Photographer: Anette Schive
Rosie Sugden is a British based fashion designer, who since launching her knitwear label in 2011 has seen her work in marie claire, grazia, elleuk.com and vogue online. She has also designed exclusive collections for the likes of Anthropologie and Harrods. Her cultural inspiration from her global travels and commitment to showcasing Scottish manufacturing has led to a hugely successful and fashion forward brand.
-What is your favourite part of being a fashion designer?
Well I think I consider myself more of a knitwear designer and actually I’ve never really thought what my favourite part is specifically. I love being my own boss, I love seeing my ideas and designs being appreciated and enjoyed my buyers, editors and customers. It’s really gratifying and it pushes me to keep creating. I am also really inspired by the people I work with who are so skilled so I feel lucky to work with them.
– Who/what first inspired your career path?
I grew up around textiles. My Father worked in a mill and used to pick me up after school and take me round checking each department. He was very hands-on and knew about every department and process that the cashmere, wool or merino went through. I loved the smell of the dye house, that is very nostalgic for me. So really I think it was his passion for textiles that seeped into my life. It really happened very organically, I enjoyed being creative when I was young and after school I went on to Chelsea college of art in London for my foundation course, then Northumbria University to study fashion design where I specialised in Knitwear. I started my business about a year and a half after leaving University and again it happened very organically and just felt like the right time to launch it.
– How important do you feel internships are for up and coming fashion designers? What advice would you give?
Well I was lucky enough to do quite a few and it really helped me enormously. My most favourite was interning for Christopher Kane. His team were so welcoming and kind and it was just the best experience. I really saw the hard work it takes to put a collection together from the very beginning to sampling and the final catwalk show. I was really lucky because my sister lived in London so I had somewhere to stay but I understand it’s really hard if you don’t have the means to go to London. So I would say speak to local designers first as there are a lot of creatives in Edinburgh and Glasgow and actually in the Scottish Borders. Or if London is the place you want to be work really hard and save up so you can go. Most internships pay travel and lunch so every little helps. I think they can really help you decide what aspect of the industry you want to work in because there are so many exciting and innovative positions available like pattern cutters, seamstresses, production managers, office managers, and all of these allow you to work in a creative environment alongside other creative people.
-How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?
It’s hard to ignore what’s going on in fashion if you’re on any social media these days so I would say that Instagram keeps me up to date. But I also love going to exhibitions and I subscribe to Harper’s Bazaar which I adore. I also think just being with my friends keeps me abreast of what is happening. Everyone has such different jobs and I think fashion is a reflection of different industries and ways of life. I try to read as much as I can and also I think switching off from social media is a really keen way of ensuring you don’t swamp your brain. It’s good to stop and reflect and consider an idea or artwork.
-You are a graduate of fashion design, knitwear. Do you feel it is important for aspiring designers to have an education in fashion design?
I think it’s important to have a period after school of extreme creativity where you are really pushed. That’s what my foundation course did for me. I look back now at my portfolio and can’t believe some of my ideas and interpretations of briefs. It really freed me up and helped me push myself and not know any limits. As far as my knitwear course, this was extremely helpful and the tutors again really pushed me and my creativity. The only thing that was missing was proper manufacturing experience. I think regardless of whether you want to work in sales or design you should have a good understanding of manufacturing and how each process works as ultimately that’s how the product you’re selling or designing is made. So for me I was lucky I could go and work in the sample room at the mill my Father worked it. It gave me invaluable experience about how knitted garments were made and I think without that experience I wouldn’t be where I am today.
– You are a huge supporter of the British manufacturing industry and all your cashmere is made in Scotland. How do you perceive Scottish fashion as an influence in Britain and further afield?
I think the “made in Britain” or “made in Scotland” labels are a stamp of quality known around the world. As I mentioned before I’ve grown up around the Scottish textile industry and there is such a wealth of skills in Scotland as well as a rich history with manufacturing. It didn’t even occur to me to consider manufacturing anywhere else. I want to support local industry and utilise the highly skilled workforce that have been in the industry for generations. I also think provenance is so important for consumers now, no-one wants their clothes to have been made in a sweat shop and I think my customers come to me not only for certain designs but because they know the products have been made in a sustainable environment. My yarn is from reputable Scottish spinners, and then it’s sent to a family run mill in the Borders where it’s knitted up into beautiful hand finished products. It’s just a no brainer, why would I ever look to Asia or Eastern Europe for production when we have the skills right here on my doorstep?
– You gained a lot of inspiration for your designs whilst travelling, what would you say is your favourite destination?
India. It was such an overwhelming and immersive experience. I went there with my best friend for 2 months and it was amazing and simultaneously difficult navigating the whole experience. The culture is so rich and from a creative point of view it is such a vibrant country, so colourful and their textiles are beautiful. I would love to go back. Also actually I recently went to the Isle of Lewis & Harris and was blown away by how beautiful it was and the rich weaving history of the community. Definitely would recommend this amazing place for creative minds to visit.
–What are your plans for the future of the Rosie Sugden knitwear brand?
Just keep growing the brand and collection. Keep working with our existing stockists and customers but also meet new ones. I’ve recently overhauled the website so that is my main project at the moment.