This designer knits sweaters for Marvel superheroes

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Usually, superhero-fashion collaborations result in bright graphic T-shirts, bondage-like leather catsuits or over the-top cartoon capes. But when comics publisher Marvel asked knitter Josh Bennett to create a collection for its latest film, “Thor: Ragnarok” (out Nov. 3), he had other ideas.

“I decided I wouldn’t have any big logos or in-your-face graphics,” the 36-year-old designer tells Alexa from his sunlit apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. “It’s really going to be character- and story-based — really for the true fans.” Or the fans with very refined tastes. Bennett’s capsule collection consists of four luxe, cable-knit sweaters inspired by Norse mythology. But since he’s hand-knitting them, each design will come in a run of just 10. “Every sweater is numbered and dated,” says Bennett. “I like them to feel special.”

The pieces, which all reference original “Thor” lore and rely heavily on symbolism, appear to be hefty, but feel weightless and soft. “I like to put shaping into these sweaters that make you look like you’re more of a superhero than you actually are,” says Bennett, pointing to the strong shoulders.

The designer has previously created pieces for Tommy Hilfiger and Vogue Knitting — an impressive leap for a man who grew up in what he calls “the backwoods” of Harrisburg, Pa. It was there, at the age of 8 or 9, that he first learned the craft from his grandmother, who was forever crocheting the family blankets and slippers.

“I knit for about a week then stopped, because where I come from boys don’t knit,” he says, joking that he abandoned it for the much-more-manly pursuit of musical theater.

It wasn’t until Bennett was in his early 20s and working at a theater in Connecticut that he picked up his grandmother’s hobby again. “The entire cast and crew knit, and I was like, ‘Wait, I kinda know how to do this!’” he recalls. Inspired by the first “Harry Potter” movie, he made a striped scarf, and was hooked.

sweater 1
“Thor” cardigan, $1,495, available for presale Oct. 10 at Josh Bennett

Josh Bennett

sweater 2
“Odin” Fair Isle zip-up, $1,295, available for presale Oct. 10 at Josh Bennett

Josh Bennett

sweater 3
Marvel x Josh Bennett “Loki” V-neck, $1,095, available for presale Oct. 10 at Josh Bennett

Josh Bennett

Bennett moved to Manhattan in 2001, working in yarn stores and writing patterns for customers. Then, while enrolled in a menswear course at the Fashion Institute of Technology, he got his first big break. Designer Michael Bastian hired him as an intern and then a collaborator. Bennett let his imagination run wild, knitting tops out of feathers or beef twine. Once, he made a sweater using Edo-period Japanese coins and 1,500 beads.

“I’m a big ‘Project Runway’ fan, so for me it’s about that unconventional challenge,” Bennett says. “You know, give me some plastic bags and let me knit something out of it.”

Bennett’s contract with Marvel lasts through 2018, and while he still has to finish knitting those “Thor” sweaters (available for presale next month on JoshBennettNYC .com), he’s already thinking about his next collection, for the studio’s forthcoming “Black Panther,” slated for release in February.

“That’s going to be a little bit trickier, since there aren’t any previous movies I can watch,” says Bennett. “But I’m a pop-culture fanatic. I’m excited for that challenge.”


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