Knitting an idea: How a Mad Men ad man turned men's knitwear designer.
The idea for James Cox Knits started more than 30 years ago when I knitted my first sweater—believe it or not a Fair Isle of my own design. It was then that I began to somewhat seriously fantasize about being a fashion designer.
But I suppose the seeds were actually planted while I was a college student at Wichita State University in the late 60s. My favorite art student buddy, Kathy Smith, and I would scrutinize Vogue magazine each month, doing a critique of both the fashions and the photography.
But instead of chasing fashion design I chased a career in advertising. Yep, I was one of the Mad Men, an art director and creative director in ad agencies from Madison Avenue to Michigan Avenue to Wilshire Boulevard, having martini lunches and dodging office politics as I created ads and TV commercials.
What happened to my passion for fashion? Well, instead of designing clothes, I simply blew a lot of my paychecks on them.
Knitting was to be discovered about a decade later. While my mother taught me and my three sisters how to knit in our teens, it didn’t capture my imagination then. Not until about 1979 when one sister made fabric for me on her loom and I took it to a tailor with whom I collaborated on my first real fashion design. The yardage became a coat that I still wear today and the remnant yarn became the Fair Isle sweater I mentioned above.
Over the decades that have passed since then, friends have repeatedly encouraged me to sell the many sweaters and accessories that I have designed. Perhaps it was all those years in advertising, where I was paid for my ideas, that inspired me to express myself as a fashion designer who sells ideas rather than clothing.
I hope you’ll enjoy knitting one of my designs and that you will be inspired to share your experience.