Quite recently, Henry Zankov, the talented designer of all things knit-y and sweater-y of the label Zankov, saw the Sophie Calle exhibition at the Musée Picasso in Paris. A quote on the wall caught his eye. “It’s really beautiful,” he said the other week at a preview of his fall 2024 collection at his live and work space in Brooklyn. “It goes something like this: ‘I bought a house just so I could bury my sweater here.’” Anyone at today’s presentation who also might have spied said quote would have had their mind whirring like crazy trying to figure out the financial outlay. Given how superb Zankov’s fall collection is, you’d need many, many houses for the many, many sweaters (and the rest; this is a whole knit world) that you’d want to keep for posterity. (I know, I know, we can all but dream. Maybe we’d better stick with the many, many sweaters and just have the one place to rest your head—and your knits.)
Given the kind of emotional connection that was at work here—the depth of feeling for what he is designing and for what you might want to wear—Zankov named this collection (appropriately enough) Hold Me Closer. “I wanted that sensation of being hugged, of having someone to be in your clothes with you,” he said. “It’s also that feeling of protection, but at the same time, I don’t want the wearer to feel overwhelmed.” How that played out was as a greater emphasis on the three dimensionality of what he designs—an approach which embraced scarf-ing and blanket-ing, for want of two better phrases. But that is essentially what was going on here—a rounded, cocooning sense of comfort with planes of knitted fabric softly folding and draping around the body in a way that never looked cumbersome or clumsy, merged with a silhouette refrain that was elegantly long and sinuous.
Zankov opened his presentation with a chunky scarlet knit worn to slip-slide off the body, teamed with a fuzzy textured skirt in dusky pink. From then on, we had the uber-light merino wool paneled oversized sweaters in ochre or purple. Burnt orange was used for a robe coat and a dress with a matching oversized scarf with pockets, all magicked up from a yarn that had been knitted twice over. Another excellent and inventive technique was used for white and black pieces striated with stitches, which every now and then delightfully bubbled up like pom poms. The twinset was reinvented as a chunky brown and ecru marl cardigan and matching sweater, edged with electric blue and worn with slouchy flannel pants. Zankov included a few—industry term coming up here—wovens (i.e, non-knitwear pieces) to round out the look and his world. A loden robe coat was a standout over a zingy acid green knit and rib trousers combo.
Inspiration-wise, he might have been looking to artist Nathalie du Pasquier, who also cofounded the Memphis group. Looking to her work inspired him to use gray for the first time, to add to his own richly original palette. The lean lanky shapes came from the kind of clothes favored by the French chanteuse Barbara, renowned for her gamine crop and risqué lyrical content. (Touchingly, Zankov mentioned he connected with her because her look reminded him of his mom when she was back in St. Petersburg in the ’70s.) Yet all that aside, what you come back to here is that this is a designer with a strong sense of craft and technique, married to an aesthetic that resonates because it’s thoughtful and considered—and his. There can surely be no higher praise this particular New York season, which has occasionally had the distinct whiff of the derivatively familiar about it. All that was familiar here was that Zankov looked exactly like, well, Zankov.