PHOTOGRAPHY BY BLAKE JACOBSEN
Knit from cashmere, a marigold sweater warns “EVERYTHING WILL BE TAKEN AWAY.” From silk, a chocolate brown T-shirt declares “TODAY WE REMEMBER OUR DEAD.” And from mohair, a tiny beige thong boldly reads “WRATH OF GOD.”
Haunting phrases like these are integral to Summon Elemental, the emerging knitwear project by writer and artist Patrick Carroll. “It’s all mourning costume,” he says of the project. “It’s how to dress for loss across scales, person to world.” Inspired by artists, philosophers, and poets, Parick’s one-of-a-kind garments range from shirts and dresses to thongs and balaclavas.
Grief served as the catalyst for Summon Elemental, which Patrick began toward the end of his father’s life. He’s since come to view knitting not only as a hobby but as a source of ongoing solace. Now, with his clothes featuring in fashion editorials and selling out in notable boutiques, Patrick’s faced with an existential question: Is he… a fashion designer?
“I call myself a clothesmaker,” he tells me, “which feels more accurate than fashion designer.” For Patrick, the distinction comes down to labor. While the fashion industry is notorious for its exploitative practices, Summon Elemental is a wildly transparent one-person operation. “I don’t design anything to be made by other people,” he says. “Ever.” The result is an assortment of intricate knitwear styles, each of which require between one and twelve hours to complete.
The garments are documented through a series of self-portraits, highlighting Patrick’s lithe frame and his remarkable skill as a knitter. His suggestive exhibitionism and sensual confidence allow the photos to blur the line between ecomm image and thirst trap. When a customer orders a silk thong that reads “LOSS” across the bulge, for instance, there’s almost no way to separate the piece from the image of Patrick wearing it. But, frankly, why would anyone want to?
It goes without saying that the work is deeply personal. Patrick’s creative output simultaneously acknowledges his pain while leaning into his pleasure. It’s somber and sensual, funereal but somehow fun. Yet beyond the emotional complexity, Patrick’s vision for the project remains simple. He wants the clothes that he makes to be worn (really worn) for a long, long time.
“I’m just continually making things and sending them away,” he says. “I’m allowing them to exist very much apart from me.” And for Patrick, the idea that his clothes could outlive him (along with the rest of us) is part of what makes Summon Elemental feel so transcendent.
A century from now, someone may stumble upon a delicate singlet constructed of fuzzy mohair. Perhaps, by then, the yarn’s yellow hue will have faded. Maybe the thread will have fallen loose, worn by time. But adorned across the torso will remain one word that embodies Patrick’s humble vision: “ETERNITY.”
Patrick Carroll photographed in Los Angeles, California. October 2021.
This story was printed in GAYLETTER Issue 15, to get a copy of this issue, click here.