Barrie, one of Scotland's oldest standing knitwear manufacturers, was first opened in 1903, in Hawick, along the banks of The River Teviot, near Edinburgh. Like its native land, the headquarters are a place of contrast—soft light and stark architecture, surrounded by cold weather and warm hearts. Over a century later, Barrie still embraces its deep history while taking significant steps toward a more sustainable future for the cashmere industry. Alongside Chanel, who acquired the company in 2012, Barrie's initiatives remain steadfast: to ensure the highest level of quality and traceability for its cashmere while ensuring local shepherds and sheep farmers receive fair wages. For Barrie, making the best cashmere has to be as soft on the planet as it is on the skin.
Walking through the Barrie factory, there are both remnants of the past with its original black-and-white knitting machines and glimpses of the future with complex state-of-the-art computer programs. Scotland, now the epicenter of cashmere production, only became so when the Capra Hircus Laniger, or cashmere goats, were shepherded to the Scottish Highlands from Mongolia in the 19th century. Since then, strains on resources and the climate have created unique challenges for the cashmere industry: The cashmere goat, once soft and buttery, has developed a new coarse coat responding to evolving climate conditions.
Both the Barrie factory and Barrie's Development Director Clive Brown have noticed the impacts of climate change on the cashmere industry. Brown, who has spent several decades with the company, once worked the enormous tumbling blue cashmere washers spread throughout the Barrie headquarters. "We are about pushing the technology and what is possible in knitting," says Clive. "Many designers we work with are inspired by the skill level and range of techniques we offer," he explains. But excellence is only possible when the land and animals they rely on are healthy—the pure water from the Teviot creates the unique softness felt in the company's knitwear. It's details like these that luxury fashion houses come to Barrie for.
So much so that in 2012, Barrie's factory became a part of Chanel's Métiers d'Art, a group of skilled artists and craftspeople who preserve traditional techniques. Alongside creating beautiful cashmere pieces, the partnership offered crucial resources for the knitwear brand. Together, Barrie and Chanel have established programs that support the local community, animal welfare, and the environment with sustainable pastures, strict animal welfare standards, and responsible cashmere suppliers while investing in education and training programs for the next generation.
The global renown of the cashmere brand comes down to its deep respect for craftsmanship and expertise and a profound commitment to the same small group of artisans—some who work with the world's most demanding, high-level fashion brands.
Now with an in-house brand studio in Paris headed by Creative Director Augustin Dol-Maillot, Barrie continues to create their heritage knits for a new modern client, pushing its technical innovations—artistically and technically—to further keep up with a loyal and growing customer base, but not without working closely with the industrial team in Scotland.
The result is a perfect fusion between past and present, luxury and sustainability, all encompassed by a "Made in Scotland" label.
Galia Loupan is the chief content officer of Marie Claire International, working on brand identity and coordinating content collaboration across Marie Claire editions around the world, including France, the UK, Russia, China, Australia, Argentina, and Turkey, among other countries. She is based in France.
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