Fashion Revolution Week
As it’s Fashion Revolution Week, a week encouraging people to find out who made their clothes and ask brands to provide good, safe working conditions, fair pay and transparency, to avoid any more disasters like the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013. So I thought I would tell you a bit more about myself, so you can really know who made your Collingwood-Norris knitwear.
Who I Am and What I Do
I’m Flora, the designer, maker, marketing manager, social media expert, saleswoman, finance director, stock controller, quality checker, head of customer service, administrator, tea maker, and tea drinker at Collingwood-Norris. I’ve probably forgotten a few things there, but you get the idea- it’s a one woman business, for now at least!
My Creative Background
I started hand knitting age 6- taught initially by my mum. My childhood was spent learning a variety of craft skills, such as bobbin lace making, embroidery, sewing and crochet, and I spent a lot of time teaching myself new techniques and making or customising my own clothes. I was very lucky to have creative parents and grandparents who encouraged me!
When I realise that I wanted to do knitwear full time after my foundation art course at Leith School of Art (picked because you can make your own fabric and garment all at once, and of course I just love knitting!), I went to Heriot Watt University to study Design for Textiles, specialising in knit. That was where I learnt how to use knitting machines, and the more technical side of textiles. If you’d like to see some more of my work while I was there, see the Designs page here.
Work Experience and Freelancing
After university, I did an internship with People Tree, doing all things knitwear, which included working with their hand knitters in Nepal. I already had a keen interest in fair and sustainable fashion, so they were the perfect company to learn from!
I then ended up working freelance for years, doing a range of different jobs such as creating fabrics for trend areas at specialist trade shows, designing swatches, designing patterns for a local yarn company, and creating catwalk samples for the likes of Christopher Kane, Jasper Conran and House of Holland. I’ve also taught part time at Heriot Watt University and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design as maternity cover for knit lecturers, as well as a spot of technician work at both!
Starting My Own Business
Freelance work is very stressful and changeable, so while I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the variety, I decided it was time to design under my own name! It all started with the Mist Scarf- I made the very first one as a gift, and then someone else wanted one, then wanted other colour options and a range was designed! It’s an exciting new challenge, and I really enjoy getting to grips with the different aspects of the business, although it's not easy! I love being able to make my own designs, and that makes all the difference.
The Benefits of Running a Small Business
Having my own business means that I can create a brand around my values- of treating people fairly (there will be no unpaid interns here for example), using high quality, sustainable and natural materials, creating a beautiful, well made product and providing a personal service. The Scottish Borders has such a rich textile history, and I enjoy being a small part of it.
Each scarf, hat or jumper from Collingwood-Norris has my name on the label, so you know that I made your clothes. If at some point I need help, there might be other names too, but each piece will always be traceable back to the maker.