After three years working in knitwear swatching, I took up a design residency with Awamaki, and was based in Ollantaytambo, a village in the Sacred Valley in south Peru. There I worked with Quechuan women who were honing their inherited skills in traditional craft processes in order to make a living. When talking to the women it dawned on me how many important craft processes were being lost through generations. It was this reality, coupled with how the richness of the UK textile industry was disappearing as production moved overseas that was the driving force that led me to start a knitwear label, working with British factories and using ethically sourced, natural yarns crafted in Britain.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I studied knitwear design and garment construction at Winchester School of Art. From there, I suppose my career started when interning for several different designers consecutively, working on a real variety of different projects. After a year I found full time employment at a knitwear design and swatching studio in South London, designing for many different high street brands. It was during my time there that I saw a lot of my designs mass produced using synthetic fibres, despite swatching predominantly in lambswool and cashmere, this unsettled me.
I always find this a hard question, there’s no magic place and it varies from season to season! Books, paintings, vintage stores, my own older work often inspires me – sometimes I can’t believe that I discarded an idea! I also think moving to the coast really opened up my creativity, some people need a buzz and sensory overload, whereas I need space and quiet.
Could you describe a typical day…
I start by dropping off my little one at nursery on-foot and run home along the seafront. Most mornings I like to do my admin from home then at 11am I head up to the studio, it’s only a 10 minute walk and the change of scenery helps me get a fresh lease of energy! Daily tasks include packing orders, checking in on our production, taking photos for the socials, and any other random tasks that come my way! The design and sampling process has also become non-stop recently, as we decided to develop more smaller drops throughout each season.
Tell us about the space you work in…
Our studio has rather an interesting history. We are on the top floor of an old Victorian department store previously called Bobby & Co. It’s located in Cliftonville, Margate. Our floor used to be a glass roofed tea room complete with terrazzo floor, and a grand centre staircase! Of course, like most artist’s studios, the building is not in a great state anymore but we do have a sea view and share the space with a lot of other wonderful creatives.
What’s the ethos behind your business?
Our core value is British manufacture, supporting the rich textile industry that we have here in the UK and using only local craftspeople. Beyond that we are continuously adjusting our business model to make it as low impact as possible. We work with 100 per cent natural, ethically sourced materials, not just for our knitwear but also packaging and studio supplies. Our sustainability policy is published on our website and we urge everyone to go read, ask questions and be curious! There will always be work to do and I’m excited about making more improvements as we grow.
I design by sketching, painting and collaging, and create prototypes in-house on our vintage hand powered machine. I then head up north to our factory with all the samples and CADs (or design specifications) in hand, and my colleague Matt gets to work on programming them so that they can be knitted on the industrial machines. Samples are then sent back to me and after a bit of to-and-fro we finalise something that meets all the requirements.
Is there an element of your work that you love the most?
I love the sampling process, seeing my designs come into fruition. I also quite enjoy being told that an element of the design isn’t possible on the industrial machine and trying to find a way around it.
It is invaluable, without it we wouldn’t have a business! So a lot of our time is spent trying to engage with new followers. I am not a natural when it comes to social media, but I’m persistent and enjoy it, mostly!
Working as an independent – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
There are many advantages, the biggest one is being in control of your own time and tailor making the working day to fit you. After becoming a mum my working hours were drastically shortened, but I realised that I was completing as many tasks in a five-hour day as I was previously in a 10-hour day. Working 10 hours had always involved a lot of tea, snacks and chatting for me, so now I can just spend that time at home with my little boy instead!
How do you approach your marketing and PR?
We re-branded last year, you may have previously come across us as Rose Brown Knitwear. Following the re-branding I decided to purchase a membership with PR Dispatch and that taught me a lot I didn’t know about how to conduct PR. This year, I met a massive business milestone as I sought out someone to join me at Rove with managing the social media platforms and sending out emails to PR. It’s been incredible, Elise comes into the studio two days a week and assists with all things marketing.
What have been your business highlights so far?
This year is Rove’s 10-year anniversary, so I’ve had a decade of highs and lows now, but the highlights so far were in year three when Emma Thompson bought all her Christmas presents from us, year seven when we re-branded, and year eight when I left part-time employment and went full-time at Rove. Also, every time I start working with a new stockist I feel very honoured.
What’s one thing people would be surprised you do in your job?
Not just now, but since I graduated and started my career in the fashion industry, I feel like so much of my working day is spent making boxes, packing boxes and flattening boxes, booking deliveries, chasing couriers, etc.! So glamorous!
Do you have any creative pastimes or hobbies?
Yes, too many to keep up with! I am a dressmaker and love nothing more than making my own clothes or upcycling garments that have been left unworn for too long. I also enjoy gardening, I find it so meditative and could easily lose an hour just by popping out to cut some chard for tea. And running is my therapy, it’s when all the good ideas come to me or when I can switch off entirely. I try to get my trainers on twice a week.
Find enjoyable, part-time employment to fund you and take the stress out of making your business financially responsible for keeping you alive! I personally can’t be creative if I’m under too much pressure. If your business just funds itself for a couple of years that’s good, then start working towards paying yourself a wage!
What does the next year hold for you?
We will be launching a new homeware collection in March. We are also in the process of launching a very exciting collaboration but I can’t say who with!
Describe your work in three words: British-made, grounded, cosseting.
What are your creating rituals? I like to begin a day of designing with a long walk, a tidy studio, a full mood board and getting all my paints, pastels and collage materials out ready for an art attack!
Tea or coffee? Oooo tea, I love a mid morning coffee, but it’s herbals all day long!
Mountains or sea? Sea is home.
Night owl or early bird? Early bird, my brain switches off at 7pm!