Monday, July 22, 2013


Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

You may or may not be pleased to know that this is not the place to come for tenuous posts about an impending royal birth. The post I happened to have planned for today though is in some ways fitting for the occasion because it is about something brilliantly British.

Ever since Chanel bought Barrie knitwear (saving them from the administrators) and then put on a lavish m├ętiers d'arts show at Edinburgh's Linlithgow Castle last December, there has been a renewed interest in Scottish manufacturing, most specifically special Scottish jumpers. Stella Tennant, the aristocratic supermodel born and bred in the Borders,  dominated the July issues of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In Vogue's shoot she was shown at her home in Berwickshire, snuggled up in a woollen Chanel jumper dress and socks, lounging on a blanket. The message doesn't get more loud and clear than that: Scottish wool is where it's at.

Stella Tennant in July Vogue wearing Scottish knitwear by Chanel (via
There are plenty of ways to get in on the act without resorting to pricey Chanel (divine as it is). Last Autumn, I came across ESK at a press day. The jumpers were indescribably soft and the shapes beautifully chic. If you were compiling a list of the absolute ideal versions of everything to have in your wardrobe, then these would be your jumpers.  The added bonus is that the ESK brand has a lovely story to it. It seems to me to be a great blueprint for good, honest family business entering the fashion sphere. Stuart Maxwell is ESK's Managing Director and has been working at his family's knitwear factory for over 20 years. Lorraine Acornley designs for ESK and comes from an impressive background with previous stints at Joseph, Pringle and Alberta Ferretti. They answered my questions about ESK... I love their elegant, no-nonsense approach.

How did ESK start?

A meeting of minds 18 months ago cemented a goal of making a beautiful knitwear collection that anyone with an eye for detail and quality would instantly get.

How are you different from other knitwear brands?

We make the whole collection ourselves in our own factory. This allows absolute control. Design pushes the production process and achieves wonderful integrated features and detailing. We choose yarns purely on quality and character, price is not a factor. This gives the collection an artisanal and considered edge.

Where did the ESK name come from?

Our factory is situated near the Eskvalley in South West Scotland and is called Eskvalley Knitwear. We stripped this back for our brand as it felt cool, edgy and modern.

Scottish fashion and manufacturing is having a moment after Chanel's show at Linlithgow last December. What is special about the Scottish way of doing things?

The Scottish tradition with fine textiles is engrained with centuries of experience. It's in our DNA, and this spirit permeates the products of our labour.

What makes the perfect piece of knitwear, do you think?

 Style, colour and integrated luxury.

Is it very difficult to find spinners and knitters with the right skills for your business?

Luckily, we have found the perfect knitters. Spinners are difficult to find but if you open your eyes, kindred spirits are there to be found.

You have a very strong design aesthetic and there are some great quotes and photos on your website, what inspires you?

Nature, architecture, modern design, photography and art. And fellow members of team ESK of course!

There are clothes and homeware… Is ESK a lifestyle?

Yes, but a real lifestyle that lasts after the trend has passed.

What gems in Scotland would you recommend to somebody visiting for the first time?

The coast between Southerness and Port Logan - quite a few miles. The Logan Botanical Gardens.
The beautiful Valley of Tarras. The Dunmore Pineapple, House of the Binns and Blackness Castle and Culross are all not far from Linlithgow Palace. The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye are on our list to see.

The Dunmore Pineapplae, how brilliant does this place look? (
ESK is available to buy in store LN-CC, Harvey Nichols and Joseph. Online at

All ESK AW13 images courtesy of the brand

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