Nicole Leybourne | Founder & Designer, The Knitter

Nicole Leybourne | Founder & Designer, The Knitter

From humble beginnings in New Zealand to around the globe—Nicole Leybourne, The Knitter is spreading her love for fashion and wool one hand knitted garment at a time.


Starting her business knitting her signature, chunky and oversized knits herself, the demand for Nicole’s chic and fun knitwear became too much for her and her small team of knitters to keep up with, so, she expanded by bringing on board a talented team of Peruvian knitters, all of whom bring Nicole’s collections to life using premium soft, mohair yarns sourced from New Zealand and fluffy alpaca and sheep wool, sourced from the Peruvian highlands. Nicole is a big believer in supporting small communities, ethical labour and a slower pace in life- as it is quoted on her website, so to keep in line with her core values, Nicole’s fun and creative garments are all hand stitched together with love in homes, rather in large overcrowded factories, using century-old methods.

Her journey shows no signs of slowing down, with garments being sold by Net-a-porter and having the opportunity to collaborate with brands like Wool and the Gang, however, Nicole’s approach to running her business is fascinating because she still runs almost every aspect of her business on her own, while working closely with her beloved team of Peruvian knitters. She shoots all of her own content—and models it too, all while sharing her journey on social media. Nicole has gained a close relationship with her followers, making her relatable and lovable, with her down-to-earth but savvy approach to business, you better believe the The Knitter is only just touching the tip of the iceberg.

So, we sat down with Nicole and picked her brain about her take on beauty, wellness, social media and wool and we’re absolutely thrilled to have her as Sauce’s latest Saucette.

 Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfacolor 40's'

I was studying towards my Bachelor in Natural Medicine. It was my second attempt at completing a University degree. A few years before this, I had dropped out of my Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Creative Writing. I was always dreaming about a life that wasn’t inside a classroom or a lecture theatre, being told how to think and what to do. So I decided not to finish either degree, to leave and to make the Knitter. my full time thing. When I was younger, I had to knit a scarf for a school project. So I asked my Nana to do it for me. I never had the patience to knit. It was at the end of 2014 when I taught myself how to knit on Youtube, not very exciting :) I was also travelling as a model, and I would take balls of wool in my suitcase on my trips to Tokyo with me, leaving not much space for anything else. I hated modelling, and naturally, knitting just kind of became a part of me.

 Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfacolor 40's Aged'

I was still modelling and studying at the time it all happened. I decided to leave University in March 2017. At the same time, I posted a photo of one of my knits online, woke up the next morning, checked into Instagram and my audience had grown quite a bit overnight. One of my knits was being reposted all around Instagram. Then I received an email from Kendall Jenners assistant, asking for a custom knit and everything just kind of took off around this time. Thank goodness I didn’t have to go back to University.

Visiting Vogue and Harpers Bazaar with my sister, wheeling all my knits around the streets of New York in two suitcases, going form meeting to meeting. Collaborating with Karen Walker. Selling out on Free People a few times. Seeing my knits online at Net A Porter. Showing my new knits in Paris. Working with my hand knitters in Peru for three months late last year. Volunteering my time at a knitting club at a local retirement village. Being able to call this my job. I’m so grateful.

I think like most people, it is a little bit of a love hate relationship. Sometimes I check out of Instagram for a few days or weeks at a time, if it’s starting to feel a bit funny. But Instagram has definitely been a really important tool for the Knitter., to help me grow and expand. My customers are mostly based oversees, and I believe without Instagram, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this reach. I don’t have any other form of social media, one is enough to survive some days haha.

My skincare routine is really simple. My mum raised me on good whole foods. Nature knows what it’s doing, so I have generally found that food is my biggest friend or enemy when it comes to my skin. I wake up, have breaky, do my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste, wash my face with cold water, moisturise my whole body with Sukin Hydrating Body Lotion, and my face and neck with Sukin Calming Night Cream (yes, even in the day time :)). I also drink a lot of green tea and water and once a week use an Origins Face Mask. I take a daily Vitamin C tablet and voilà, all done.

 Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfacolor 40's Aged'

The only thing I’ll do is brush my brows and occasionally wear a nude coloured lipstick. I always like to have painted toe nails too. I’m not very good at doing my fingers though.

I just wash my hair every three days with Akin’s Rice Amino Shampoo. I leave my hair to dry naturally because I like how it stays a bit wavy. I sometimes brush my hair before bed if I’ve been out in the wind or it’s been a crazy wild day. I never use conditioner or anything else. I’m pretty low key lazy lol.

 Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfacolor 40's Aged'

My Dad once told me “I can tell my friends that your brother and your sister are both doing well, but what can I say for you? What are you doing with your life?” It was cruel and hurtful at the time, but it’s made me want to carve my own path even more. So here we are.

I walk through the trees and down to the beach. I know it sounds a bit funny but sometimes I stop to hug the trees on the way down too. When my dog Max was still around, we would take a break from knitting and run through the trees at lunch time together. It was the best feeling in the world. When I get home from my travels, I’m also going to start up Ballet again. Knitting is really good for my spiritual and emotional self too. It can be very therapeutic at times.

the knitter

We have more knits coming out with Karen Walker again this winter, which I am so happy about. I’m going to London next week to have a meeting about a pop up shop happening in Selfridges in September this year, and I also have a collaboration coming out with Anthropologie in October. Another fun year with lots of magic for the Knitter. I’m still pinching myself.

thank you nicole


you can follow nicole’s journey on her instagram here, and shop her knits here.

Interview | zeenat wilkinson

intro | nina franklin

photography | laura bourjac