Friday, December 17, 2010

S.N.S. Herning—A History

The registered trademark S. N. S. HERNING was founded in 1931 by SØREN NIELSEN SKYT (1899– 1972) in Herning, Denmark.

As a young man, he made a living by selling knitted garments of his own making. In the late 1920’es, he learned about a technique of knitting with “bubble” patterns that increased the insulating abilities of garments.

Relying on these techniques, he began manufacturing the so-called FISHERMAN sweater, which was intended to protect its wearer from the rough weather at sea, and to be robust enough to withstand the wear and tear from the hard work.

All our FISHERMAN sweaters are still being knit-ted after the same recipe as that of Søren Nielsen Skyt—with strict rules for the layout of the bubble pattern, the cut, the measurements, and the finishing etc. Something about the design and feel of this garment makes us shy away from making even the slightest of changes to it.

Design is perhaps even a misleading word. The look of the sweater is quite directly derived from the function, and it is probably this simple and understated functional aesthetic that ensures the longevity
of the garment.

Eighty years have passed since the release of our first FISHERMAN sweater. Even if the production has had its highs and lows, we never stopped knitting it. And to this day, the FISHERMAN sweater remains at the core of our entire production of knit-wear.

More knits have naturally been added to our repertoire over time—but they all relate more or less directly to our original knit in terms of functionality, aesthetic, underlying technique, texturing, or simply that hard to describe feel.

All knits can be thought of as members of a family - sharing the same forefather.

Remaining true to a few simple principles of trying our best to make fine knitwear that will outlast the mores of fashion has been at the heart of our company for generations. Our trademark was first registered with the two fishermen in a dinghy in 1948—and even if we do not exclusively knit for fishermen, we kept the old beautiful logo as our trademark to always remember our origins.

Keeping alive a locally based tradition for making knitwear, though, is our real TRADEMARK.

ALL knitting at the S. N. S. HERNING mill is done with aged machinery from the German producer of knitting machinery, STOLL. Even if the actual knitting is a purely mechanical process, nothing would be achieved without adding the knowledge of the artisan operating the machine. To celebrate this fact, all knits leaving the S. N. S. HERNING mill bear the handwritten signature of the artisan who knitted the item.

Rather than making anonymous mass-produced products, we like that you can actually trace the origin of individual items back to the man in charge of the machine knitting it. The signed tags testify to the

meeting of man and machinery in the making of every single knit.

This idea of tracing origins was also the reason why Søren Nielsen Skyt initially decided to use his own initials and the city where the production was done as part of the registered trademark for his knits.

In his early days, this idea was very common: make your product stand out by identifying the name of the producer, and the city where it was made. Named people and cities would over time grow a reputation for making specific and unique products—like Herning did for producing knitwear.

Since then, the overall tendency—put quite simply—has been that of standardization. Production changed its character from being locally based—to being performed at large-scale sites, in effect eradicating all traces of where the products were actually made and by whom.

A very basic idea of artisans being proud of their crafts and leaving their individual marks on unique products—seems to have been almost lost in this transition.

No two knits leaving the S. N. S. HERNING mill will be completely identical. Yet, we do not consider this to be a flaw with our knits, quite on the contrary. Like the knitter leaves his signature on every garment, so will the old machinery—in the sense that small imperfections in the fabrics are due to in-built limitations with the old machinery. To work with the limitations of the tools you are handed down—that is perhaps the characteristic of a true ARTISAN.

GENERATIONS of knitters have been working at the S. N. S. HERNING mill over the last nearly
80 years. All of them have contributed towards generating the shared knowledge where all our knits stem from.

Every season, the main part of the collection of knits from S. N. S. HERNING is either complete remakes of old styles or styles that are based on knitting patterns and swatches picked up from the archives at our mill.

No knit will ever be radically new since we always limit ourselves to the path already laid out by our own history.

Evolving from this basis to make “new” knits means: to recombine the letters of a fixed alphabet into new words. To some, these words shall be meaningful, to others nonsensical, or just playful babbling. But all words will be in our own local language, and they shall all sound familiar—like the similarities within members of a family.

So, to prepare a new collection of knits is to us at S. N. S. HERNING like trying to protect a local dialect from extinction. Not that our dialect is particularly beautiful, poetic, or functional. Not at all, but preserving it just contributes towards diversity.

In fact, the collection of knits for A/W 10 is called T A G 10 11 as a hint to the reason why we tag and sign our knits, namely to show that they have a specific, local origin.

Summing all this up: We believe that you can in fact move forwards, by looking backwards. And you have to move forwards. That is why our trademark is artisan GENESIS.
See more images here.

Photo & text Copyright S.N.S Herning.