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The Bowery tank sweater is a one-of-a-kind piece inspired by Breeden’s time spent exploring the NYC borough and is made with yarn made in the city. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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Iceland was Breeden’s top destination of 2015; the Black Sands Cowl reminds her of the gorgeous black sand beaches she got to experience while there. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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A glimpse at the Classics Collection. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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Breeden works from home; her current work playlist includes a mix of Beirut, the Replacements (and maybe a little Taylor Swift). (Photo by Megan Parry)
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Breeden’s favorite color palette is neutral splashed with blue; the Motor City vest is a striped homage to the time the designer spent in Detroit one cold February. (Photo by Megan Parry)
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The Oversize Chunky Knit Sweater Shrug is one of Breeden’s favorite designs; she’s held it over the past two collections because everyone loves it so much!(Photo by Megan Parry)
I “met” local photographer and knitwear designer Leney Breeden (@agirlnamedleney) on Instagram in late 2015; I was following a trail of RVA hashtags and happened upon her dreamy feed, full of chunky knits, green plants and stunning landscapes. I was smitten and “liked” her immediately. After trading comments back and forth on the platform for months, we were finally able to sit down over lattes at Lamplighter on N. Morris last week to chat all about knitting, fashion, the creative process and what it means to be a maker in Richmond.
Breeden is a native Richmonder who has been a maker her whole life. She remembers knitting with her grandmother as a young girl, equipped with plastic knitting needles and acrylic yarn. And while she may have traded up her tools in the intervening years, that raw passion and intense enthusiasm that fueled her desire to create as a kid remains the same. In 2012, Breeden decided to take the leap from hobbyist to professional; she quit her day job and began to pursue her photography and knitting business full-time. Once she opened her Etsy shop, she hasn’t looked back.
She prefers to design within collections, creating cohesive groups of knitted pieces that follow a similar thread (sorry - couldn’t resist) and tell a story. Her latest, the Classics Collection, is all about minimal, streamlined pieces that are made for effortless dressing. Her bestseller - and the piece that I am currently coveting - is her oversized chunky knit sweater shrug. I am so digging the big stitches and drapey silhouette. A totally cozy piece to throw over everything in these cold winter months.
Lately though, Breeden has also been experimenting with designing one-off pieces based around certain yarns she’s picked up on her extensive travels. Whether it’s a cowl inspired by a trip to Geneva or a sweater made from wool brought back from Ireland, Breeden’s designs are thoughtful, organic extensions of her real life experiences. She’s passionate about the slow living movement currently underfoot: taking time to invest in well-made, special pieces has become part of the designer’s brand and lifestyle.
She’s particularly thrilled that this maker-based, quality-focused way of living is thriving in Richmond. With such a vibrant creative population, Breeden is constantly inspired by those around her. In fact, she says she’s just generally “passionate about passionate people” and is energized by watching other makers carve out their own space within the city’s creative community.
When I asked her to dish on her favorite local RVA shops, she laughed and looked down at her outfit: with a super soft blue sweater for Na Nin and a rad sterling silver vintage necklace from Yesterday’s Heroes, it’s clear she’s all about Addison Street. As for a particular spot to re-energize her creative consciousness, Breeden likes to nip into the VMFA to wander the galleries with her sketchbooks in tow on a cloudy afternoon.
In 2016, Breeden hopes to expand her knitwear knowledge beyond the yarn and needles. In her travels to both Iceland and Ireland last year, Breeden had the opportunity to work closely with local farmers for a brief period, sparking her interest in the “farm-to-sweater” process (so to speak). She’d love to follow a design straight from the sheep’s back: shearing, carding, spinning, dying and finally knitting it— involved in every step.