I can't remember many of the clothes I wore before I was six, but I have a vivid memory of a certain skirt whose patterns I can still trace in my mind. It was wraparound, with a belt that threaded through itself, decorated with cats in two shades of green. I wore it with a knitted red jersey my mum bought in a jumble sale, and brown sandals with flowers cut into the toes from Clarks. It was 1979, and I was not yet five.
I hadn't thought about that skirt for a while. But recently a girlfriend mentioned the nameClothkits, and it was as if a door had been opened on a moment in the past that resonates with vivid significance for a certain sort of person. That person is one almost certainly brought up by forward-thinking, slightly hippie-ish parents who were channelling an organic, home-made, recycled lifestyle long before any of those words entered our popular vocabulary...read on
Clothkits is an English clothing company, originally based in Lewes, East Sussex. Founded as a mail order business by Anne Kennedy in 1969 and sold in 1988, Clothkits at one stage employed nearly 400 workers. The name continued to be used for a short time after the takeover of the company by Freemans, a larger mail order catalogue business.
Clothkits specialized in selling pre-printed kit clothing for children and adults. The kit would comprise a pattern printed onto the fabric so that it could be cut out and assembled without needing to pin a paper pattern. The kits were also notable for containing all the materials needed to complete the garment. The spare fabric around the pieces of the main pattern would often feature a doll sized pattern for the same garment. As well as the printed kits, they sold ready-made clothing and coordinating knitted items such as jumpers and tights.
After a period of hibernation, the Clothkits brand was bought in 2007 by artist Kay Mawer and the company relaunched in early 2008. Clothkits continue to produce kit clothing, also available pre-assembled, inspired by the original concept. Collaborations with contemporary artists and designers form the core of the business, and partnerships include with screen printer Jane Foster, papercut artist Rob Ryan and designers People Will Always Need Plates.