KNITTING has joined the world of e-commerce thanks to the innovative idea of selling original designer patterns online – and it’s all happening here in Berwickshire.
Jo Storie has worked with some of the top London and New York fashion houses as an international knitwear designer, but despite now being happily settled into family life in Reston the designer in her cannot be curbed. She has found a unique way of using her sketches and designs.
“I had the contacts and knew I could keep on designing and fill sketch books. I wanted to start my own label but that stalled. I had started out with the intention of going into manufacturing and working with manufacturers to get my designs into boutiques, but found it very difficult to get into and get the service from manufacturers without the weight of a multi-million pound business behind me.”
Things may not have gone quite according to Plan A, but with a mix of manufactured and handknit designs and armed with Plan B (focusing on the handknits) Jo was invited to take part in London Fashion Week, validation that her handknit designs were still up there amongst the best.
“The handknits really took off, particularly the bespoke handknits and I now have 12 knitters all over Scotland.
“Knitting patterns went through a frumpy phase. Now its right on trend but more the design option rather than for saving money. If you are going to knit something for yourself it’s going to be something special. By selling the patterns it’s making designer knitwear accessible for everyone.”
A prolific designer, Jo never stops coming up with new ideas, and they would develop into sketches, whether or not they were ever likely to be made up into garments.
“My husband suggested selling the designs. I’m reading the pattern anyway and make the samples to go with the graphics for the web design team. The next obvious step was PDF downloads.
“So I decided that was the direction to try and in February this year started up Jo Storie Hand Knits.”
Since then her patterns have gone global, and people in America, Japan, Denmark, Germany – to name but a few – are now sporting some of Jo’s distinctive designs.
“I still design the same way, if I was putting a collection together with a client. In the past I just had to keep coming up with the ideas but here I have to edit the ideas myself, instead of handing them over to a client to pick out the designs they want to go with.”
Now she picks the best of her designs and puts them together as a collection, just as would happen for the fashion companies she worked with, and her current collection is called Modern Heritage featuring bang on trend designs in high quality, natural yarns.
She still travels to trade shows to keep an eye on what’s going on and never misses London Fashion Week so she knows that what she’s producing is on trend. For the past 15 years, while working for some of the biggest names in international knitwear, Jo has visited Florence once a year to find the best of yarns, and she continues to do so, experimenting with them to find out what yarns work best with which design.
During her career Jo established herself amongst the best in the world when it comes to knitwear design. After graduating with a first class degree in knitwear design from the Scottish College of Textiles, her first job took her straight to London. While in London she worked with TSE Cashmere, the Burton group (Richards) and Ballantyne Cashmere and from there she was headhunted across the Atlantic to New York, joining J Crew, The Limited, then Ann Taylor - American retailers with between 500-600 shops.
“Most of the jobs I got were through my sketch books and I still sketch constantly. I couldn’t sell my books, I couldn’t bear to part with them, that’s when my husband came up with the idea of selling the patterns instead.”
Jo may not have the fast-paced life in New York she once had but living in Reston and working from her Berwick-based office she is still producing designs that would grace any catwalk. As soon as you walk into her office in Berwick WorkSpace you are in ‘designer world’ with swatches, story boards, sketch books, patterns and garments.
To date the most popular design has been the Cove hat.
“The photograph from the pattern seems to have gone viral and has popped up all over the place and so many people contacted us asking whether we sold the actual hat that it got us thinking - well why not?,” said Jo.
•Jo Storie is offering one lucky reader the chance to win one of her hats (see photo above). All you need to do is log onto her blog on her website www.jostorie.com and work out the anagram. Alternatively if you are feeling more creative you could download a PDF of the pattern and make it yourself - it’s easy to make, even I managed to make it in a couple of evenings! And it looks fantastic.
Phone: 01289 309500,