From the Ritva Man

Out of the blue the other day came a great, unexpected phone call from Mike Ross, expatriate Portlander and the creator of the Ritva Man sweaters. We wrote a little about the Ritva Man back in December but Mike was happy to elaborate and talk about the (truly humble) beginnings, from his wife Ritva's first dresses she made by altering a crochet bedspread pattern from a Swedish craft book, to his Ritva Man's first "Homerun" baseball-jersey sweaters made by sewing a different color long sleeve to a short sleeve.
It's amazing what they accomplished in the first couple years.

Top: the first Ritva Man Homerun sweater, circa 1969, now in the permanent collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. In 1969 Mike Ross designed a sweater called the ‘Homerun’, inspired by a traditional baseball under-garment. From this prototype, in two colours with a simple embroidered flower, there followed around 2500 original variations, with stripes, in unique colourways. Ross later produced the ‘Artist Collections’, a series of ‘wearable works of art’, with appliqu├ęd designs by artist friends including David Hockney, Allen Jones, and Patrick Caulfield.
Above: The Homerun sweaters on Mike Ross & teammates, including Allen Jones, Commander Whitehead, and the Hathaway Man, I think. An unused London Sunday Times photo, 1970.

Above: Julie Christie modeling the Ritva Man Allen Jones sweater (top) and Liz Frink sweater, to coincide with McCabe & Mrs. Miller promotions, from the London Observer, Nov. 1971. The headline reads" At last, off the peg sweaters for 40 pounds". Which wasn't actually cheap as chips. Mike joked (but seriously) one of the reasons the labels were so intense was to make the sweaters seem more important, like a work of art, each hand made and very involved, with all their provenence (I'm paraphrasing). Funny that he would worry, but it's exactly what an artist would do. Indeed, if you were lucky enough to buy one back then today you could sell it to the V&A.

Above, the Ritva Man David Hockney sweater on display at the Sheffield Museum.

Images courtesy of Mike Ross.

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Ouno Design said...

This is completely fascinating. Which sweater was for the McCabe and Mrs Miller promotion, again? None of them look as if they have anything to do with that film, which I've been writing about recently. I'd love to know more. Incredible sweaters, especially the Hockney one.

John said...

Hi Lindsay
She was just doing general publicity, but there must have been a very cool editor at the Observer to know to put the two together. But Ritva and Mike did have alot of very cool friends, so maybe Julie came in with them. I should've asked...

Ellie Mayhem said...

Thanks for all the great info on these sweaters. So great to learn the history on them. I have a Ritva Man "Flash" sweater and would appreciate any suggestions on how to contact/sell to the V&A museum. Or anyone else whom might be interested.
It's presently the men's section of my etsy shop: elliemayhems.etsy.com.