For Loopwheeled fabric, it’s definitely a case of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Speed of production is the virtue that most companies strive for – but in this case, a reluctance to digitise, enhance or accelerate the process is precisely what makes the product so sought after. Loopwheeled fabric today is being made in exactly the same way as it was almost 100 years ago, when ‘hanging-knitting’ style machinery was masterminded in 1926 by an Italian inventor called Guiseppe Negra. Using a needle similar to a fishing hook, the Loopwheel machine gently rotates, steadily knitting the one metre of fabric per hour. Pre-1960s, this was how all good sweatshirts were made; but then along came snazzy new technology, paving the way for state-of-the-art equipment that could produce 20 metres of cloth in an hour, with needles rotating faster than the human eye could see.
By the 1970s, sportswear had stepped off the running track and onto the pavements. The masses wanted more, but not only that – they wanted to pay less for it. This shift in attitude signalled the overall decline of traditional Loopwheeled fabric until the 1980s, when some of the only remaining original European machinery was shipped over to Japan, to be reinstated by mills who were determined to champion the authenticity of the cloth and continue producing.
For SNJP, Studio Nicholson has chosen to work with Toki Sen-I, one of only two companies left in the world still holding true to Guiseppe Negra’s one-metre-an-hour methodology. Founded in 1984, Toki have been steadfast in their belief that good quality isn’t something you can rush. Located in Wakayama – a province whose textile history dates back 600 years, it’s an area of famous for the Japanese ‘ume’ fruit (a plum/apricot hybrid) the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route (shrines and temples) and these days, the renowned Tsuri knitting machines.
The unisex Akita Sweatshirt and Matsumoto Hooded Sweatshirt have a look and hand-feel that’s entirely unique to bona fide Japanese Loopwheeled knit. Made of 100% superior cotton yarn, the fabric feels remarkably soft – testament to the pockets of air trapped within the fibres during the precise but steady knitting process. Highly durable, exceptionally comfortable and super sturdy, they have the nostalgic character of yesteryear – harking back to the legendary, OG sweatshirts of the 1950s and 60s. And, unusually for so-called, ‘leisure-wear’, Loopwheeled clothing actually improves with age – it gets better with every wash and wear. Built properly in Japan, these laid-back SNJP layers are ideal for the modular wardrobes of today, tomorrow and for years to come.
Leanne Cloudsdale is the Studio Nicholson Editor-at-Large