The Crochet Comeback with Charli Label

There is no denying that crochet has made the ultimate comeback, taking over  summer in the form of colourful tops, bucket hats, and even bikini tops. Although some may think of crochet as something our Grandma’s used to do to pass the time; kiwi designer, Charli Nicholls, has embraced the classic technique and reinvented it to represent a new age of fashion and feminism.

Remix sat down with the inspiring young designer from Charli Label to chat about all things crochet, feminism and sustainability.

When did you first become interested in crochet?

Just over a year ago. I organised a stitch & b**** with my friends! Although… I wasn’t very good at it to start with. I was further introduced to the wonders of crochet during a textiles class in 2021 whilst studying first-year fashion design. 

What inspires you when creating your designs? 

Everything. Particularly the history of clothing, but also the urge to show more skin and parts of women’s bodies that have been, and still are, objectified with pieces that take back our power as females. 

Sometimes I like to create characters in my head too, I'm currently working on something inspired by ice skating outfits and the essence of ‘The White Witch’ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - a movie literally ingrained in my head from a child. 

I do a bit of sampling too, some even from a year ago that I found being back in Tamaki Makaurau and am now incorporating into my designs. I also hope that I can help change our industry and society for the better, whether it is always putting the environment first or challenging damaging societal views. And, if you can’t tell already, I love mixing colours. 

How long does it take you to create one custom crochet piece?

It depends on many factors, like how tight the crochet needs to be and the size. The vests take around 2-3 hours, the Daphne top takes around 7-8 hours, and the skirt I made took around 11 hours. So long story short, AGES! However, there’s nothing like owning a piece of clothing made with boundless aroha, passion and energy. Crochet can’t be done with a machine like knitting, so there’s something quite special about crafting clothes by hand! 

As a proudly ethical business, what are your concerns around the manufacturing of crochet pieces on a mass scale? 

First of all, I don’t think any clothing should be produced on a mass scale because it has caused catastrophic textile waste globally. There is a mountain in India purely made from old clothes! We might not see the effects in our own country but people, animals and nature in other countries definitely are. 

Mass-produced crochet pieces are a lot cheaper to purchase but that’s because someone is paying for it. Whether that is the person who made it in poor conditions or the environment. I feel so uneasy knowing that a person is being exploited for their skill of hand-made crochet, especially with how much time it takes. 

Do you have anything you’d like to share with readers looking to purchase from Charli Label?

Just to know that you are choosing to support a handmade, ethical, natural fibre-focused, minimal waste business that makes your crochet garment right here, in Aotearoa. You should feel really proud about that. 

What can we expect to see from Charli Label this year? What’s next?

You might see some funkier and unconventional designs that are more true to myself. I love fashion that may be perceived as ‘weird’ or ‘eccentric’. Life is too short for boring clothes! I’m currently in my third year of fashion design now, so class inspirations might cross over to my crochet… we’ll have to wait and see! I would also like to source more second-hand yarn and try to use wool that is only produced and spun in NZ.