Breakout Designer: Carolina Ocejo’s Knitwear

By Brinley Knopf

Who doesn’t like Sweater Season? A big, cozy sweater to burrow down into – something to keep you warm and cushy during the cold New York winter?

Or, if not chunky knitwear, something light, a sleeveless slipover for the spring? I love knitwear. The intricacy, the yarn and the weaves –  knitting is an artistry; the know-how of which seems like Greek to me.

But for some, like Carolina Ocejo, a Fashion Institute of Technology alum and Knitwear Specialization Program graduate, it’s a way of life, trade and career. In this interview, I was able to ask Carolina about life after FIT, the job she’s found, her design techniques and her new knitwear collection. Shot in her hometown of Mexico City, the collection – pieces of which you can see above and below – is, suffice to say, nothing short of spectacular.

Q: Has being a FIT graduate/alumna had an impact on your career?

A: Absolutely! The preparation I got in the knitwear program is what allowed me to have a job that I enjoy and work alongside incredible designers in the industry. You don’t realize it while in the program but once you get out there, you begin to realize why your workload was so big and why professors demanded the best – because at the end of the day that is what you’ll encounter in the industry.

Q: How did you get your job with Kim Haller? Can you describe a day in-the-life? What do you do?

A: I got this job through word of mouth!

My days are different every day! We work with five different high-end designers and we are doing the entire knitwear collection for them, so it gets pretty busy. Some days I’m running around between client meetings, fittings and factories. Other days I get to work at the office and work on fit comments, knitwear layouts, lots of CAD work and answering a handful of e-mails. I need to be on top of everything happening with each client and making sure everyone is in the loop with the development of the collections. 

Q: Favorite knitwear piece to wear? Make? Design?

A: Coatigan! My friends make fun of me for using this word, but it’s true. It’s a mix between a cardigan and a coat – I actually designed one for my collection and I love it!

Q: Favorite textile/yarn to work with?

A: Cashmere and silk yarns are my favorite for lofty knits. I also like viscose yarns for more structured pieces. Every yarn creates a different look! 

Q: Who are some of your favorite designers? Favorite stores to buy from?

A: Azzedine Alaia is one of my favorite designers. I love how under-the-radar he is and how even though he doesn’t advertise himself, he is still one of the most respected designers in the industry. His garments are like sculptures – I’ve gotten my hands on some of his vintage pieces from a vintage rental house. It’s so interesting to see the intricacy of his designs and dissect the stitches he worked with.

Q: I love Sweater Season! Do you knit for yourself? Are you one of those knitters who make scarves or socks for their relatives at Christmas?

A: I love hand knitting! It is one of my favorite hobbies. I find it quite therapeutical actually. Whenever I get a chance, I knit. Although lately it has been pretty crazy at work so I’m behind in my knitting projects. Haven’t done the Christmas knitwear gifts yet but maybe I’ll get to it this year!

Q: How’d you get into knitwear – or how’d you find your niche?

A: I got into knitwear after seeing the endless possibilities you can create with it. Knitting is like sculpting; I think it’s so cool to be able to create your own fabric and silhouettes out of a single strand of yarn. I love how technical it is.

Q: What inspires you? Do you have a design aesthetic or moodboard? A design motto? Design techniques? 

A: I’m mostly inspired by architecture. I love interpreting architectural elements into stitches. Sometimes I like taking random pictures of things I see in the city or at museums that I find interesting. I have an archive of photos I take, and I like piecing them together to create moodboards. I like designing very clean and minimal pieces but with cool elements to it – I think hand-knitting adds an interesting dimension. For my collection I hand-knitted two pieces: a coatigan and a pullover, which you can see in the pictures.

Q: How would you describe the look of this collection? Do you have a favorite piece?

A: The look of this collection is very avant garde and minimal. I got my inspiration out of antique and modern architectural elements and translated it into my pieces through stitches, so this is why you see a very clean look with strong dimensional elements. My favorite piece is my hand-knitted coat, it took me a while to hand-knit but I am happy with the outcome!

Q: Are there any stores you’d like your designs to be sold in?

A: I would love for my designs to be sold at Bergdorf’s or Dover Street Market one day. It would be amazing to have my pieces hanging next to such talented designers.

Q: How did Mexico City feed into/inspire your designs and/or photoshoot?

A: I wanted to do my shoot in the historic center of Mexico City for two reasons. One: because I love my hometown. Second: because the architecture in the historic district is so inspiring to me. It also reflected on the inspiration of my collection, which were antique elements of architecture. So the old cathedral was the perfect place to shoot and really capture the essence of my pieces.

Q: Any plans for the future? What are you excited about right now? 

A: In the future I would love to be doing what I’m doing now [knitwear]. The idea of having my own line some day is exciting.

I am so excited about my job right now! I enjoy every second of it and I am so glad I landed here because I am so passionate about it!

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