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Former Burberry designer brings fishermens’ gansey up-to-date with new knitwear line

PUBLISHED: 14:44 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 19:04 07 May 2020

Knitwear designer Frankie Davies. Picture: Andi Sapey

Knitwear designer Frankie Davies. Picture: Andi Sapey

Andi Sapey

They are an important part of Norfolk’s fishing heritage with their unique patterns and bold colours.

One of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi SapeyOne of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi Sapey

And experienced knitwear designer and former student at the Norwich School of Art and Design, Frankie Davies, has given the traditional knitted gansey a new lease of life after creating a limited edition line of unisex knitwear - from hats to oversized jumpers - inspired by the famous navy blue jumpers.

One of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi SapeyOne of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi Sapey

They were worn from the early 19th century to the middle of the 20th century by fishermen as protection from the elements.

One of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi SapeyOne of the modern designs by Frankie Davies based on the traditional fisherman's gansey. Picture: Andi Sapey

Each design was unique to each family and the jumpers of Sheringham fishermen were highly regarded.

A photograph of Norfolk fisherman Gilbert Leather Rook in a gansey by Olive Edis. Picture: Cromer MuseumA photograph of Norfolk fisherman Gilbert Leather Rook in a gansey by Olive Edis. Picture: Cromer Museum

Ms Davies, 45, who grew up in Hempnall and Norwich, and studied at the former Hewett School, spent a year researching the gansey and creating her designs by visiting Cromer Museum and studying 20th century photos by Olive Edis of Cromer and Sheringham fishermen wearing the recognisable knitwear.

A self-portrait of Olive Edis. Cromer Museum has a large collection of the photographer's work. Picture: SUPPLIED BY CROMER MUSEUMA self-portrait of Olive Edis. Cromer Museum has a large collection of the photographer's work. Picture: SUPPLIED BY CROMER MUSEUM

She said: “I really like the cultural history. The fishermens’ jumpers are fascinating. The photos of Olive Edis are amazing. There is something romantic and a bit mysterious about them.”

MORE: The amazing story behind the traditional fisherman’s gansey

The designer completed a degree in fashion design at Kingston University, London, and went on to design luxury knitwear for Burberry for seven years, before setting up her own consultancy firm in 2010 and design brand Charl Knitwear in 2019.

She added: “I want the gansey tradition to come alive and relevant, attractive and appealing for today. If people are not interested in the designs they will die out.”

Ms Davies, who has two children and now lives in Warwickshire, said she enjoyed spending time looking into the history of the jumper, which was not always possible when designing knitwear for fashion brands.

The 10 different sustainable pieces are made of traceable British wool, alpaca yarn and organic cashmere and a limited number have been made in factories in Italy and Harringay, London.

She described them as clothes that could be worn everyday and last a lifetime.

“I love the tactile quality and colours of knitwear,” Ms Davies added.

Visit www.charlknitwear.co.uk or search charlknits on Instagram and CharlKnitwear on Facebook.

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