Introducing the Meet the Designer Series, where I share with you my journey of GS, my studio space and generally just a little info more about me!
Over the next 3 blog series, I hope to give you more of an insight into the GS world, how I design the collections, who I work with as well as future plans and aspirations. As I get closer to celebrating my 3rd year of launching Genevieve Sweeney at the end of August, I have been reflecting my journey with multiple studio moves, saying no to wholesale and the ups and downs of yarn sourcing and manufacturing.
Time for a cuppa and I’ll start from the beginning with some facts about me…
A little about me and how I started GS…..
So.. for those of you who have just started following me, my name is Genevieve, I am the founder of GS. I have been knitting for 25 years and can honestly say it’s my true passion in life, even when I am not at work I will still be knitting at home or in the pub.
At 5 years old my mother passed away suddenly and I spent a lot of time in a back of a car travelling around Europe, following my Dad’s work.
So my Grandmother taught me to knit to give me a much-needed distraction and entertainment, it creating goals and a sense of purpose by knitting and unravelling, knitting and unravelling, whilst self-teaching to create my own patterns for my Barbie’s clothes.
I moved to the UK at 8 years old to live with my Grandparents, arriving with a thick Belgium accent which quickly disappeared after some teasing. I was a secret knitter until the age of 16 when I met a student in their 2nd year of a knitwear degree, this blew my mind and set my career path instantly as finally there was something I could do with my passion and hobby.
I studied Fashion Knitwear BA at Nottingham Trent University, graduating with a 1st class Honour. My final collection was inspired by the dark evil characters of Alfred Hitchcock films, taking stitch inspiration from train tracks seen in Strangers on a Train.
I presented my graduate collection at the Pure Tradeshow in London and realised I knew nothing about wholesale prices, markups, e-commerce and production. I wanted to learn and experience the industry and knew I needed to cut my teeth in the industry before considering to launch a brand. A month later I won a competition with the University and WGSN to showcase my graduate collection and trend work at a yarn trade show in Shanghai. An incredible experience and my first trip to China, at the trade show I ended up meeting companies I would end up working for in the future and was introduced to the Head of Knitwear at Rag and Bone.
After 6 months of interviews, I moved to New York to be a design assistant at Rag & Bone. I was next headhunted by Hugo Boss in Switzerland as a Creative Developer for their Mens Sports Knitwear collection. I absolutely loved my job with HB as I was able to get fully involved in all processes of production. From creative brainstorming, customer and market research, designing, developing stitches, yarn development, factory visits across Italy and Turkey, sampling and production.
During this time I got engaged to Ian and after a couple of years of living in Italy and Switzerland, I returned to the UK and we were married on Harrow-on-the-Hill; in a restaurant where we had one of our first date.
Ian wore a Hugo Boss suit with a subtle navy jacquard I found in the VIP store in Germany whilst working there.
I wore a Jenny Packham dress from her Fall 2012 Runway Collection with the most incredible beading – there’s a great story to that which includes my Grandad calling up Mayfair and offering the store a deal!
I worked for a couple more designer houses in London but after moving back I finally felt that I was ready to work on my own label and bought my first Dubied knitting machine.
I took on a studio at Sugarhouse Studios in Stratford, London and bought old knitting machines to restore. This is where I started to meet knitters in the Scottish Borders, including David the Hand Intarsia Knitter here. Read the full story here.
I launched GS in August 2015 and have never looked back!
I share a studio space with my Ian who works in Fine Art, fabricating artwork or frames for artists so there’s always amazing paints or unusual sculptures hanging around. Quite a contrasting space of metal work and knitwear!
Two years ago we moved out of my London studio at Cockpit Arts to Clavering, Essex which was the coldest studio in the world, I had to wear ski clothes to work whilst hugging a heater during the winter. In the New Year, we moved to a warm and dry studio in Little Hadham, Hertfordshire, my space here on the right overlooks Ians’. The studio still needs some work but we love being here surrounded by beautiful countryside.
I have a couple of Dubied knitting machines, an overlocker and a linker which I use for prototyping, limited edition styles and bespoke orders.
What I listen to at work…
I love listening to podcasts whilst working, I am a keen follower of Desert Island Discs and The Sheer Luxe, Success Stories. Recently a friend introduced me to “How I Built This with Guy Raz”, incredible entrepreneurial stories from Spanx, Dermalogica as well as Kate and Andy Spade, which I listened to for the first time a couple of days before her passing. I really recommend listening to these!
My Favourite Designers…
I have so much love for Dries Van Noten, every season I am so excited to see what he creates and the beautiful stages that present each collection, such as this hand tuff carpet for his Spring 2015 collection.
I am also inspired by Prada, Missoni and Sonia Rykiel for pushing knitwear outside the box with so much humour, intricate stitches and complex colour palettes.
Sir Paul Smith has also been a huge influence on me. During my final year of university, I was selected with a few other students to show him my most recent knitwear design during the opening of a new university building, which was filmed by BBC Nottingham.
Four years later we met again, whilst Ian was in his store shopping for his wedding day shirt. Sir Paul Smith walked over and thanked us for shopping in his store after a little chat Ian told Paul Smith about my plans to start my own label and asked if he would be able to review my products so far.
Amazingly he happily agreed and told me to drop a selection over the following Monday. A couple of days later I received a letter with feedback of what products he thought were commercial, review of the price point and what I should work into the collection. Still to this day I am so honoured that he A. took the time to personally thank us for shopping in his store and B. taking the time to give me detailed feedback on my label.
What I do outside of work….
2018 is the year I am trying to create a work/life balance.
I am the worse person at switching off and not hand knitting or working on my website during the evenings. If you live near me, you will see me walking down the street with knitting in my hands going to the pub or knitting in the car.
I honestly do find hand knitting very relaxing and I wrote a blog post about this last year which shares the health benefits of this hobby
Now I have Connie the kitten it is very hard to knit around her, she thinks its the best game in the world trying to catch the yarn and chew on the knitting needles.
By creating a work-life balance I am also working on self-care! I have found that gardening really de-stresses me if you’ve seen my Instagram stories I have begun to grow a small garden outside the studio and even a little vegetable patch which is currently providing me with fresh salads every day. My small flat is now turning into a jungle with a huge monstera plant that grows two new leaves every week.
I try to take one day off a week, either a countryside walks, catch up with friends for dinner, visiting local garden centres or my absolute favourite a good spa deal.
Can’t live without….. Obviously, my kitten Connie is at the top of my list, she is crazy, hilarious and incredibly cute. Seeing her little face when I come home after a long day melts my heart every time. Introducing Connie, she is 5 months old and a Ragdoll X Siberian, shes huge already and still growing into adult size!
The second thing I can’t live without is good skincare for rosacea. I have been suffering with it for 12 years and have tried and tested a lot of products, cheap and expensive. I was incredibly lucky to have been gifted products by Dr Sebagh last Summer, I’m obsessed with their Rose serum and now I’m at that dreaded moment when it’s starting to run out and a new product search has begun!
Finally, I do love a crisp glass of pale rose during the summer, Cheers! x