Luci Wilden’s Crochet
Island Gyal Vibes
It took just a few months of learning crochet and Luci Wilden was hooked and booked. Before she knew it, the London native had people requesting her one-off creations, which quickly transformed into a breakout brand - Knots & Vibes. Inspired by her trips to Jamaica, love of dancehall culture and their notorious dancehall queens, Wilden’s crochet designs, champion vibrance, confidence, and movement. With a growing list of devoted followers that include dancers, influencers, and music artists – Stefflon Don, Tiwa Savage, AlunaGeorge, Vashtie, and Davido to name a few – Wilden has successfully created a label that celebrates caribbean culture and community, while advocating women empowerment.
We talk design inspiration, the allure of crochet, and the importance of developing global and social awareness to make impactful decisions, particularly when it comes to fashion.
Tell us the story of Knots & Vibes.
I started learning crochet in March 2016 and got completely obsessed with it. Within a few months I had people asking to buy things – so it naturally progressed into a brand – I had no intention of starting one! I was inspired by crochet pieces I had seen and bought in Jamaica, and found I couldn't really find anything similar in the UK – that's what made me decide to learn, so I could make my own.
Explain the meaning behind Knots & Vibes.
Knots represents the crochet stitches and vibes represents the energy in dancehall culture.
What kind of woman do you envision in Knots & Vibes?
Anyone that has a connection to Caribbean culture and/or dancehall. Women that love to dance and travel.
Why are you drawn to crochet, and what makes it so special for all women?
For me, I just love having an idea and bringing it to life with a simple hook and yarn. The whole art of crochet is amazing, the versatility of the technique to create so many different objects with varying yarn weights and hook sizes. The fashion industry has changed so much over the years and I think fast fashion has really negatively impacted these art forms. Most of us just want to buy something cheap, receive it the next day, and wear it once or twice then buy something new again. When something has been woven by hand for hours on end, I think it deserves to be treasured for a lifetime. I would love for more women to have this mindset.
What is your connection to the Caribbean? And why is it important for you to represent island culture through your brand?
I don't have any Caribbean heritage myself, however, I grew up in South London which has a massive Caribbean diaspora. Music is what drew me towards it. I was listening to artists like Sizzla and Capleton and gradually became introduced to dancehall, leading to a complete obsession. This formed my main inspiration for developing the designs and the brand. By the time I started crocheting, I had been to Jamaica a few times, and as I was learning [to crochet]. I left my full time job to move to Jamaica for 3 months. I then spent the next year back and forth between London and Jamaica, for months at a time. Since the culture is what inspired the launch of the brand, I felt it was important to represent it fully and authentically. For such a small island, Jamaica has been hugely influential worldwide, regularly informing other subcultures and music genres but usually never credited.
What is it about island women and dancehall queens, in particular, that influences you and your creations?
Female dancehall artists and dancers are what give me the most inspiration. They have this amazing confidence about them that I could only dream of. They fight to be seen and heard in a male-dominated industry and patriarchal society. They command their sexuality and constantly assert their strength and power. For me, they are feminist icons. Sometimes when I design items, I have this in mind, envisioning how my customers and I could channel their attitude while wearing the particular piece.
What do you want your customers to embody when wearing your pieces?
I want my customers to feel confident and sexy when they wear Knots & Vibes. I want them to be as inspired as I am by these amazing, fearless women in the Dancehall scene, who aren't afraid to express themselves or stand up for themselves. I want them to feel empowered and in charge of their own bodies and sexuality.
Your brand aims to advocate for female independence. To you, what does female indepence look like?
Women that don't need to rely on men for anything – financially or socially. Having strength and confidence that comes from within and needs no validation from men.
How does dancehall culture then, help to illuminate female independence and empowerment?
The majority of female dancehall artists sing about being independent, having their own money, and even sometimes put down or demean men to assert their dominance. Many parallels can be drawn between dancehall culture and feminism. it is this notion, that I try to connect with Knots & Vibes. Many people see dancehall music and culture as vulgar, demeaning, and objectifying to women. I really want to change this perception and show that it is about liberation and sexual freedom! Historically, women have been oppressed by this notion that we are only there for men's gratification, to satisfy their needs. For women, dancehall is about demanding our sexual desires and our right to equal power.
Knots & Vibes importantly contributes to Caribbean communities through outreach.You provided crochet workshops to teen mothers in Kingston, Jamaica to help them develop skills that can earn them an income. How does working with the women who help inspire your brand, impact the work you do and the pieces you create?
I would like to influence people to think more consciously about worldwide issues, as well as shop responsibly with ethical brands and companies that have a social enterprise approach. For me, it is important to work with and collaborate with people in Jamaica and the Caribbean. I want to spread the message of giving back to the culture and communities that have inspired so many. Last year, I released a capsule collection of woven bags – they were made by a Rasta man in Portland, Jamaica – I added crochet and pom poms to them. I would love to do more collaborative projects like this in future, to showcase these natural art forms that have been passed down through many generations.
What other outreach programs are you looking to develop as your brand grows?
I would like to do more workshops in the Caribbean and work with more charitable organisations that support women. I'd also like to look into working with organisations in the UK that directly support women in the Caribbean. One day I would like to have my designs produced in Jamaica and the Caribbean, but that would require a strong business plan and some kind of external investment so that's a long way off!
You recently called out the fast fashion brand Fashion Nova for directly copying one of your crochet designs. Though frustrating, it’s also an important moment, to educate supporters and potential customers on the clear difference between a brand like Fashion Nova. What makes your pieces so valuable, from the process to their purchase?
When you buy from Knots & Vibes, you can have the pieces completely tailored to you and your measurements. You can also choose your own colours and alter styles to have a completely custom, one of a kind outfit. When you buy a replica, not only is it affecting the designer whose design was stolen, but when it comes to crochet it is also supporting unethical labour. Crochet is never a quick production process and will always take several hours. So many consumers are in complete denial about crochet, even adamant that there must be some machine somewhere to produce the crochet pieces in order for them to be sold so cheaply. That simply is not the case. There is no crochet machine (i.e warp knitting machine) that can make full crochet garments. At best, they can produce edgings and everything else made by machine is knitting – not crochet. These high street brands source crochet items from factories (usually in Asia) with no control over working conditions and welfare of their staff who are most likely paid per garment and not hourly. When you shop from an independent, ethically and socially conscious brand, you can be assured that your consumerism isn't exploiting anyone.
Photos: Knots & Vibes Instagram