At Work With Lynne Hiriak Of Cardigan

THE DESIGNER: Lynne Hiriak, designer of Cardigan knitwear
VISITED: January 2012
WHERE: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Lauren David Peden drops in to get the scoop on what it takes to live and breathe cardigans, and what turned the designer on to the staple.

“One of the items that I always noticed was a number-one seller or sold out or they didn’t have enough of [while working at Michael Kors, Derek Lam, and Lela Rose] was either a cardigan or cover-up,” says Lynne, at home in her airy live/work duplex studio, with twin desks and a tableful of spring merch being organized for a lookbook shoot the following day. “So I had this lofty idea of ‘Oh, I could do a line of all cardigans, and it’s 12 different versions of how to wear cardigans of different weights, different patterns – and then Cardigan took on a life of its own.’”

Today, Cardigan – which Lynne describes as being “happy, clean, light, and perky with some tongue-in-cheek humor” – is going strong, and is best known for its borrowed-from-the-boys sweatshirt knits and its casual-cool sequin striped sweater dresses. “It starts with silhouette” she explained of her creative process. “Lately I’ve really been feeling the sweatshirt, and I’m usually influenced by particular themes, so for spring it was the colors of Capri and the coast of Italy.” (Think: candy-colored cardis, some of which button up the back.) She also launched men’s sweaters last season, which are selling like gangbusters.

LYNNE’S WEEK
As for her daily workday routine, Lynne gets up around 7 or 7:30AM and begins her day with coffee and emails before heading into meetings around 10, many of which are conducted via Skype (in addition to designing Cardigan, she also consults for several mass market clothing brands). Monday is devoted to catching up, organization, and planning: “I spend a good 70 percent of my life calendaring the production schedule, e-commerce schedule, advertising schedule, collaboration schedule” – and she makes it a rule never to do finances on Monday or Friday.

The designer often cooks her own lunch – “lots of macro-type foods, like rice with seaweed and steamed vegetables or dumplings” – or she and her assistant, Laura, will order lunch in from The Meatball Shop or the local Japanese restaurant or French deli. She meets people for dinner three nights a week, and often works on the weekends since she has the flexibility to take a weekday off if needed (ah, the joys of working from home).

As for what she’d like to do next? “Honestly, everything,” Lynne replied with a Cheshire Cat grin. “I feel like there’s a way to Cardigan-ize everything.”

Lynne Hiriak helms Cardigan by Lynne Hiriak, the line of classic-quirky knitwear she founded in 2008 after stints at Michael Kors, Lela Rose, and Derek Lam. Born in Seoul, Korea and raised outside Philadelphia, the designer now lives and works in Brooklyn.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

March 2, 2012