Centers of fashion like NYC, Paris, and Milan may set the season’s trends, but this fall many of us will be looking to a more far-flung locale for our sartorial cues: Fair Isle. The most remote inhabited island in the UK, Fair Isle covers a mere three square miles and boasts a population of 700. But this tiny rocky outcropping does have one claim to fame. For nearly 400 years, the women of the island have been knitting sweaters and accessories with distinctive, horizontal bands of colorful patterns. Though once a pure necessity (the knit is ultra-thick and keeps out the North Sea’s rough weather), Fair Isle knits became a statement when the Prince of Wales donned the pattern in the early 1920s and brought wider attention to the isolated artisans who create them.
This fall, designers took the look out of the history books and into 2010. The Rag & Bone fall runway put a downtown spin on Fair Isle sweaters with disheveled layers and high-heel booties, while ADAM by Adam Lippes made the pattern feel polished by pairing it with a wrap skirt and a cinched waist. For a look more country than city, take your cues from the fall runways and mix and match Fair Isle with rustic pieces like plaid button-downs, shearling jackets, and distressed riding boots—the updated styling makes the Scottish motif feel like pure Americana.