Keeping it real is what really matters to Eribé Knitwear founder and knitter-in-chief, Rosemary Eribé. With two decades of business already under her belt, building a high fashion designer brand label was always a lot less important than staying true to her vision.
Being one of a team, developing ideas together, sharing group skills, and ethical working all play their parts in what floats Rosemary’s business boat. Bonding and building relationships with handknitters, suppliers and clients alike keeps her entrepreneurial ethos intact, and Rosemary’s proud to do her bit to keep the Borders’ textile heritage alive, and knitting.
When telling the Eribé story from scratch, Rosemary brings it to life with her unique passion and drive, but there’s no spinning of yarns from this garrulous Galashiels entrepreneur – a business career was not even on the Eribé agenda back in the day.
Coming from a family of academics and intellectuals meant Rosemary often felt like the stupid sister, but some sound sibling advice to delay study took her to Germany on an apprenticeship in retail management. From there a fledgling interest in textiles took hold, but being imprisoned behind the counter of a shop didn’t exactly ignite Rosemary’s creative spark. Those sparks started flying when Rosy’s father found a textiles design course at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels – her future was then dyed in the wool.
Rosemary’s natural flair for working with yarn soon came to the fore, and she knew early on that setting up in her own was the right route to follow. Studies were completed at the same time as raising a child on her own, and despite the very real challenges of having no money to spare, and living mainly on veg and brown rice,
Rosemary’s creative enterprise ambitions remained solid. After graduating in style with a First, 1986 saw Eribé Knitwear emerge. It was tough going at first, with knitting and business supported on nowt but a start-up grant of £40 per week.
Like many others in craft and design, Rosemary began business alone, working at the kitchen table, but she always looked beyond her backyard, and used travel and learning to develop ideas, planning and products. Using Scotland’s rich heritage in the form of fine textiles was was a winner all round, and Rosemary was one of the first to see the potential for historical context and culture as a formula for creative and commercial success.
This international concord has always offered two-way trade for Rosemary – overseas influences have helped shape her approach to business, and shaped her distinctive leadership style. Even now, as managing director of a limited company with a staff of 13, and 240 handknitters on the books, Rosy prefers collective input over autocratic rule. She welcomes challenge, creative contributions and healthy debate, but wishes business could be less bureaucratic and less bound by red yarn.
A staff ownership scheme is on the cards at Eribé, and may spread the responsibility burden, but any suggestion that Rosemary might cast off the company is wide of the mark. For the foreseeable, the business buck stops with her.
In person, Rosy embodies the creative part of her vision – she’s vivacious, warm, original and ever-so stylish, just like her beautiful Galashiels garments. She’s a creative powerhouse with an infectious energy for business – her ambitions stretch far beyond borders and balls of wool. She’s even hatching plans for news ways or working in an innovative no-waste factory which will serve as a heritage centre for textiles too.
The magic of Eribé Knitwear is spun in a wee corner of the Scottish Borders, but its success is wrapped right round the world, in vibrant colours and stunning designs. 200 customers in 17 countries testify that Rosemary’s business acumen is the real deal, not at all wooly.
Follow Rosemary @eribeknitwear or visit http://www.eribe.com/