The thought of yet another knitted Christmas present from Granny is enough to fill most people with stomach unsettling dread even in mid September. But what if your hand woven gift this year was a pair of limited edition Clarks Originals?
Indeed, this Autumn, Clarks Originals have teamed up with luxury Scottish brand Thistle & Broom to produce a new variation on their infamous desert boot, with each piece being finished with a knitted Arran Cuff hand stitched by one of their team of Scottish knitters aged between 32 and 76 years old! The Desert boot has become something of a design classic, having been spotted on the feet of many a famous face including Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Paul Weller,as well as half the population of fashionable East London. The knitters hope that this fusion of contemporary design with traditional methods will “introduce Arran knitting to a new generation in a very different context.”
I spoke to Teresa Fritschi, founder of Thistle and Broom about this ‘familial and delightful’ collaboration that was definitely more ‘stitch’ than ‘bitch’…
Describe Thistle & Broom in a nutshell:
Fair Trade on steroids meets bespoke luxury products sourced exclusively from within the geographical borders of Scotland.
Tell us about the collaboration with Clarks Originals?
Rosie MacGregor, Clarks Women’s Range Manager had an idea, that I thought was a bespoke order for a jumper. From there it evolved very quickly to samples, pattern refinement, yarn selection and shipping 10 kilo boxes of yarn across the country concurrently with the worst weather Britain has experienced in 40 years. Still, the ladies pulled off a major miracle completing the hand-knitting efforts for the entire 1200 pairs in less than four months. From what I understand this is unheard of in production development and completion.
What drew you to collaborate with Clarks, what do you like about their ethos etc?
That Clarks Originals team COMPLETELY embraced Thistle & Broom’s business model. Our doing things ‘the hard way’ instead of an efficient factory production manner and despite the potential for disaster speaks volumes about their honoring the Quaker ethos of the company’s founders and the current family generations running the 186 year old firm. I am sure I speak for Clarks Originals as well when I state that we were blessed with a collaboration that became not just business but familial and delightful. Where we actually “missed” chatting and working through the details when the ripstop bundles started leaving Edinburgh in March.
Tell us a bit about the ‘knitters’ that you chose to work with and why was it important to work with local people?
When you have that kind of experience to draw from you are guaranteed of superior, uniform quality. Logistically speaking spreading the work around the breadth and length of Scotland might not have made much sense but the economic value to regions without many employment opportunities made the rightness of the decision a no-brainer.
Plans for the future, who will Thistle and Broom be collaborating with next?
So far we’ve just been playing email tag with intermittent phone contact but Thistle & Broom has been approached by a very well regarded British menswear designer to hand-knit slip-overs, gloves, hats and scarves for their AW12/13 collection. What’s so exciting about this effort is the hand-knitters would be using the precise yarns used for the weaving of the genuine Harris Tweed from which his suits and jackets are created. Which would be wonderful for raising the flag on the continued relevance of the Harris Tweed industry and its workers in the Outer Hebrides. Fingers crossed on that one. Who else might be interested? Bring it on!
Stocked at: Clarks