First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
Hello, I’m Flora Collingwood-Norris. I started Collingwood-Norris in 2016 and now create luxury colourful knitwear from my studio in Galashiels. The range includes scarves, hats, reflector pom hats, fingerless mitts, and jumpers. I design, knit, and hand finish each piece myself, and try to bring out the best in the natural fibres that I love using, especially lambswool.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day! I do whatever needs doing - often that involves knitting at some point, but sometimes my days are more about customer service, emails, finishing, labelling, packaging… there are so many different things that I have to do in a day! They all start with taking my dog, Stitch, for a walk though, and there’s always an afternoon walk too, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by beautiful countryside, and it’s important to get out of the studio every now and then.
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
I’m still learning about it - it always keeps me interested. I’m happiest when I’m knitting, and love all forms of it; from hand knitting, knitting on my hand frame knitting machines, or exploring what can be achieved on the digital machines. I still feel really lucky to be able to work in an industry that fascinates me so much.
Did you study? Where?
Yes, I studied Textiles at Heriot-Watt University, specialising in knit. That’s where I learned to use knitting machines, hand frames and Shima. Before that I did a foundation art course at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh, which gave me a great creative base to start from.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
What I’m doing right now. There are a few things I’m proud of: some crochet pieces that were challenging to make for clients when I was still working freelance, and I’m still proud of my graduate collection, but starting my own label is the most exciting, challenging thing I’ve done, and the most rewarding. Every day I’m working for myself is a massive achievement.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
I’m very inspired by my friend Anna Skodbo, founder and designer of phannatiq, an ethical clothing company based in London. She is passionate about ethical fashion, and has made her business as transparent as possible, showing the journey of her sustainable clothing from fabric manufacture through to the end product. Anna's integrity and passion constantly inspire me.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
I’m currently working out how best to take the business forward, and there’s a collaboration on the horizon, so watch this space.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
This is a hard question, because what I think what I love is the full process, from designing and making something through to seeing someone wearing the finished piece.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
Hm, probably taking on some bespoke work, which wasn’t right for my business and was time consuming without being very rewarding. I’m now being very firm with myself, and I’m not saying yes to absolutely everything anymore!
What does your workspace look like?
It’s a light room, with two large desks that are normally covered in yarn, knitting in progress, labels and general stuff, and there are boxes of yarn wherever there is space for them! I have two knitting machines set up all the time, and a big comfy chair that Stitch tends to use it as her bed during the day.
Who is your design inspiration?
I’m very inspired by landscapes around me, and colours I see, particularly on the West Coast of Scotland. I have a section of my studio wall that’s covered in things I like and that inspire me - there’s a lot of Islamic / Middle Eastern art and tiling, some old Kenzo by Antonio Marras, some Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Leon Bakst, interesting places from my travels and colourful postcards I’ve collected over time - inspiration comes from a wide range of places and people!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
"Measure twice, cut once."
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
More eco-effective designs and materials, more transparency, and skill sharing. There are exciting times ahead if we could lead the way for these.
Find Collingwood-Norris online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook