Designer Q&A: Cecile Benac

It took me a while to see the appeal of loose-knit sweaters (why wear something that kind of keeps you warm and kind of doesn't when it's hot out?). But once I bought my first one, I quickly came around. Whether crocheted or knit, sheer or featuring holes of different diameters, loose-knit sweaters make great warm weather layering pieces.

Vancouver-based knitwear designer Cecile Benac seems to feel the same way. For spring/summer 2013, Benac did a collection of mostly neutral-coloured tunics, shrugs, shawls, and short-sleeved sweaters. These aren't your typical winter woolens though; they have a light-as-air look and feel that lends itself well to spring's balmier days. What's more, luxe materials, unique stitching, and a handknit-in-Canada status make a Cecile Benac creation much more special than your run-of-the-mill fast fashion sweater.

I caught up with Benac for a quick chat about her recent collection and how she approaches knitwear design.

How did you first become interested in designing knitwear?

Knitting has always been around me; my grandmother, my mother and my sisters were all great knitters! It was just the natural extension of their legacy, and there were not many hand-knit lines around 15 years ago when I started the business.

What was your inspiration for the spring/summer 2013 collection?

I wanted easy layering pieces, so I went to some of my old collections for inspiration. My shawls, shrugs, and capes are bestsellers for spring and fall; everyone can use them, no matter the size. I knew I wanted color, so tangerine was my choice; everyone can wear it! It’s been the bestselling color of the season!

What is your design process like from start to finish for a piece?

It starts sometimes with the yarns that I can get, and what they do when knitted. Sometimes I have a design that I like, or a special stitch which requires a specific yarn, so I look for it!

Loose knits are such a great wardrobe staple for spring and summer. How would you style them for the chillier spring weather and the warmer summer months?

Currently I am using yarns made of cotton/linen and cotton/viscose and polyamide, which are all year-round really. I offer my clients a line of tanks, tees and tank dresses in viscose/spandex which work very well with my knits. I have been using my boots with these when the weather is not calling for sandals yet and it looks really western. Love it!

What's next for you, personally and professionally?

Face the challenges of producing in Canada, staying competitive, and diversifying to increase sales.

Cecile Benac pieces range in price from $75-275. For more information or for a list of retailers, refer to the website.

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