As Yorkshire cashmere brand Pure Collection launches its autumn/winter range, Stephanie Smith finds a company at home with its heritage.
The best journey is the one that takes you home, as some wise person once said. And home is exactly where Harrogate-based cashmere and luxe fashion brand Pure Collection is showcasing its new season designs for the very first time.
Often, the shoot team is dispatched to exotic overseas destinations to photograph the new collections but, for this autumn/winter range, with its emphasis on British heritage design, it soon became clear that the perfect location was right on its doorstep.
“We felt it was the right time and season to bring our origins and the shoot location together,” says Ronny Helvey, brand director. “We regularly hold research groups and it was clear that our customers were proud to support British business and were delighted to find that we are based here in Harrogate, and were not some anonymous corporate brand.
“We take for granted the beautiful town of Harrogate, because we work here. However, customers all wanted to visit, if they had not already done so, as it reflected the genuine warmth of all that Yorkshire stands for.”
Even so, there was a decidedly international flavour to the crew that descended on Harrogate one day in April earlier this year, with an Australian model and an American photographer, although both work extensively in the UK.
Based at the White Hart Hotel, the shoot features several local landmarks and businesses, including La Feria restaurant on Cold Bath Road, Hales Bar, the Royal Pump Room Museum, the entrance to Valley Gardens, Crown Place, Bettys and Montpellier Hill. “The reaction from the public and local businesses was fantastic, everyone was very supportive,” Ronny Helvey says. Passers-by even loaned their dogs for modelling purposes.
Pure Collection was founded in Harrogate in 2002, and is now one of the world’s largest direct and online retailers of cashmere. In 2006 it launched in the US, and a year later brought out its first womenswear range, following requests from customers for clothes to partner its luxe cashmere sweaters, cardigans and cover-ups. That range has grown to include sleek tailoring with coats, blazers and pencil skirts using Yorkshire tweeds and woollens woven by Abraham Moon of Guiseley; dresses, tees and shirts in laundered silks, cottons and linens, many featuring exclusive in-house prints; jeans and trousers from slim-leg crops to wide-leg palazzos; plus a full range of jersey pieces including tops and dresses designed to work day to night.
In 2011, Pure Collection opened its first shop in Tunbridge Wells. There are now eight stores across the UK, including one at Stonegate in York, plus a clearance outlet at Braintree. The brand is stocked in 16 John Lewis stores and on the John Lewis and Next websites.
Yet Pure Collection remains strongly tied to its Yorkshire roots, with several of its top team from the county, including owner Nick Falkingham, CEO Samantha Harrison and head of design Martin Parker.
The autumn/winter collection was designed by Pure Collection’s in-house team at Harrogate, led by Martin Parker. Inspiration comes from many sources, he says, not just fashion. “Interiors and homeware are a huge influence to us on design, in terms of the interesting ways colours and fabric textures are used.
“Music, art and economic trends also inspire the way we think and design our collections. For us, the important aspects of our designs are in the details, as this sets us apart from other brands.
“We are still a relatively young company, but we have a fantastic heritage that is perfect for the coming season and this inspired our Modern Heritage story, with a big focus on traditional checks, argyles, stripes and colours.”
Creating the perfect colour for each piece is part of Pure Collection’s signature and, at its manufacturing base in Inner Mongolia, cashmere is dyed before being spun to create an enduring depth and saturation of shade. Most of the world’s cashmere comes from China and Mongolia (not Scotland; it’s just not cold enough to produce the soft, warm underbelly fleece of the cashmere goat). In recent years, cashmere production has come under scrutiny, with some animal rights organisations suggesting that fleece is shorn from goats in mid-winter, when they need it most. This is not the experience of the goats that create Pure Collection cashmere, says Martin. “The cashmere goats are combed during spring months to relieve them from their heavy coat, which is welcomed at that time of the year,” he says, adding that Pure’s own team in Mongolia manages the entire process from goat to garment, working closely with herders while also using modern dyeing and manufacturing processes to create new colours, effects and weights for yarn.
“The goats are held in greatest respect by the herders and we visit the goat farms regularly. Pure Collection is a conscientious company, and we always seek to ethically source our product both with animals and humans in mind.”
Pure Collection became the first brand to achieve 100 per cent sustainable cashmere production, pioneering a programme that tackles desertification caused by overgrazing in the Mongolian grasslands. It also supports the Christina Noble Foundation, helping disadvantaged children in the Mongolia region.
Back to that heritage-inspired autumn collection, photographed in Harrogate and featured here. Look out for the Luxe Edit of cashmere and silk featuring cabled and richly textured sweaters, plus a standout brushed wool coat. Moving towards the party season, there will be plush velvets and sophisticated sparkle added to chic sweaters and tweed tailoring. And, in time for Christmas, the brand welcomes the arrival of its first baby cashmere collection. Because you’re never too young to be at home in cashmere.
The Pure Collection autumn range launches today at www.purecollection.com and in its stores, including at York, and at selected John Lewis.
Shoot credits: Photographer – Colette De Barros; Location: Harrogate; Model – Erin Shea; Stylist – Arabella Boyce; Product director – Stephanie Morgan; Hair artist – Tony Collins; Make-up artist – Attracta Courtney.