiwi brand). Below, Nat tells us about Amélie's journey so far.
Tell us about you. What's your fashion background?
Kia ora! My name is Nat Robb (Ngāti Whakaue) and I was brought up in rural Aotearoa on a farm. I’ve worked in the sustainability/climate change sector for eight years and have just got home from living in Berlin. I’m now living in a remote coastal town. My fashion background is my label, Amélie.
I studied Environmental Studies and Māori Resource Management at University so I’m not qualified in anything to do with fashion, but I got hooked on fashion when I became obsessed with op shopping. From there I learnt to sew to be able to alter clothes I’d get from the op shop and fell in love with the creative element of making and putting together clothes.
How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges.
It was very organic! My brother was knitting for his girlfriend, and my mum was crocheting bags for family members. It inspired me to want to make something myself so I got them to help me figure out what pattern and yarn to buy. I became obsessed with finishing a jumper for my friend. Crazy obsessed – I was constantly calling my brother and mum/my friend for help and I was so determined to finish it and see what it looked like. The first jumper must have looked okay as more friends started ordering from me.
I initially only charged them for the yarn and would knit them jumpers as I just loved doing it and seeing them on friends. Having a friend/someone close to me order a knit is still one of the best parts of Amélie. After knitting many jumpers for friends, I decided to start posting them on a private Instagram page I named ‘G-U-Knit’. It was just a space to share my creations with my friends. Eventually, people were sharing my knits on their stories and friends of friends started requesting to follow and ordering so I thought why not make it public and see how it goes? I changed the name to Amélie, which was inspired by a close family friend.
What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now?
When I started knitting, I was doing it because I genuinely just loved it and loved creating pieces for friends and whānau. The one clear intention I’ve always had in the back of my mind is to only use natural materials that are traceable. Amélie has evolved a lot since it first began. As it has grown, I’ve felt the responsibility to ensure I’m communicating an inclusive, conscious brand. I want everybody to know that Amélie is for them.
I’m conscious of what I try to communicate online, which adds pressure (and a lot of overthinking) but I enjoy the challenge and want people to see all of the love, thought, and hard work that goes into creating each knitted garment. I like to post content that shows the entire process of how some of my knits are made, as it provides a bit of a story but shows how sustainable handmade knits are. It's really important for me to check in and bounce ideas off my friends and family. They help form new garments and provide advice when I ask for it.
What are you most proud of in your work on your label?
Honestly, the whole thing. From knitting in my little lockwood flat, to all the fun shoots I’ve done with friends, the people I’ve met, being accepted into a show for New York Fashion Week, being asked by Hailey Bieber's stylists for knits – all of it makes me proud!
Who do you think is most exciting in Australian/New Zealand fashion right now?
Rebe, everybody should be watching Rebe.
What about the Australian/New Zealand fashion industry needs to change?
Transparency across supply chains and holding businesses accountable for how their clothes are procured. Fast fashion gets away with so much, there needs to be stricter regulations in the fashion world to prevent social, cultural and environmental debasement.
Dream Australian/New Zealand collaborators?
Rebe, Emma Jing, Entire Studios.
Go to dinner party playlist?
Oooh tricky! Start off with some Kiwi faves – Marlon Williams, Erny Belle, Aldous Harding, Teeks – then move into some Loyle Carner, Little Simz, Pip Millet, Jorja Smith, then finish off with some R&B classic bangers.
Who is in your wardrobe right now?
Apart from all the gold I have found in the Gisborne/Wairoa op shops, Wiixi. So good for classy-looking comfort!
How can we buy one of your pieces?
Instagram direct message and on my website, amelieknits.com.
Explore Amélie's range here.
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A round-up of Australian and New Zealand labels offering knitwearFor more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section. Tell us about you. What's your fashion background? How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges. What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now? What are you most proud of in your work on your label? Who do you think is most exciting in Australian/New Zealand fashion right now? What about the Australian/New Zealand fashion industry needs to change? Dream Australian/New Zealand collaborators? Go to dinner party playlist? Who is in your wardrobe right now? How can we buy one of your pieces?