Signature Piece: The Second Skin

Have you ever encountered a person, culture, a book, or had a mesmerizing experience that changed the way you see the world? Have you made the kind of connection that profoundly shifts something within you, so profoundly that you are no longer the same you? What if I told you that I once met a fiber that changed me in that way? A particular kind of fiber, a fiber with which I conversed for a long time before it told me how it wanted to be knit. This is the story of the Second Skin.

Destined Meeting with a Thread 

Some time ago, I was deliberately exploring different yarns and threads, trying to find suppliers whose production would fit my cravings as a designer. That’s how I first came into contact with the Japanese company, Sato Seni, a company whose entire approach, from techniques and devices to attitude and philosophy, was rare.

Fortunately for me, the company was visiting the Baltics at the time, and I had the chance to personally meet the owners. As much as I was mesmerized by their yarn, I was stunned to meet people from the other side of the world who spoke my language in terms of the creative process and philosophy of making. As they were presenting their products, I came to realize that they too had a dialogue with their materials, that they weren't willing to just sell yarn – they wanted to make sure that it meets an understanding designer. 

That’s how I “met” the Second Skin yarn. I studied the sample I had, to better understand the nature of the delicate and lightweight wool – so thin it was impossible to talk any industrial knitters into experimenting with it, as I had initially wished. 

The compelling need to turn the yarn into fabric

I moved on with other designs and fibers, but the mysterious Japanese yarn wouldn't leave me, so I was compelled to come back to it and begin experimenting again. One of the things we did was try to knit with it on manual knitting machines, but that didn’t work. Then I noticed the similarity between it and another yarn I had – an experimental one, it seemed like both yarns tried to become something else when knit. 

Every yarn reacts in certain, particular ways to the process of being knit. One can usually predict how it’ll behave, depending on how it’s being crafted. But the Japanese yarn appeared to be a rebel or rather a primordium. While I tried some techniques, the results were not what I wanted.

Once again, I was back in search of a factory that could fulfill the dreams I had for what had become “my fiber.” Then I found a Lithuanian company that had the expertise I was looking for. It still took a long time until we discovered how the Japanese yarn could best be knit. It was a highly technical process, but the outcome was a knitted fabric unlike any other I had ever worked with.

How the “second skin” got its name

I call the fabric “second skin,” because that’s precisely what it feels like to its wearer. I cannot explain the phenomenon in merely scientific terms, but it's magical to see how the fabric established a unique connection to each wearer's body. Maybe it's our individual skin microbiome – who knows? The only word I can come up with to describe both the fiber and the phenomenon is “alive.” 

While wearing it, the material lies so close to our skin, that it allows for a continuous dialogue between us and it. I especially love wearing the Second Skin during the winter, when it becomes an extra layer – warming but almost “powder-like” – that embraces my body. It seems almost unbelievable how a see-through fabric can be this balmy and soothing during the cold season. 

I have a couple of sweet and funny “love stories” between my customers and the Second Skin; some have confessed that they love the fabric's touch so much, they sleep in it. Others have described it more as an emotion brought to them by the material – calming, light, and soothing, like a gentle hug or a perfectly warm bath. That warm feeling, that the Second Skin transmits, lies in the fabric’s tiny loops. They contain air, which is warmed by our body temperature. Therefore, the fabric is also warmed up, and as it's wool – the material maintains the temperature well. 

Besides being warm and calming, the second skin looks compelling as well – it's sheer and allows the wearer's skin to glisten through it. And indeed the fabric comes to look like a part of you, like a somewhat forgotten layer we decide to put on whenever we need an extra layer of protection.