‘WOOL WORKS’ meets The Beehive Brand Founder, Andrea Freeman
Following on from last months ‘WOOL WORKS’ interview with Make Works this month we have been chatting to Andrea Freeman the founder of The Beehive Brand
Hi Andrea please introduce The Beehive Brand.
“The Beehive Brand is a young company producing heritage knitwear designs based on knitting patterns from war-time Britain, made from British wool and manufactured in the UK. Its trademark has been revived from the well-known Patons & Baldwins factory’s “Baldwins Beehive”. We have a small team of five which covers everything from design, supply chain and finance to PR and marketing.”
Can you tell us about your training and background? What made you start a knitwear company?
“I studied fashion at Huddersfield and Nottingham Trent, then took a placement year out to study in China. After that I interned for Ben de Lisi, Betty Jackson and Nailah Lasharie PR in London before moving onto Barbour.
In my role as a designer for Barbour, I rose up the ranks over eight years travelling the world for research and development before starting my own business in 2011.
Born and raised in Darlington, County Durham, I was always fascinated by the Patons and Baldwins knitting wool factory, where many of my family had worked. This enthusiasm led me to collect a range of historical “Beehive” memorabilia, ranging from knitting patterns and shade cards for wool shops, through to fabulous original adverts from the post-war era of 1940s and 50s when home knitting was “all the rage”.
So it was a dream come true when I secured the opportunity to revive both the 230 year old brand and the Beehive trademark. The first production run of the eponymous collection titled Men of Action, takes inspiration from wartime heroes and the original brand’s history.
I’m also an associate lecturer at Teesside University.”
Please tell us about the Beehive customer, who loves your brand?
“We have a very specific audience at the moment – men and women who appreciate the history, quality and the narrative that we are bringing back to life. They are looking for items that will last a lifetime, crave comfort and want to invest in the brand beyond the tangible assets.”
What is it about wool that makes it suited to ‘slow fashion’? Do you identify your brand with the slow fashion movement?
“Beehive was built upon the foundations of British Industrial Heritage. We design and create garments for quality and longevity. We believe that building on the values of resilience and innovation are critical to our community and creating a consciously responsible and sustainable business. So yes, we will grow with our customers’ wishes.”
How would you describe the style of Beehive knitwear? What were your inspirations for the creative direction of Beehive?
“The style is industrial heritage – it’s relaxed workwear traditionally worn by famers, fisherman and factory workers but has the aspiration of a generation determined to live the good life. I think the seafaring roll necks are a key signature of the brand.”
How do you go about creating your collections? Can you share a little of your creative process with us?
“Each range starts with a story from the knitting pattern archives, which is then unpacked, investigated and reinvented for the needs of today’s consumer lifestyles. We are delving into the history of trends and making them applicable for today.”
As a knitwear designer do you knit (or practise any hand-crafts) yourself?
“I look at many different artisanal and innovative techniques and crafts to inform and inspire the designs. I knit at a very basic level, yes – but I would rather leave it to the passionate crafters and professionals!”
Do you produce your knitwear in the UK?
“Small runs are produced in the UK which we feel is important for authenticity. The UK still has great industry and I’m passionate about manufacturing here.”
What’s the future for The Beehive Brand?
“Looking ahead, we’ve got lots of exciting plans including recruitment at the studio in Darlington. The Men of Action range will be expanded and The Nordic collection will also be introduced this year.
The 2016 and 2017 ranges will be offered to key wholesale partners to increase Beehive’s presence in the UK and Ireland. However alongside this focus, we’ll be looking to further establish our international links with export trials.
The Men of Action collection has attracted great interest in Japan, where the English gentleman look is very popular so it’s important we capitalise on this trend and strengthen our new partnerships in Europe and Asia.
I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years but being able to create the next chapter in the Beehive story is certainly a highlight. I’d love to start designing children’s knitwear under the Beehive brand so watch this space.”
Twitter – @TheBeehiveBrand