An East Yorkshire farming family who took the bold step of diversifying into the designer fabrics market now sell their products to customers around the globe.
Scutt and Coles was founded 15 years ago by Rod Scutt and his sister, Belinda Coles. Today, the business supplies fabric by the metre to customers across the UK, Europe, America, New Zealand, China, Japan, Brazil and Russia.
The entire operation is housed within a sensitively converted period stable block on the Scutt family’s working farm in the quiet village of Eastrington near Howden.
Rod explained: “When we first launched the business, I was working on the farming side, but Belinda had done textile design at Leeds.
“She wanted to go freelance so created her own fabric collection and asked for my help to market it to large firms. I suggested to her that we could take the collection further ourselves, and that’s how the business was formed.”
He jokes: “It originally looked like the business was going to be called Scutt and Scutt, which doesn’t have such a ring to it, but, thankfully, Belinda’s husband proposed to her just before the first pattern books were due to be printed.”
The Scutt family originate from Holland but have farmed at Eastrington for five generations. As often happens with family farms where several siblings need to earn a living, the Scutts were considering different diversification options when Rod mooted the idea of manufacturing Belinda’s fabric designs themselves.
Rod’s brother, Jonathan, oversees the running of the 1,600-acre farm, where they grow potatoes, oil seed rape, wheat, barley and peas.
Rod said: “I still look after the accounts and administrative side of the farm, but I thought that the idea of producing the fabrics ourselves fitted well with our plans for diversification.”
In the early years, Belinda designed the fabrics in the company’s hefty pattern books, which are supplied to interior designers, independent retailers and overseas agents who market them to customers. But since she left the business to spend more time with her young family, this role has been fulfilled by a freelance designer based in Macclesfield, who works closely with Rod and his wife, Kate.
Scutt and Coles’ fabrics have a classic English country house look, and Rod, Kate and their team take inspiration from antique documents.
“We go to Paris or auction houses in this country, such as Christies, to purchase antique documents,” says Rod. “It could just be a scrap of old wallpaper that someone has found in their attic, but it could provide the inspiration for a collection of fabrics.
“It’s rare that an old design would fit modern print presses so no matter how much we like a design, it generally needs a lot of tweaking.”
Once the team have settled on their designs, they turn to specialist textile mills to have them made into fabric.
Rod explained: “For silks, we’d use a mill in India; for wool it would be Bradford or Scotland; and for linens we use a mill in Belgium. The whole process is different for each fabric.”
In each collection of fabrics, there are typically seven designs, each of which is available in several colours.
One of the key parts of the process is producing photographs to accompany fabric samples in the pattern books. This is overseen by Kate, who stages photo shoots everywhere from Nostell Priory near Wakefield to Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire.
Rod said: “Once we’ve got the fabrics made up, we’ll get chairs, sofas, curtains in every design and 50 to 100 cushions made up for the photo shoot, even though we might only use a fraction of them for the photographs.”
Having amassing thousands of items made up for photo shoots, Rod and Kate launched a factory outlet shop at their Eastrington headquarters to make these products available to the public at discounted prices. It is open weekdays, 10am-2pm.