A graduate in Knitwear Design, Rosie Sugden launched her own label in 2011. Her debut accessories line combines an idiosyncratic take on contemporary design with the inherent natural beauty of Scottish Cashmere. Her designs are hugely influenced by her surroundings, be they the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders where she is based, or the striking landscapes she has encountered during her travels in India and South East Asia. Recently Celtic Life International caught up with Sugden to discuss design.
What is your own heritage/ethnic background?
I was born in Huddersfield but I’ve grown up in Scotland and lived here all my life apart from a few spells in London working for other designers.
What inspired you to get involved with design?
I’ve grown up around textiles and both my parent’s families come from a textile background. My Father in particular has always worked in textiles and when I was little he used to pick me up from school and take me round the factory with him. I loved the smell of the dye house, the noise in the weaving shed and seeing all the raw fibre – cashmere or wool – going through the processes (carding, dyeing, spinning, weaving, etc) and coming out the end as a beautiful woven rug, or knitted jumper. I think by a process of osmosis I have just absorbed his love and enthusiasm for cashmere and manufacturing in Scotland.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Having been brought up in the Scottish Borders, often dubbed “The home of cashmere”, knitwear is my passion and I pursued this at university, gaining a degree in Knitwear Design. Once I graduated, I knew that my ultimate goal would be to set up my own label, using the factories among which I had grown up.
Are these all the same reasons that you keep doing what you do?
What are the challenges of your profession?
The influx of cheap cashmere on the high street and in supermarkets is a challenge as naturally consumers see that it is cheap and therefore cannot understand why Scottish cashmere is so much more expensive. I do not believe that it is necessary, as so many companies these days do, to outsource to Chinese factories in order to make margins, particularly when I have such highly skilled artisans and machine technologies available right here on my doorstep in the Borders. I have always felt passionate about supporting the UK textile industry, the Scottish arm in particular, and my collection is a testimony to my passion for quality cashmere and to the skills of those individuals who have helped to make this possible. Also it is hard to start a business during a recession but I believe that there will always be a niche for quality products that will last, be it clothing, furniture or home-ware. My collection was designed with longevity in mind, as a foil to the current trend for “fast”, cheap fashion. I have always believed that investing in quality, well-made, well-designed clothing means it will last you for a lifetime. In the long run, my customers will get more use and endurance from any piece from my collection.
What are the rewards?
It is rewarding when I hear a great piece of customer feedback or when I see someone wearing one of my pieces.
Who is your typical client?
The “Rosie Sugden girl” is definitely someone who knows her own mind and is not someone who is guided by current styles and trends, but prefers to select items that express more of her own personality and philosophy. I think my customers also like to invest in quality pieces that they know will last a lifetime.
How has Celtic fashion/style changed in recent years?
I think it has been brought up to date can sit in international markets alongside global brands, whilst still representing its heritage and provenance.
What’s next on your creative agenda?
I hope in a few years that I will be ready to launch a women’s wear knitted collection. That is my ultimate goal really. The list of designs I want to do is endless, however at the moment I am happy designing accessories and as a new designer starting out it of course makes sense to start small. It is baby steps at the moment, building the business slowly but surely. I’m feeling my way seeing what works and what doesn’t.