MEET THE MAKER: GENEVIEVE SWEENEY

Genevieve Sweeney is the type of entrepreneur we all want to be. Her stunning knitwear brand, by using exclusively British manufacturers has managed to grow a rural British economy: nearly brought to extinction by the desertion of larger companies who have gone abroad for cheaper labour and materials.

Her business started almost by accident, seeing an advertisement for a free pair of knitting machines she followed up and she discovered the plight of the British Knitwear manufacturers and decided to do something about it.

In the 1980s in the Midlands and some parts of the Scottish borders, the British knitwear industry with large well-known brands were buoying up local economies with steady supply and demand. There was a devastating exodus abroad in pursuit of the cheapest labour and rural communities collapsed, economically and in some instances socially. Tragically the skills and knowledge which has been handed down for generations has stopped being passed on via apprentices, in some cases the youngest professional being in their fifties.

Through further investigation, Genevieve was put in touch with family businesses who had held on to their machines despite not using them regularly and she initiated production.  So successful has she been, that they have had to employ more staff. She has been heralded by the local MP and asked to come into Parliament as an example of a ‘Made in Britain’ brand that is supporting heritage production methods.

She chooses yarns from the world famous Pitti (a trade show in Florence), her yarns are a mixture of Italian and British with all of her factories being based in the UK. She uses traditional methods but also requests her manufacturers to try new techniques with patterns, yarns and technology, bringing contemporary design to traditional craftsmanship.

Clerkenwell London has a wide selection of her jumpers, styles ranging from ‘Soar’, a unisex Boyfriend Fit jumper which has a unique rib and mesh pattern– created using different knitting techniques. The ‘Rea’ made from 100% Lambswool from Yorkshire and comes in the wonderful poppy red and rich grey. To the more contemporary finer knits such as the cropped Celine and the translucent mesh-detailed Kelso.

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