Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Karelle Levy. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Karelle, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today What’s been the most meaningful project you’ve worked on?
The Interknit, the literal world-wide-web is by far my project. It was originally conceived for the World Happiness Summit in 2017 as an installation built to connect people through yarn arts like knitting, crochet, and pom-pom making. I made the original structure and with each gathering, the piece has grown and morphed through the years. Since then, hundreds of people have added their stitches and connected by yarn. It’s a simple concept that today is even more prevalent than ever before. As human interaction has been limited with our current pandemic world, we long for connection in a physical way. The Interknit traveled between Miami and San Francisco with adults, children, from masters to novices and all walks of life contributing. I even find new things being added when I visit. In December 2020, the Miami Beach Art & Culture granted this interactive sculpture to take place outside the Plymouth Hotel and it felt like the first time I saw groups of people together. All masked of course, but strangers outside adding and learning new stitches to contribute to the piece. It was truly magical. It is now is on permanent view at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden with pom – pom making classes being held throughout the year. The Interknit 2.0 is starting to take shape. In collaboration with Melodie Blaize of Sniptease, we are collecting hand made blankets, UFOs (unfinished objects) yarns, and tools to create The Interknit 2.0 which will have its first install at the Miami Love Burn on February 10 – 13. We’re shopping all the thrift stores in South Florida and asking for donations to help build this next one. Here’s the link to find out more. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-interknit-at-the-love-burn#/ It’s always so wonderful to teach something so tactile and has a sense of nostalgia. I’m blessed to have this talent of knitting and crochet and be able to pass it on to who ever wants to learn. It gives me even more joy when I see my students make super things because I gave them the basic tools to get started.
Karelle, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
My name is Karelle Levy. I was born in Paris raised in Miami by Jewish parents from Sweden and Tunisia. I feel like I was born with yarn in my veins. My parents collaborated on large scale needle points while I grew up. My mom was also a fashionista. Sadly she passed away when I was 16 and I became fascinated with the weaving loom in my basement. So in high school I took a weaving class which lead me to study textile design at Rhode Island School of Design. There I learn the art of fabric making and my last year I became “hooked” on knitting machines. I was also a dancer and loved the idea of morphing the body with stretchy fabrics. These costumes were the impetus to my first collection of hand loomed one of a kind knits that stretched over every body type. I’ve always blended the line between fashion and art. For some I was too “artisty” to others too “fashion” so I float between both world. As a knitwear designer I have been invited to teach knitting and crochet in a series called “Stitch N Bitch” which I now just restarted at my studio on the first Saturdays of the month. Teaching people how to knit is a great honor and accomplishment. Through my interactive installation, I teach and connect people through stitches. Projects like these have turned into community engaging installations like “The Interknit” which is a knitted sculpture where people can add their stitches to the ever growing world-wide-web. My accomplishments include Best Women’s Wear Design by Miami New Times (2005, 2010, 2021), Knights Foundation Art Champion (2021), YoungArts Design Master teacher and national reviewer. My fashion line is called “KREL Tropical Knitwear” aka KRELwear. KREL was an abbreviation I used for my first name as a graffiti tag in high school and now only tag my clothes. I knit breathable clothes out of mainly plant-based yarns that fit most bodies as knits naturally stretch. I love making fabric. What better way to use it than to wear it? My signature technique is tubular knitting; typically my tank styles are one piece of fabric knit seamlessly in a tube. The fabric takes the shape of the body within it. The curvier the shorter the slimmer the longer. I have always been a curvy gal and this allows all different body types to be able to wear my garments. I engineer the fabrics and the body is the canvas. I make kaftans, robes, hot shorts, sets, top, pants, and skirts all with Miami and the tropics in mind. Making the collection out of sustainable and mainly plant-based fabrics allow for breathability in our mainly warm and humid climate. Keeping the line sustainable and zero-waste has always been part of the ethos in the almost 20 years of knitting. All the scrap yarns become the stuffing for my rag dolls and the failed garments become art pieces or tote bags that come with every purchase. My shop is filled with rainbow wall of yarn and my industrial knitting machine named “Maggie” short for the Iron Lady. It’s like a 3-D printer but for fabric. I’ve had my Shima Seiki for about 4 years and I love to work with people and their visions. I offer custom designs and work with not only individuals but also with boutiques and private label.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
Pandemic hit and I started making masks! While everyone was in quarantine I started making and shipping tubular face covers before NK95 masks were readily available. I learned to mass produce on my knitting machine in order for it to knit throughout the night and come back a few days later to find multiples knit. At this time I also lost my staff and started to work more with private clients and focus a bit on my on-line presence. Thankfully this really help keep my studio paid for and I was able to grow on my own. In 2008 when there was. a major financial crisis… I went from 43 boutiques world wide to 3 boutiques and had to find another way to reach clients, make sales, and become self reliant. I created two projects that are still things I do today. KREL 2 go ” Quickie Couture where I custom make clothes draped on people with the style they desired out of fabrics i prefabricated. Each piece was sewn on the spot and I take Polaroid photos of each piece that now is on the 4th photo album. DiscGlo a collection of neon glow in the dark and black light reactive yarns where I had my models dance on the runway. It was a great success that traveled the world and was able to make pieces and do shows in Berlin, Costa Rica, Switzerland, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles etc…
: Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
My goal is to have an environmentally friendly brand that can clothes anyone who wishes. I love making fabric and I love making people happy with the clothes I make out of my fabrics. I am a knitwear designer, with an industrial knitting machine I program. With this machine it’s allowed me to create custom clothes for all. I feel like getting dresses has a lot to do with psychology, how people feel about themselves and finding comfort in their clothes as a second skin. It really can change the way someone sees themselves and feel. I’ve had the pleasure of dressing thousands. And having to shift from selling to boutiques and selling directly to the public, I was able to see what they liked, disliked, and just grow as a designer with inclusivity in mind. I also do my best to keep my yarns and fabric out of landfills and have a eco-friendly ethos. So while I make sales, I also gift each client with a bag made out of fabric that would be otherwise seen as waste. And all the loose threads turn into stuffing for my hand made weird dolls.
- Website: www.krelwear.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/krelwear/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KRELwear1/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karelle-levy-63ab505/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/krelwear
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/KRELwear/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/krel-tropical-knitwear-miami?osq=krelwear
- Other: www.tiktok.com/krelwear
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