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Sisters reinvent finest knitwear in Latvia

Since its days as a member of the Hanseatic League the port city of Riga has been home to industrious citizens eager to trade with the outside world. In the past, furs to make elegant coats were exported from Latvia’s capital to merchants across Europe. Fast forward to today and superfine cashmere has become the hot commodity thanks to the work of startup fashion brand Zein Knitwear.

Founded in 2015 by two sisters, Zane and Inga Apsite, the “Made in Latvia” clothing label is looking to carve out a niche in the premium segment with beautifully handmade sweaters. Its assortment of smart casual wear is aimed at discerning women attracted to quality and long-lasting pieces and not overly trendy garments with flashy logos. While the Baltic States don’t jump to mind as a hub for high-end fashion, co-founder Zane Apsite explains that constructing well-made garments runs in her family. “Both of our grandmothers were skillful knitters, keen to pass on the knowledge to the granddaughters. We spent countless hours observing and learning to knit with love and deep respect. Everything our grandmothers did was to perfection.”

Given today’s globalized economy where fashion firms depend on subcontractors and often outsource to cheaper producers in Asia, Zane feels there’s room to offer an alternative, especially as customers become more knowledgeable about the garment business by researching online. “We wanted to create a brand which represents handmade quality without any industrial effects involved. When you look around you see all these cheap, short-life clothing and by cheap I mean low-quality materials and garments. These pieces neither have personality nor soul, so my sister and I thought why don’t we design clothes ourselves.”

 

«Our major source of inspiration
is nature and travelling.»

ZEIN

Apsite’s proud of the fact that she and her sibling are able to operate from Latvia. The pair’s atelier is found in a modernist cottage set in idyllic surroundings just 30 minutes from downtown Riga. Here, part of their team of 15 talented seamstresses work with spools of top-of-the-line fabric – their cashmere is sourced from a leading Italian mill. Their collection ranges from plush cable-knit sweaters made of mohair and silk to super chic cashmere cardigans that double as jackets.
The sisters share the workload equally, with Zane often in Switzerland, where the brand is eager to grow its footprint. Inga, meanwhile, keeps a close eye on production, assisting her team of textile workers, many of which have two decades of experience in the trade.

When it comes to design, the duo steer clear of fickle trends. “Our major source of inspiration is nature and traveling,” explains Zane. “Every trip is a new experience and we love to observe. What we manufacture is elegant and simple and you should be able to combine it with your current wardrobe.”

So far, their timeless looks and emphasis on handmade workmanship has been well received, a signal that the pair were right to follow their fashion instincts. “Every garment is made with the finest, most delicate yarn using long-established, century old methods and traditional tools,” adds Zane. “The apparel is chic enough for a ball but practical enough for a walk in the forest.”