Hawick in Scotland is the home of cashmere and knitwear. The Scots have been developing and perfecting the intricate processes and skills required to produce the world’s finest cashmere and merino knitwear since the 1800s.
After the first knitting machine arrived in Hawick in 1771 (Source: Wikipedia), the town quickly became a proud manufacturing beauty and in her heyday employed thousands of people in busy mills.
All went well until the entry of the Chinese into the mass-produced cashmere market in the 1980s which decimated the knitwear industry in Hawick. Steep decline followed for the next three decades. Mills which had previously employed hundreds of people closed or kept only handfuls of staff on. The young left and it seemed that a great chapter in British manufacturing history was closing. The town and its mills could simply not compete with the speed and efficiency of production, cheap workforces and cheaper yarn, all so-well harnessed by the Chinese. But in 2012, there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, when Chanel, who had already worked for 25 years with the Hawick mill Barrie, stepped in to save it. They recognised that the skills and know-how of the local workforce were things that needed saving. Commenting on the acquisition at the time, Chanel fashion president Bruno Pavlovsky said:
"Through this acquisition, we reaffirm our commitment to traditional expertise and craftsmanship, and our wish to safeguard their future and support their development.”
It was the fashion spark required to re-ignite the flame.
Today, the mills which survived are getting very much busier. There is a renewed interest in combining the new with the old, the know-how, quality and provenance with cutting-edge design. There is a desire to work with niche and new brands – and ultimately new customers – people who do actually care about who makes their knitwear and the conditions in which those people work. This means that the mills are again able to offer apprenticeships and give young people an opportunity to learn something worthwhile, while earning a living. There is a desire to produce fine knitwear of the best quality that looks fabulous – and a willingness to do that in small production runs, for people who care about design and preserving the meaning of luxury and exclusivity in a good and sustainable way.
We care, and that's why we chose Hawick, Scotland and Britain. We hope you will feel the same come launch time...
Susanna & Belinda x