While the fall in apparel employment has been dramatic, the brining back of Bonsai’s precision knitting machines is making a welcome difference in the world of knitted goods. “Knitting” isn’t an easy habit to acquire, but one of the early fruits of the digital revolution is that knitting techniques are improving, as knitting hardware becomes more sophisticated and craft methods, like kneading and manipulating yarns, become more efficient and more tolerable, making knitting easier.

In just the last few years, Bonsai has tripled its workforce from 12 people to 37. And the company now also employs 50 full-time producers in Seattle to make and design dozens of items each year, which are sold mostly online and through 400-plus wholesale customers. “We’re kind of like the Huntsville of Seattle,” says CEO and founder Joe Mandozian. “We produce everything we sell, except the products aren’t on sale.” With Bonsai knitwear ranging from sweaters and cardigans to scarves and beanies, and some t-shirts, the company’s offerings are currently second to none, with lines that include Creekside Sports, Maxwell’s Knits, Odin, Brookwater, and, this fall, home brands called Justin Trudeau, LA Style, and Lipstick Cabana, to name just a few. A holiday collection will also arrive this fall. “We’re not like a clothing company; we’re a knitting company,” he says. “You can find it all on our website.”

And all that product comes from what could be deemed a humble 21st-century start-up. On his website, Mandozian narrates Bonsai’s origins, how he was thinking about producing well-quality apparel for about $50-$60 per item while Google was one of the first companies to build a search engine, which made it possible to find and sort through any article in the entire database on the mere click of a button. “I always joke that we’re the first search engine on the planet,” Mandozian says. “We kind of view ourselves as a cultural consumer brand, which is a beautiful thing because the internet was mostly designed for the discerning businessman who needed that data to make decisions that had big time implications. We’re all about the human.”

If many men across the globe are working to get rid of the sweater as much as they are bringing it back, Bonsai does so with a soft touch, as well as the subtlety of a crafty hand. “It’s the blanket of the consumer,” Mandozian says. “We’re using technology to actually make knitwear.”


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