Vertebrae scarf, 2005

Tom Scott

Location: New York, New York
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Tom Scott’s work blurs the line between garment and accessory. A scarf, a T-shirt, or a sweater—at times it is hard to tell, and his creations can often be more than one of the above. A cardigan can be transformed into a pullover. A shrug’s sleeves are held together by the thin neckband of a V or crewneck sweater, but the rest of the sweater is missing. One end of a scarf becomes a sleeve.

Scott, who began his career as an accessories designer for Ralph Lauren, designs knitwear that expands and challenges our notions of this most traditional of crafts. Since Scott launched his own line of accessories in 2000, followed by knitwear in 2002, his seasonal collections have drawn on an eclectic and eccentric range of sources for inspiration, including medical reference books, knitting history books, vintage dress patterns, the human anatomy, and topographical maps. “I don’t really find inspiration from what’s in fashion,” he says. “I look more at things like the architecture of the human body, while experimenting with knit construction.”

Scott developed his fresh and unconventional approach when, as a student, he bought his first knitting machine and became obsessed with the ways he could use it to manipulate textiles into unexpected shapes and forms. He is intrigued by distortion at all scales, from the form of an archetypal garment to individual stitches. He experiments and tests the limits of technology, materials, and craft, and his elegantly distorted forms often occur purely by accident, the result of a fortuitous mistake with a stitch or a pattern. Scott’s interest in architectural constructions is evident in his Vertebrae scarf. Inspired by the bones in the human back, the scarf’s soft ruffled edges are anchored by a more thickly knitted spine, which provides structure to the piece. Its complex geometry is most apparent when draped around a neck, falling in an undulating spiral that becomes at once ruff, shawl, and scarf. With his quirky and elegant knits, Tom Scott shows us that sweaters and scarves don’t have to be dowdy and utilitarian.