Meet the Makers, Cashmere designer Rosie Sugden

Rosie Sugden is one of my favourite small bespoke brands, and this British-based designer produces some really wonderful Scottish cashmere. Including my beloved scarf.

What I love about Rosie in particular is how she works closely with suppliers who source highly ethical cashmere. Their local herdsmen employ impeccable animal husbandry techniques and have an amazing relationship with their animals, with welfare being a top priority. 

The goats that produce Rosie’s cashmere are very nomadic, roaming the upper grasslands of Alashan in Inner Mongolia. The fibre is combed from them once a year – usually in the Spring – before being sorted, washed and de-haired. Then it begins the long journey to the Highlands of Scotland, where it’s dyed and spun in a 200 year-old mill, before being used to make some extraordinarily well-crafted cashmere, from scarves and snoods to socks, mittens and beanies.

As many of you already know I have a very special relationship to Mongolia as I have worked there on Retreats for two years and hopefully returning soon.

Scarves are an obsession of mine, and I was devastated when I lost a really nice one (originally from Mongolia) while cooking on a retreat with the lovely team at Reclaim Yourself. I hadn’t been able to find a good replacement, until Rosie kindly gifted me one from her collection.

With the softest of yarns in the brightest of hues, Rosie’s work really does embody the true hallmarks of Scottish cashmere. 

Get to know Rosie and her work a little better with our meet-the-maker Q&A:

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself

A: I’m a Scottish based knitwear designer specialising  in cashmere accessories. Everything here is knitted from the finest pure Scottish cashmere in a family-run mill, in the heart of the Scottish Borders. 

I’ve been running my business for 9 years – and as well as retailing online, I’m also stocked in stores like Fortnum & Mason, Anthropologie and Bloomingdales.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

A: I think I always knew it would be something creative – either in the arts or textile design industries, both of which I loved at school. 

Q: What inspired you to go into your line of work?

A: I grew up around textiles. My father worked in a mill, and he used to pick me up after school and take me around every department. I always loved the smell of the dye house. It’s very nostalgic for me, even now. 

Dad was very hands-on, and knew about every process that the cashmere, wool or merino went through. Really, I think his passion for textiles had a big influence on my life. 

I went to Chelsea College of Art in London, then Northumbria University to study fashion design, where I specialised in knitwear. I started my business about a year and a half after that. It all happened very organically, and it just felt like the right time to jump in.

Q: What’s your elevator pitch?

A: I founded my label in 2011, and I specialise in knitted accessories that combine an idiosyncratic take on contemporary design with the inherent natural beauty of Scottish cashmere.

Q: How’s your business journey been, and what would you change?

A: Running your own business can be full of ups and downs, and sometimes it can be hard to switch off. Over the last few years I’ve gained a different perspective on all that, and now I find it a lot easier to not get too worked up! I definitely used to take things far too personally – but now I just take whatever comes up on board, accept it and then move forward.

Q: What food sparks joy in your life?

Mexican food, always!! I have it at least once a week. And bagels. I love Bross Bagels in Edinburgh. I’m officially obsessed!

Q: What do you wish someone told you before you started?

I actually think it’s good to be a little naive when you start a business venture. Had I known the challenges I would face along the way, I might not have done it! 

In spite of that, it would’ve been good to understand how you really have to live and breathe your business in this industry. It can be really difficult to impose strict office hours on yourself – especially in this age of technology.

Q: What would you tell someone who’s trying to make it in this sector?

A: My favourite mantra is ‘Be patient, polite and persistent’ – and I’ve always found it helpful to remind myself of this during every endeavour!

Q: What failure are you glad you experienced?

A: Perhaps losing stockists. When that happened, it spurred me on to work even harder. Department stores and stockists can be a revolving door – so you’ve just got to keep on knocking!

Q: What’s next for you? 

A: I’ve just launched a cashmere baby range, which is a brand new category for me – so I’m really excited. There’s a cute baby bonnet, baby bootees and blanket, all made in Scotland from 100% cashmere. I’m immensely proud of these new additions to the range.

Find our more about Rosie’s range at www.rosiesugden.com


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