From education to employment

My London, hippie-spirit changed popular style, says knitting guru

Nicholas Razell – Marsha and Kaffe outside the Fashion and Textile Museum

An international textile visionary told an audience a London fashion centre audience that his 1960s designs brought the ‘inner hippie’ out of people.

Kaffe Fassett said he targeted the middle classes when he revolutionised the use of colour in hand knitting.

He spoke at the launch of his autobiography, ‘Dreaming in Colour’ at the industry’s leading showcase and workshop, the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey Street.


Celia Joicey, head of museum, Kaffe Fassett, Marsha Hunt, Dennis Nothdruft, museum curator, Esther Smith, Newham College lecturer.

The Museum is operated by Newham College, which is recognised by Savile Row as providing them with well-trained young tailors.

Kaffe said he began as a painter in the US but travelled to London and took up knitting to develop his free-spirited creativity.

He said: “Hippies had really freed up people’s minds. The Scottish working classes were playful with language and the upper classes had a sense of freedom. But the middle classes were very, very restrained. But maybe I could get to them.

“When I came along and started to knit with colour, I brought the inner hippie out of the middle classes.”

Kaffe has designed for celebrities such as Lauren Bacall, Shirley MacLaine, and Barbara Streisand, for the Italian fashion house, Missoni, and renowned designer Bill Gibb.

One of his admirers is 1960s model, performer and former partner of pop idol Mick Jagger, Marsha Hunt.

She told the audience that they both met as 18 and 19-year-olds in London.

He put her up in his home when very few would have done that for a black woman.

She said: “There is an absence of vanity in Kaffe. I am blessed as he is part of my life.”

Newham College lecturer, Esther Smith, was another admirer who was inspired by Kaffe to devote her life to fashion.


The first major exhibition on international textile artist Kaffe Fassett’s work in London since 1988 was at the Fashion and Textile Museum from 22 March to 29 June 2013.

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