SIRIS NYC Knitwear Channels 70s Graffiti

Siris NYC is a sustainable menswear apparel brand handcrafted in NYC by founder and designer, Sarah Hoffman and made on the BF+DA Shima Seiki knitwear machines. Inspired by the birth of the graffiti writing movement in New York City in the 1970s and 80s, her collection conceptualizes and reimagines the young, bold, rebellious artist and places him in a modern world. Crafted from reclaimed vintage materials, natural fibers, and donated textiles using fully-fashioned knitwear techniques, this collection hybrids environmental consciousness with urban grit. We caught up with Siris NYC founder and designer Sarah Hoffman to learn more about her work.

Tell me about how Pratt was part of inspiring your amazing knitwear collection that the BF+DA produced.

The sweater I did at the BF+DA wasn’t for a knitwear specific class, it was for my thesis class/collection—although, the reason I was given the incredible opportunity to produce a sweater at the BF+DA was because of my relationship with the Pratt advanced knitwear professor, Olivia Eaton. I had her for hand knit class sophomore year, and then I took her advanced knit (domestic machine knit) class junior year. She saw during my mid year critique that I had been producing a fair amount of jacquards with punch cards I’d made, and she and BF+DA Knitwear Director Kelly Puertas thought that I’d be a good candidate for learning to program a sweater. I am so grateful that they gave me the opportunity, because I learned so much and had a blast. The BF+DA was absolutely incredible throughout the whole process. I can’t even begin to describe my happiness the day that I came to pick up my sweater pieces: it was better than anything I had ever imagined, and to this day, I still can’t believe I created that sweater.

What was the inspiration behind your collection?

The inspiration behind my entire thesis collection was the birth of the modern graffiti writing movement in New York City in the 70s and 80s. I was exploring the innate human desire to make a mark or a name on a wall, and how this desire has manifested itself in so many ways across so many years of human history. The animal face graphic specifically on my sweater came from a very special place to me (and a significant source of inspiration for the whole collection): Fort Tilden. It’s an abandoned military base in the Rockaways, and it’s COVERED in the most incredible graffiti. I saw this face sprayed on a wall, and took a picture of it, then translated that image in my own style into a computer program for the knit. I developed it as a punch card as well, so it’s a bit different in that execution but the motif is still there throughout the collection

In terms of tech, what do you think about the tools you have at your disposal as a designer?

As a designer, I am OBSESSED with learning as many technical skills and understanding as many materials as possible—not to toot my own horn, but I am quite proficient in working with leather (bags, shoes, jewelry, and apparel), wovens, cut and sew knits, fur, and then for knits, I excel at hand knit, crochet, flatbed domestic machine knitting, and now I know a bit about programming shima Seiki machines! I’ve dedicated myself to learning all these skills because I feel like it greatly broadens my scope of design—if I can dream it, I can make it. And I can understand so many garments on so many levels in a multitude of ways, and since I am absolutely in love with all things fashion, the more I know, the better. I LOVE knowledge above all else. I think it makes me a better designer and a better person.

Was this part of a bigger collection?

This was indeed part of a bigger collection! It began as a menswear collection, but shifted into unisex when I realized the versatility and fun nature of the clothes—to this day, I still wear most of the sweaters myself! My point of view on fashion is designing from a cool yet sustainable and environmentally conscious point of view (yet another reason why I loved working with the BF+DA so much). I only used materials that were either certified organic and biodegradable, all natural fibers, or were reclaimed/upcycled from thrift shop garments, from which I created textiles myself. I also worked with FabScrap to obtain some of the materials. I did use leather and shearling, but all of it was either reclaimed from vintage/thrift garments, or FabScrap. My knits were primarily fully fashioned, so there was no waste, and I used only 100% wool or 100% cotton new yarns—any synthetic yarns I used were rescued from the Pratt knitting room donations section, or from other designers in the city who were throwing away old cones of yarn. I extensively studied sustainability and sustainable technology at Pratt, in addition to my fashion coursework.

See more of Sarah’s collection here.