Today’s POP is Jodie listening to Come On Eileen on repeat after seeing the Dexys perform live on Jools Holland’s New Years Eve show…
Forget gaudy reindeer and knitting needle snowflakes; ESK’s purified silhouettes, elementary yolks and recurrent use of winter sky grey are the design traits of the Christmas jumper circa 2012. Founded by veteran luxury knitwear designer Lorraine Acornley and esteemed knitter Stuart Maxwell, the Scottish knitwear brand specialize in transeasonal cashmere pieces for men, women and the home.
At just three months old, ESK is already redefining what really great knitwear should be, with an absolute use of natural yarns and artisanal production. POP caught up with them to talk the importance of raw materials (and aqua mohair snoods).
The collection was created for Spring/Summer. Is this an odd choice for a knitwear brand?
LA: We launched the collection at the tail end of Autumn/Winter 2012, and it was super important to get the online store right first. We updated the winter range by dropping in key transeasonal styles, which are a little lighter and more spring like. High summer is never going to be for us.
SM: We feel that knitwear is really transeasonal… have you been to Scotland in the ‘summer’?! Of course autumn/winter will always be our biggest season but a lot of our styles will run throughout the year and we will continue to build a core of staples that we'll always sell; essential pieces of unsurpassed quality and great colours. Being online, you have to take into consideration climates across the globe. We don't want to follow the traditional spring/summer autumn/winter thing.
You produce everything in Scotland. In your opinion, how does this inform the finished result?
LA: The soft water in Scotland aids the finishing process …as Stuart says…"nature aiding nature".
We are able to control everything we do from ordering and receiving the very best quality yarns irrelevant of price and then being able to turn swatches and development around quickly. Beautiful fabrics help us to create beautiful knitwear.
It's important to maintain and cherish the skills and craft that local people have learnt and perfected. Our products are made with a lot of care and attention by a band of dedicated artisans. The Mill has been in Stuart’s family for many years.
Lorraine, you’ve worked with a handful of brands such as Albam, Pringle of Scotland and Alberta Ferretti. Has your previous experience impacted what you’re doing at ESK in any way?
LA: I've been designing knitwear at the luxury end of the market for 15 years or so now and every brand has it's own ethos and way of doing things. I've learnt loads along the way. You never stop learning.
Stuart and I work fairly similarly and so there is such a buzz when we are developing product. It's not designed by a committee, it's just the two of us saying ‘what do you think of this?’ we get excited and act on our instinct. That’s the way I used to work at Joseph (with Joseph Ettedgui). It’s a rare thing…I'm really lucky to be working with a partner who really gets it, and won't compromise on yarn or quality. It's heaven as a knitter to be able to work with the finest yarns and have the same vision in mind.
Complete the sentence- knitwear should be…
How did the two of you meet?
LA: Stuart was manufacturing for one of my clients. We hit it off and I suggested I help him re-launch ESK. I saw real potential for a great collection.
What was your creative starting point?
LA: We stripped everything back and had a very clear vision of how the end look should be; a modern clean aesthetic letting the knits speak for themselves.
In terms of styling we've kept things classic with a twist. These are the foundations that we will continue to build the range on. It’s about subtle details and using the best raw material available.
I love the natural imagery that runs through the lookbook. Did these landscapes provide direct inspiration for the collection?
LA: Our collection has taken a lot of inspiration from the landscape. Yarn colour, texture and stitch are key in knit and the surrounding landscape will always be key to what we do.
It's the meeting of the Scottish landscape juxtaposed with the cityscape…grey skies and open space and wet pavements and order…(Stuart being based in Scotland and me in London).
What kind of interior do you envisage your home textiles being placed within?
LA: Firstly, and perhaps rather selfishly…my own home. I collect 20th Century modern design by Arne Jacobsen, Charles Eames, Robin Day, Dieter Rams, Eero Saarenen, Herman Miller and George Nelson. A modern aesthetic made up of white, wood, grey and black and the odd pop of colour.
Do you have any shocking Christmas jumper memories to speak of?
LA: Not specifically jumpers- but my mum did hand knit me an acrylic aqua mohair snood with iridescent Lurex in it once- hideous! I was about seven and I remember climbing Dumyat in the Ochil Hills with some family friends and wearing that snood, being blinded by icy winds and aqua acrylic mohair!
That’s a wrap…
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