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Common Market

The jumper that's making a statement about Europe

Common Market has revived Thatcher’s Nine Flags jumper from 1975, but this is no homage to the Iron Lady

The EU referendum is just around the corner and the decision is a greatly important one for our generation. In order to make an informed vote, it's useful to understand the history of the EU union.

Which is where Common Market – founded by Emma Shore and Alasdair Hiscock – comes in. The two London-based designers address the history of the EU union via unisex jumpers featuring a design with nine flags. The design ironically plays on one previously worn by Margaret Thatcher, in 1975, on a campaign trail.

Back then, Tory nationalists supported a close EU union, making this jumper humorously suitable for both left-wingers and right-wingers, when considering the opposing stance of the Tories now. So for the upcoming referendum, individuals from both sides can show some love for this jumper that embraces a strong connection with the EU. Below, we catch up with Emma Shore on the 1975 throwback design for Common Market.

When did you start making these EU referendum jumpers?
Emma Shore: We thought it would be funny. Basically. The idea started after the vote announcement. We stumbled across the shots of Thatcher and looked into the history and relevance of the knit. What stood out as opposed to now was the positivity of the campaign – the embrace of a common Europe – and slogans that actually meant something.

Could you tell me a bit more about what the jumper and the nine flags symbolise?
Emma Shore: The nine flags are the total number of countries that made up the Common Market in 1975. The knit references the positive imagery of the earlier European referendum, when Britain overwhelmingly chose to stay part of Europe. The jacquard knit features the flags of each of the nine countries who made up the Common Market at that time: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, West Germany, Ireland, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. The jumper isn’t an advertisement for remain or leave, from a design perspective it shows a perfect articulation of the idea of a union – how better to display this than in a knit?

Margaret Thatcher once wore this design – is there more history behind it?
Emma Shore: It’s definitely not a Thatcher homage. She was actually given it by a woolen mill in Scotland as a gift in 1975, and wore it when campaigning for Britain to remain in the single market. We really liked the strong, simple message and the boldness of literally wearing your heart on your sleeve. As someone else pointed out, we enjoy the conflict of it appealing this year to both Thatcher-loving right wingers, presumably who want to leave Europe, and kitsch-loving left-wingers who can’t stand the idea of wearing a Thatcher tribute. We’re essentially the “Keep Calm and Carry On for Generation EasyJet.” Either way, it looks great.

“It’s important that people feel like there’s more to this campaign than the economic terms that it’s been fought on” – Emma Shore

You’ve made it clear that you’ll be voting remain. What are your reasons?
Emma Shore: The product itself doesn’t have any politics – from a personal perspective we very much support the importance of remaining in a union, and oppose the many outlandish and false statements that have been made. Alongside Wolfgang Tillmans and numerous others we support the importance of engagement and rational debate, also the importance of using your vote. Particularly in this case with the disenfranchisement of so many young people whose future is crucially affected by the outcome.

Would you like this design to influence individuals to vote remain? Or are you merely showing support?
Emma Shore: It’s not really a matter of convincing people – I would worry if a jumper could swing an election. However, it’s important that people feel like there’s more to this campaign than the economic terms that it’s been fought on. Though this has come too late, people should be proud to feel part of a wider continent.

Have you had many distributors interested in ordering this? And do you plan on distributing this widely?
Emma Shore: We sell clothes in Japan for a living. If we can manage to explain the nuances of this design in particular, then maybe.