In Galashiels, high on the hill sits a beautifully ornate Victorian house. It is here that the enthusiastic Eribé team work hard on designing new collections and looking after customers. The bustling hub of the workplace is our studio, the light pours in through its large windows. We look out onto tall Chestnut trees, Silver Birches, vibrant Holly bushes and sweet smelling lilacs, all lovingly tended to by Rosemary’s husband Dougie. Wherever you look in the Studio, every surface is hidden under mounds of product samples and yarn shade-cards. We do everything from choosing colourways to answering sales enquiries in the studio. Sometimes as the rest of us are carrying on with important paperwork, handling accounts or answering phones you can look up to see the lovely sight of Kristen or Katharine hand-knitting samples in the office.
Just off the studio, is a charming conservatory filled with colourful potted plants, exotic cacti, and a climbing passion flower which creates a quaint and colourful archway in the middle of the room. The scent from the geraniums fills the room in summer. This is often the first reception our business associates, suppliers and deliverymen have of us and this room is where we hold lively team meetings. That is, when the room is not filled to the brim with orders at the height of sales season. There is a real team spirit here at Eribé; if there is an extremely large order to pack then it is all hands on deck to help. Outside there is a nice stone patio with a little iron-wrought table and chairs for break-times that is when we have time to stop for long enough. Everyone at Eribé is dedicated and passionate about their jobs but we always find the time for some quick banter and a good cuppa in the office, especially if it is accompanied by some home-baked treats from Elaine. We like to eat lunch all together a few times a month and what would a birthday be without a delicious homemade cake in the back garden in summertime or in the wooden panelled dining room in winter.
The faint aroma of real wood burning fills The Yellow Room, so called after its buttermilk walls. This room is where Rosemary, Elaine, Lizzy and Veronique work, alongside the cats, on designing, business strategies, marketing and accounts. Rosemary’s three terribly cute cats, Billy, Jerry and Sasha often wander over to see what we’re doing or find a cosy spot in which to sit.
We have an intimate relationship with our products, each of our five designers are committed to creating pieces that follow our founding principles. Each garment must make the wearer feel good, colourful, warm, comfortable, and be wonderfully practical whilst being stylish. Each piece goes through a long process from its inception, design, sampling, possible re-design to manufacturing. It takes our four designers almost eight months to design one collection for you! In the first half of the year, whilst travelling around the world for important trade-fairs and events Rosemary and our design team start to formulate exciting ideas about the new collection. In the beginning we always look to the raw materials, and how to best use them to their full potential. We pick up inspiration from absolutely everywhere; the landscape, street style, art galleries you name it! We also delve into our archive, that is housed in The Yellow Room, to discover vintage Eribé pieces that can be updated and made contemporary. It is important for us that our products sit perfectly with your existing clothes and the new pieces in your wardrobe, whether it’s the on-trend camel coat or your beloved parka. June and July, our team start sketching and selecting yarns from swatches. We design our collections with every skin colour in mind, so there is something to suit everyone. Shona is our resident colour expert, she ensures that each collection is a visual feast and all colourways are complimentary. We love to meet our customers and listen to their ideas before each collection is finalised.
By the end of the year we are confirming colourways and spec sheets for designs. Of course, it’s meant to be ready for the middle of December but as everyone in the fashion world knows no-one seems to be able to design things on time due to great last minute ideas that just have to be brought to fruition. Take pity on poor Kaye that has the gigantic task of organising all of these creative minds! Most times we are just far too busy ensuring we’re looking after our customers, meaning we always have a tight rush to finish collections. Good thing we thrive under pressure!
We have an extremely hands on approach to design, ensuring that every product regardless of size or price is right, we’ve tested the patterns umpteen times tweaking as we go only. Kim and Katharine are both highly skilled craftsmen, their knowledge of hand-knitting allows for exquisite patterns to be created. It has been known for the non-professional knitters in the office to take home a pattern or two to judge the results! We’re constantly doing washing tests in the house to ensure our products longevity or testing how a product will wear as we move about the office. And we are forever ambushing poor unsuspecting visitors, family or friends in our studio to try our garments on to ensure they fit real people and all their wonderfully different body shapes.
All this dedication to the smallest detail means that the product you see in our retailers is exceptional in quality and unique in design. To give you an example of how special our products are, our Ski Fairisle jumper/cardigan began with the idea to modernise the traditional Fairisle pattern, then we added the Scottish woven Tweed effect at the neck and the cuffs and finally we added in touches of Angora to the Lambswool to keep it fresh. We then discovered there was no machine available in the world that was capable of knitting it, it so special that it has to be knitted using a hand frame. We’ve come across this machine problem before when we designed a scarf that use eighteen colours and we discover that there are only three machines in the whole world that can knit that many colours in one piece. Surely, the very definition of living and breathing knitwear is the fact that despite hundreds of different products styles it always amazes newcomers to our studio that any member in the team can rattle of a product style number from memory.
We have what we like to think of as a wonderful extended family, in all the people and companies we work with. To name just a few, we have Peter who is one of our long-standing spinners. He supplies us with a beautiful array of dyed Shetland wool, there is the possibility that we actually use all his yarn shades. In Shetland, the affable Laurence owns the very machine-knit mill that produces our award-winning Ecology collection. He is also our go-to-guy for the Fairisle knit pattern, as he is an expert. Then there is lovely Sue, who runs a wee spinning company that specialises in organic locally grown wool. She can actually tell us the name of the farmer who looks after the sheep that produce the wool! Then there is Gavin and Graeme who oversee a busy small machine knit factory or how about the talented brothers, Robert and James who have a spinning mill in picturesque Yorkshire. For over 20 years we have been working closely with them and special others throughout the country to bring you our products. We love working with them all because they are the experts in their fields. Many of them are family run businesses that have been around for decades, they and their factories infuse our products with a real sense of tradition and history.
Also, we cannot forget the delightful Mrs Minty, Mrs McElroy, Val Hamilton and all our hand-knitters up and down the country. These charming ladies are so talented and amiable that they are a dream to work with. You’ll often hear the whirring noise from our wool-winding machine in the background, as we often wind the yarn ourselves to send to out to our hand-knitters. A large part of our day is speaking to our delightful hand-knitters or our partners on the phone daily to see how production is coming along, and of course for a wee blether.