Innovative knitwear techniques pave the way for up-cycled materials at New York City based accessory brand, Verloop. As the push to end “fast fashion” continues, we talk innovation with its founder, Ella Lim.

What inspired your innovative Spring/Summer 2015 collection? Verloop’s Spring/Summer 2015 design development coincided with our studio moving to a new location. As we organized and cleaned up our old space, we found different materials and accessories—many of them one-off remnants—that we had sourced for previous collections. We spent the rest of the development cycle challenging ourselves to create products that re-purposed these “findings” into memorable pieces for spring. Among the materials we found—and that were incorporated into this collection—were nylon paracords, climbing carabiners, and vinyl, plastic and cotton fabric remnants. The mishmash of different colors and unexpected materials is something really exciting to me as a designer. Our spring collection reminds me of the aesthetic and design spirit that’s found in the Favelas of Brazil where re-purposing and reusing whatever is available is a way of life.

Was there much time spent in development? The current season took longer to develop, as it was our first time working with artisans on handmade pieces using materials that are not typically used for bags. Our “Favela” and “Cintra” bags are hand-crocheted from a special kind of plastic that’s widely used in the seaweed farming industry to bind and identify seaweed harvests underwater. The plastic we use is thicker and has a silky consistency that can be quite challenging to work with. It was a challenge to achieve consistency in our prototypes as each bag is made by a single artisan from scratch. Our development timelines were further stretched by the fact that it can take up to two days to hand crochet a single bag from this material. Product and process design had to be adjusted several times to finally create a unique and well-priced product while paying our artisans competitive, fair-trade wages with the means to work at home.

We also keep updated on the latest technical advances in textiles as a starting point when developing for our main fall/winter collection. For example, the fingertips of our best-selling touchscreen gloves are knitted with yarn that’s made with a thin layer of conductive coating that allows you to text without taking off your gloves. We utilize these advances each season to make sure that the collections are cutting edge, both in terms of style and technique.

What is your background? I was born and raised in the Philippines before moving to the U.S. for university and graduate school. I spent several years working in advertising and the industrial design industry where I worked to commercialize design objects and furniture made with innovative materials and production techniques. That experience inspired me to launch Verloop in 2011 as an extension of my family’s knitwear manufacturing business in New York. My vision was to create a unique line of accessories that infuse traditional knits with a contemporary aesthetic and functionality. We also try to employ unexpected materials, details, and industrial techniques to the collection. All Verloop products are made in our third generation, family-owned production facility in the Philippines. The fact that we own our own factory allows us to easily invest in research and development, to experiment freely with materials and to take design risks without the pressure of meeting high minimums.

What’s been your biggest coup to date in terms of innovative techniques/offerings? There have been two. One, is developing a special knit technique to create gloves with thick knit fabric while providing a “4-way” stretch. This helps provide a snug fit that makes our glove more comfortable to wear without sacrificing warmth. This special feature can be found in our color block touchscreen gloves. The other is the re-purposed plastic that’s the same plastic used to harvest seaweed in the Philippines. Durable, water resistant and getting a second life—all qualities that would make our crochet bags functional and meaningful. But, Verloop is a young company, so there are discoveries to be made each season, and the sense of discovery is what keeps me so energized about the entire process.

What exciting developments do you have planned for 2015? I’m excited about working on more design projects that employ recycled and re-purposed materials. We have been looking into different waste generated by the fashion industry to see what can be potentially recycled, or up-cycled  into great products. Also perhaps a move into home accessories? I’m currently working on a concept for knitted storage—might take a few more seasons before it finally makes its debut but only if it ever makes it out of the concept stage!