Reviving the Northwestern Knitting Company

The founder of Wilson & Willy’s brings back what was once the world’s largest manufacturer of underwear

northwestern knitting co, knitwear, heritage brands, minnesota, local brands, shopping, sweaters, wilson and willy's, north loop

Photo by Jay Gullion

After helping his father, Chuck, revive heritage brand Faribault Woolen Mill, John Mooty was inspired to research old Minneapolis clothing labels and stumbled across the Northwestern Knitting Company. Founded in 1888 by George D. Munsing, its factory (in what is now International Market Square) became the world’s largest manufacturer of underwear before closing in 1981. In between, the company was renamed Munsingwear and introduced the world’s first knit golf shirt and its iconic penguin logo. Mooty was intrigued not only by the brand’s history but for its innovative method of knitting, which involved combining wool fibers with silk or cotton to form a fabric that was as warm as it was comfortable. 

Mooty worked with an American manufacturer to develop a similar fabric for the new line, which he reimagined as a unisex line of athleisure basics. The reborn Northwestern Knitting Company’s initial run of styles includes a heavy t-shirt, a long-sleeve crewneck, a hooded pullover, and a jogger-style trouser, available exclusively at Mooty’s North Loop store Wilson & Willy’s and online. •

Check out Jahna Peloquin’s Q&A with Mooty on the TC Style Blog.