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Sweater - Artists' Collection

Artists' Collection

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1971 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ross, Mike, born 1936 (designer)
    Frink, Elisabeth Dame, born 1930 - died 1993 (artist)
    The Ritva Man (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine-knitted acrylic, partly embroidered and appliquéd

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ritva and Mike Ross were part of the vibrant art, fashion and music scene of ‘60s and ‘70s London and they produced some of the most innovative knitwear of the period. Mike settled there after leaving the USA, attended a non-diploma course at the RCA in 1963-4, while Ritva came from Helsinki, and went to the London School of Printing. She later became a model, and worked at Jane & Jane where Jean Muir was the designer. Ritva started her self-named company with Mike Ross in 1966, wholesaling to boutiques such as Annacat, Browns, and Countdown on the Kings Road.

Ritva, a self-taught knitter, designed and made samples of women's and children's wear. Her body-hugging garments included mini-dresses, skirts and even jumpsuits and her work was featured in magazines such as Nova, Harpers & Queen, and Life. Ritva knitwear used a variety of stitches including crochet, and different yarns: wool, silk, acrylic, in a range of colours. These were imported from France where they were produced in richer colours than those available in Britain. Outworkers knitted the garments using domestic knitting machines, and all were hand-finished in the Ritva workroom.

Mike began ‘The Ritva Man’ label in 1969, designing sweaters for his Hyde Park baseball team of American ex-pats. These ‘Home Run’ and ‘Strike Zone’ sweaters included appliquéd motifs, and lower sleeves of a different colour, inspired by the layered shirts worn by baseball players. After an article by Molly Parkin of The Times, the sweaters became fashion items in men’s boutiques like Blades and Michael John.

In 1971 Mike Ross asked artists Elizabeth Frink, David Hockney, Patrick Hughes and Allen Jones to design motifs for the first limited edition 'Artist Collection'. The sweaters incorporated an embroidered appliqué, translated from the original design under the guidance and approval of each artist in collaboration with Mike Ross. The sweaters were expensive at £40, or £782 today (based on average earnings, see www.measuringworth.com, accessed 20.7.12). Perspex box frames were also available so sweaters could be displayed when not being worn. Mike Ross worked with four other artists - Patrick Caulfield, Antony Donaldson, Ken Price and Richard Smith - to produce a second series in 1972, the same year that the Ritva shop opened at 8 Hollywood Road, off Fulham Road.

Mike Ross’s film and record business contacts lead to many sweater designs for films such as Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980). The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel and The Doobie Brothers all had Ritva sweaters made in support of album tours. Although these were designed primarily as menswear, they had unisex appeal and were ordered and worn by celebrities such as Brit Eckland, Raquel Welch and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The company closed in 1980.

Physical description

Sweater of multi-coloured machine-knitted acrylic with embroidered panels. In chocolate brown with an appliquéd embroidery motif of a golden eagle against a knitted black, blue and brown patterned rectangular background.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1971 (made)


Ross, Mike, born 1936 (designer)
Frink, Elisabeth Dame, born 1930 - died 1993 (artist)
The Ritva Man (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Machine-knitted acrylic, partly embroidered and appliquéd

Marks and inscriptions

'THE Ritva / MAN' [within a rectangle]
Main label embroidered in red, on the neck

'AN Original BY / THE RITVA MAN'
Label embroidered in black and red, above the main label

'100% ACRYLIC'
Label embroidered in blue, next to the main embroidered label in red

Label embroidered next to the main embroidered label in red

Label embroidered next to the main embroidered label in red

Size label next to the main embroidered label in red

Label embroidered next to the main embroidered label in red

Name tape label embroidered above the main embroidered label in red

Embroidered in yellow on the nape of the neck

Object history note

Image for embroidered motif created by Elizabeth Frink.

Descriptive line

Sweater from 'Artists' Collection' of multi-coloured machine-knitted acrylic, designed by Mike Ross, after a design by Elisabeth Frink, made by The Ritva Man, England, 1971

Production Note

Designed by The Ritva Man (Mike Ross) in collaboration with Elizabeth Frink.
Attribution note: 34 of a limited edition of 150.






Fashion; Day wear; Men's clothes; Embroidery; Textiles

Production Type

Limited edition


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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