To celebrate our exploration of South America, we were lucky enough to chat with ELEVEN SIX’s co-founder, Catherine.
Why is sustainability important to you?
After the last fifteen of working in larger corporations where sustainability is often far from your control, being sustainable was a distinctive choice and brand goal I made when starting the ELEVEN SIX venture. I wanted to have control over whom the work was going to and know the work I was providing was beneficial. Working with the artisan cooperatives is particularly rewarding as they are organisations that empower women, allowing women to provide for their families whilst being able to work from home to balance their family lives. I also realised there was a significant rise in conscious consumers, customers that care about who make their clothes. For the hand knit items we have our artisans sign the hand tag and each piece is given an edition number in order to pass on a little more of the hand crafted love to the customer.
The other aspect of sustainability that is key to ELEVEN SIX is keeping the materials as close to the source as possible, to avoid less cost and environmental impact on shipping. Our material of choice is baby alpaca which is the speciality fibre of the Andes. We work with local Peruvian mills providing yarn that is easily transportable to the local factories and artisan groups.
Your grandmother and mother taught you to knit from a young age. Was it this personal family connection to the craft that led you to choose this method of production?
Growing up around knitting and dress making certainly led me to wanting to study the craft further and develop knitwear into a career. My knitwear degree training was predominantly machine driven rather producing knitwear by hand, and this has been the knowledge of which I have used throughout most of the my career’s design roles. Ironically, I believe I have come back to the roots of hand knitting when I decided to produce a good proportion of the ELEVEN SIX line by hand. I believe there is a significant shift and appreciation back to handmade and crafted goods.
Was it the place, the people or your whole experience of travelling in Peru that inspired you to create ELEVEN SIX?
It was definitely the whole experience. Being in the vast and powerful Andes mountains of Peru, three months pregnant at the time and being ready for a life change was a big part of the brand inspiration. I was also greatly inspired by seeing the hand knitting skills of the Peruvian people. I particularly loved that all the work I was presented with used their local materials.
What do you think of first, the design or the materials?
As the brand yarn of choice is alpaca I would say I think more about the design first for the most part. However, knitwear is like creating a recipe as you are creating the fabric, as well as the silhouette. There are many variable aspects such as choice of yarn type, machine type, stitch technique, thickness of gauge and tension of knitting. Therefore both aspects are often jointly considered.
Do you have any plans for the future?
The first priority is to grow and establish the women’s knitwear business both through wholesale and direct online sales. From there I would like to expand on the home product offering which goes hand in hand with the lifestyle. Perhaps later the line could extend to men’s and kids? A goal much further down the line might to be have our own retail space which might partner with my husband’s coffee business knowledge from owning Gasoline Alley Coffee to combine both lifestyles. These are goals in the pipeline! From a philanthropic point of view I would like to support the education of knitted crafts in order to teach the younger generation that they can make a career from this training and that it is not just a craft of past generations.
Can you give our readers any advice for buying consciously?
Be interested to know where your products are made, by whom and what the materials are. Are they natural, local, organic? Take an interest in the stories behind brands before you buy to understand their core business values.
See more from ELEVEN SIX here …