There are few more valuable cold-weather essentials than a trusty knit. Whether fine and lightweight or large and wind-breaking, jumpers and cardigans form the core of any autumn/winter wardrobe worth its salt.

While plain colour styles are indispensable, it’s punchy printed and patterned versions that designers and brands are pushing this season. From geometric zigzags to statement block-stripes, graphic knitwear is set to go mainstream for autumn/winter 2015.

As always, we’ve sorted through the funky-looking fair isle and dodgy slogan sweaters to deliver an edit of the knits you need to know, and how to wear them.

On The Runway

If the statement sweatshirt – spurred on by the likes Kenzo and Alexander Wang – was the ‘it’ piece for the last three or so years, autumn/winter 2015 is all about zhooshing up the jumper instead.

At Christopher Shannon, intarsia knits came covered in boldly coloured tongue-in-cheek motifs (plastic shopping bags, half-crushed imitation coke cans, etc.), while John Smedley offered up crew and roll neck jumpers in block-colour stripes and micro patterns.

Elsewhere, sharks were an unlikely addition to Brit designer Christopher Raeburn’s classic crew neck jumpers, while Kenzo’s Carol Lim and Humberto Leon favoured multi-coloured, capacious styles.

The consensus? Lean towards the outstanding, rather than the safe, when it comes to choosing your knitwear this season.

Christopher Shannon Ami Kenzo Pringle of Scotland John Smedley Christopher Raeburn

Key Styles

Colour Block Stripes

Big, bold and totally wearable, jumpers wrapped in colour block stripes are the ideal way to trial the graphic knit trend if you’re not up for embracing it wholly.

Spotted at Fendi, John Smedley and Tommy Hilfiger, this classic pattern gives your cold-weather gear a welcome injection of colour without turning you into a traffic beacon.

Keep in mind that if you’re on the shorter, squatter side, these might not be the graphic knits for you – even the most banal of horizontal stripes will make you appear wider; these juiced-up lines will make you look like a lit-up house.

a.p.c fendi Ovadia & sons kenzo john smedley tiger of sweden

Geometric Print

Zigzags and hexagonal prints more your thing? Then consider adding a geometric knit jumper or cardigan to your cold-weather hit list. Cropping up at Brioni, Christopher Kane and Saint Laurent, geo prints offer minimalists an easy means of getting in on the trend, often coming in monochrome or similarly austere colourways.

More than any other, it’s this style that’s pulling knitwear right up to date, managing to look smart yet still edgy enough to stand out.

Struggling to move on from those neoprene sweatshirts? Then rest assured one of these will play well with your sports luxe ensembles.

brioni christopher kane alexander wang corneliani richard james saint laurent

Leopard Print

From Saint Laurent to Japanese label Sacai, leopard print was centre stage at the autumn/winter 2015 shows, and, trust us, you won’t look like a 1990s porn set provided you heed some easy-to-follow advice.

Traditional leopard print, that combination of black spots on a tawny base colour, is tricky. Not impossible. But definitely tricky. Done right, you’ll be channelling the style of rock royalty (what Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane was getting at with his take on leopard print), but get it wrong and, well – you’re a walking casting couch.

To steer clear of such connotations, limit your leopard print to your knit and keep every other element of your look Victorian-style restrained by comparison; by which we mean wear black or dark grey at a push.

roberto cavalli saint laurent

Fair Isle

Not just for après ski, fair isle can help you look festive – without going the whole tacky Christmas jumper hog – once the season hits.

But judicious placement is crucial. Too many bold colours or an eye-watering amount of pattern and your efforts are instantly undone. Instead, opt for a design that’s limited to two or three colours at most with a smattering of pattern at the chest, shoulders, rib and cuffs.

And, as with leopard print, keep your surrounding pieces subdued by comparison – unless you’re cool with looking like a Christmas tree.

casely hayford dries van noten e tautz pringle ralph lauren versace

How To Wear

These jumpers want attention. Don’t make them scream for it by wearing them with checked trousers and a pair of neon-panelled trainers. Less is definitely more when it comes to graphic knits, so ensure yours is the focal point of your outfit by opting for plain colour shirts, legwear, shoes and an outer layer in understated shades.

Secondly, let your choice of graphic knit inform the rest of your look. If it’s a slim leopard print crew neck jumper you’ve plumped for, then stay true to its roots and team with distressed black or grey jeans, a leather jacket and pair of Chelsea boots for a Saint Laurent-worthy rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic.

Likewise, make the most of a geometric style’s clean lines by combining with tailoring – try a sharply-cut wool trouser or a minimal overcoat with a pair of leather sneakers or Derbies.

These statement styles won’t replace your plain colour knits but they’re hard to beat for an instant, winter-defying hit of colour and comfort.

reiss aw15 j.crew aw14 asos ss14 burton aw15 asos aw15 burton aw14 river island aw15 ay not dead aw15 reiss aw15 boss orange pre aw15 La Comedie Humaine aw14 new look aw15 falconnable aw15 henry cottons aw15 mango man winter 2014

Key Pieces

  • G-star Shawl Cardigan Draha Heavy Knit Wool Slub G Pattern
  • Pepe Knit Cardigan Nolan Heavy Melange Stripe 2 Pocket
  • Asos Jumper With Square Design
  • Allsaints Sabre Crew Jumper
  • Allsaints Erddig Crew Jumper
  • Topman Mono Zig Zag Crew Neck Jumper
  • He By Mango Printed Cotton-blend Cardigan
  • Ben Sherman Mouline Stripe Jumper
  • French Connection Felted Striped Knit
  • Fjallraven Ovik Knit Sweater
  • Norse Projects Birnir Fair Isle Alpaca Knit
  • Barbour X White Mountaineering Finhara Crew Neck Knit
  • Gant Rugger Cotton Jacquard-knit Sweater
  • Mp Massimo Piombo Striped Wool Sweater
  • Saint Laurent Leopard-intarsia Mohair-blend Sweater
  • Reiss Church Printed Lightweight Jumper
  • Maison Kitsune Striped Wool Sweater
  • Burberry Brit Silas Collage-print Cotton Sweatshirt

Final Word

Jumpers that lean towards jazzy rather than generic might not be to everyone’s taste, but, styled correctly, they can add an extra dimension to your autumn/winter looks. And with such a wealth of designs on offer this season, there’s bound to be a knit that meets your needs.

Will you be getting graphic this season? Or are these busy knits destined for the bargain bin?

Drop a comment below to let us know.