“We pride ourselves for remaining in Scotland, and have worked often against the tide to produce completely diverse products from traditional Scottish Knitwear"
Born out of a love for knitwear and a desire for creative freedom, Rosemary Eribé set up ERIBÉ Knitwear Design in 1986, the company is now called ERIBÉ Knitwear Ltd.
Straight after high school, Rosemary had an eye-opening experience in Germany where she undertook an apprenticeship in retail management. Whilst the apprenticeship was not incredibly fulfilling, she did realised that she wanted to strike out on her own and have the freedom to learn by trying her hand at absolutely everything. In Germany, Rosemary learned about two very important and inter-related things, human nature and sales. It was this early experience of employment that has shaped her entire working life. Upon returning to the UK, Rosy worked towards her dream of being an entrepreneur within the textile industry and supplying retailers worldwide. She graduated with a first class degree in Textiles at the Scottish College of Textiles (SCOT) in Galashiels (now Herriot-Watt University). She went on to win a coveted place on a graduate enterprise course at Stirling University and St Margaret’s College, Edinburgh. Here, she learned invaluable advice on topics such as creating business plans, the importance of market research, and practical applications such as managing cash flow and accounts. Despite leaving college with miniscule funds and an untraditional business background, she had a passion and a very supportive family. ERIBÉ Knitwear Design's was born!
Early on into starting her own business, it became apparent to Rosemary that the opportunities lay in exporting. In the late 1980’s, she set about trying to break into America. After conducting months of research she launched into organising a Scottish designer collective that would be represented at a trade fair in America, also her creation. In the end, the trade fair went ahead but with only her and one other designer. Luckily, everything turned out for the best as this became quite the strategic partnership! This trade fair combined with a dash of persistence lead to Rosemary managing to build an overflowing Filofax of great customers, all looking to buy her cashmere designs. She was outfitting very fashionable ladies, who were buying ERIBÉ designs from top boutiques and department stores in America. Rosemary’s passion for learning meant that she saw exporting to America as a way to learn about their culture. She discovered not only that they loved her designs, but they’re undying love of excitement and daring! Americans adore innovation and the whole idea of the new. Also, Americans have a deep connection to their heritage. They revel in the idea of Scotland and Eribé Knitwear lifestyle products can conjure this romantic nostalgic vision.
This love of Scotland and their history extends all around the world; the Japanese also appreciate authentic Scottish products. This knowledge prompted Rosemary to set her sights on expansion into Japan in the late 1980s. She undertook in-depth research into Japan’s market, which led to her creating a new collection specifically dedicated to this country. This new collection was a big success, the Japanese loved that Rosemary was a designer first and more most. They also find high-quality products irresistible and recognised the luxuriousness of ERIBÉ’s cashmere pieces. In order to fulfil her orders Rosemary partnered with Mike Smith, an experienced exporter. He saw great potential in her and opened a new factory in Yorkshire to accommodate her orders. Whilst in America, Rosemary had learned all about trends but in Japan she learnt about business management; everything from transparency and sharing knowledge to communication and loyalty. She also learned of the great cultural connection between Japan and the UK. Both have a wonderful island mentality that celebrates community spirit, support and clear communication.
Two great things happened simultaneously in the early 1990s. Firstly after the success in America and Japan, Rosemary was conducting research into a new market Germany. Secondly she began investigating the possibility of an all-Scottish ecological product. Once again, she attended trade fairs to introduce herself to buyers and customers. What makes Germans special is that they love to learn how a product has been made and all its intricate details. Rosemary focused on marketing products to Germany which used the finest quality yarns such as cashmere and their Ecology range.
Following on from Rosemary’s successes in America, Japan and Germany ERIBÉ has continued to expand and we now have retailers in over 17 countries. In the beginning our principal yarn was cashmere and as time has gone by we have diversified to include other high-quality wools such as lambswool, camel hair and mohair. We have also diversified our product range to include a spectacular array of knitted garments, accessories and lifestyle products.
In 2011, Rosemary and her team celebrated 25 years in business. ERIBÉ’s winning formula involves blending Scottish skilled craftsmanship with modern manufacturing methods, a dedicated team and a commitment to the people it works with. As our founder, Rosemary put it herself:
‘We work very hard to follow the traditional values of caring about the people we work with. By taking a real interest in all of our customers we have managed to grow with them. This has become more and more important as retailers need new innovative ideas, small runs and repeat orders.’
That is why Rosemary views one of the company’s biggest achievements as being the fantastic harmony between all the ERIBÉ staff. The twelve-strong team work extremely well together, and support one another without question. Beyond that, ERIBÉ have been recognised for their prowess as an export company. We’ve also won four awards (FSB Small Champions Award, 2008, UK Fashion Exports for Ethical Trading 2008, Best Small business 2009, Scottish Borders Excellence Awards for Best Exporter Award 2011).
From humble beginnings, ERIBÉ has grown to be global player in designer knitwear!
Looking to the future, ERIBÉ is focused on growing through innovation and design. A key success factor is our in-depth research and development programme. As we mentioned, in 1994, ERIBÉ established their award-winning Ecology collection after careful consideration of product specifications, wool properties and the production process. By working with trusted Spinners, ERIBÉ succeeded in minimising the carbon footprint of each garment, by having all our Ecology garments spun and knitted from native Shetland sheep in Shetland. From grass and seaweed, from sheep to garment, the process is completed in Shetland allowing our Ecology garments to have a low carbon footprint.
In early 2001, Rosemary developed Hand-Painted Cashmere after visiting an exciting art exhibition. Research spanned many months as Rosemary searched for the perfect natural dye that was permanent but left the cashmere as soft as ever whilst being natural and sustainable. Garments were turned into ‘artwear’ by using the finest 1-ply cashmere as a canvas to paint on. Currently, we are working on our Fusion range as a way of creating new products that incorporate 100% lambswool salvaged yarn from our mills.