Born: Munich, Germany, 8 January 1938. Education: Studied fine arts, majoring in fashion design, Washington University, St. Louis, 1956-60; synergetics, cosmology, physics, New School for Social Research, New York, 1977-80; reflective theory, Hayden Planetarium, New York; insect kinematics, Museum of Natural History, New York. Career: Bra designer, Formfit Co., Chicago, 1959; dress designer, Carlye Dress Co., St. Louis, 1960-61; designer, boyswear, Hummelsheim, Murnau, West Germany, 1961-62; designer, junior dresses, Big Ben Modelle, West Berlin, 1962; childrenswear collection, Bill Atkinson, Glen of Michigan, New York, 1963-67; designer, Sally Forth childrenswear, Boe Jests Inc., 1967-68; designer, S.W.A.K. children and preteen sportswear, Villager, 1968-69; designer, women's sportswear, Boe Jests Inc., 1969-70; owner/designer, operating mail order hand-knit kits, I Did it Myself, Mother, 1970-73; designer, children's sportswear, Gabriele Knecht label, Suntoga, Miami, Florida, 1971-73; author/designer knitting booklets, 1973-77; freelance designer, junior and children's knitwear, 1977-82; designer/producer, G.K. Forward Inc., from 1982; U.S. patent awarded for garments constructed with forward sleeves, 1984; lecturer, Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design, New York; Washington State University; North Carolina State University; University of Cincinnati School of Design; Fashion Group of St. Louis; American Association of University Women; Fashion's Inner Circle. Collections: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. Exhibitions: More Fashion Award Grand Prize-Winning Designs, Henderson Gallery, Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1985; Her Works Praise Her: Women as Inventors, Goldstein Gallery, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, 1988; A Woman's Place is in the Patent Office, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Washington, D.C., 1990. Awards: Outstanding Women in America listing, 1966; Best New Designer in Women's Clothing Field, More Fashion award, New York, 1984; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1986. Address: G.K. Forward Inc., 264 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001, U.S.A.
Learn to Crochet and Learn to Knit booklets for Columbia Minerva Corporation, New York, from 1973.
"Gabriele Knecht Receives First More Fashion Award," in WWD, 2May 1984.
Peacock, Mary, "Gabriele Knecht's Patented Patterns and Other Fashion Breakthroughs," in Ms. (New York), March 1985.
Harte, Susan, "Patterned for Perfection," in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, 4 August 1985.
Engelken, K., "Rethinking Sleeves," in Washington University Alumni News, March 1986.
Sayers, Donna, "Armed Revolution," in the Cincinnati Enquirer, October 1988.
Friedman, Arthur, "Knecht Steps Forward," in WWD, September 1991.
Van Horne, Gladys, "Maestra's New Suit Stitched Just in Time," in the Wheeling News-Register, September 1992.*
I started my own company of designer sportswear and coats after spending several years developing an original clothing concept which relates the structure of clothing to the unique way the human body moves. The technology for this concept has been fully documented in a United States patent. Unlike clothing which fits a body at rest or standing still, I base my designs on an underlying construction which anticipates the forward direction the body takes in movement, producing new fashion shapes.
I achieve my designs from a pattern-making system based on squares, working out the technical construction in miniature first, then enlarging the squares for the life-size version. My "K" trademark illustrates the difference between conventional construction and my forward-sleeve construction: the left part of the logo showing the top view of the body with sleeve direction of conventional garments; the right part of the logo showing the top view of the body with sleeve direction of garments based on my patented forward sleeve.
New York designer Gabriele Knecht believes that if you want to change fashion and achieve new shapes, you must change the underlying foundation. So she did. Conventional construction methods used in the making of garments were hundreds of years old and based on the T-shape, or kimono pattern. This method assumed our arms and legs had an equal range of movement around the anterior and posterior of the body.
Knecht states that although the arms have a large range of movement around the body, this freedom is not equal in all directions. "We can hug ourselves and move our legs forward, but there is a limited or different movement toward the back of the body." Knecht has, possibly for the first time in history, looked at the real differences between the body's front and back range of movement, studying kinematics, synergetics, physics, and cosmology in addition to fashion design and fine arts. Combining these drastically different areas of study, she looked at how the differences of movement of the body affected fashion design, pattern making, and garment construction. The result was her "forward-sleeve" design.
Knecht's one-piece and multipiece forward-sleeve pattern brought the axis of the sleeve substantially forward of the body's lateral plane and into the arm's center range of movement. This was accomplished by moving the low point of the armhole forward while leaving the high point in the lateral plane of the body. By doing this, Knecht put a larger degree of ease and mobility in the side front area of her garments, where it was needed, yet with a closer body fit. The forward-sleeve design was an evolution in pattern making and construction, a process developed over a 10-year period that earned Knecht a U.S. patent in 1984 and foreign patents in Canada and Japan.
Using the forward-sleeve orientation as the basis for all of her work, Knecht has designed a line of chic, well-cut, and excellently proportional sportswear. The range of movement achieved with her forward-sleeve design allowed for a fitted, even tailored garment to have the movement and comfort of a much less constructed piece. Knecht's work, like that of American sportswear designer Claire McCardell, is simplified, reductive, and appealing to our human nature. Using geometrical shapes and diagonals to break or eliminate side seams and, when possible, only one pattern piece, she has created a design aesthetic and spirit all her own.
Although Knecht will not bow to the mandates of changing trends, her innate ability to design and her integrity of cut and construction have been evident in every garment with the Gabriele Knecht label. The Gabriele Knecht line has been sold in a number of major retail and specialty stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue (exclusively for one season), Bonwit Teller, Macy's, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus, as well as in smaller stores such as Joanie's of Memphis. Knecht's work can be found alongside that of Yeohlee, Lida Baday, Peter Cohen, Ronaldus Shamask, Gentry Portifino, and Ann McKenna.
Maestra Rachel Worby of the Wheeling Symphony in West Virginia states, "The best feature is that the sleeves are attached in such a way that when I move my arms up and down as I am conducting, the jacket does not hike up too."
In 1984 Knecht was awarded the first-ever More Fashion award in New York. The event, hosted by Dynasty star Joan Collins, was sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of More cigarettes. Knecht beat out finalists Hino and Malee, Frans Haers, Tamotsu, and Frederico and Alfredo Viloria to win the top prize. The trophy was a wisp of vermeil on an ebony base…which fell off during the ceremony; Knecht took it in stride.
Knecht's spirit and singularity of purpose are best expressed by Susan Harte in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution (4 August 1985): "There is unlimited direction open to her now that she has set her fundamental precepts. She will design human clothes, not necessarily 'with-it' ones, and will do it autonomously, not deferentially."
updated by Daryl F. Mallett