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Meet the Alumna: Jess Quinton, Quinton Chadwick

15 October 2017 by Editor

Jess Quinton (right) with Jane Chadwick

Knitwear designer Jess Quinton secured a job with Missoni straight from Texprint and went on to set up her own business with Jane Chadwick. She tells us her story.

Colour has always been my passion. I was lucky to be spotted by Missoni, those maestros of colour, at the Texprint exhibition in the late 1980s and landed my first job as a knitwear designer with them.

I remember so well those first months after graduating from the Royal College of Art. I was unsure of my direction, with many different options all seeming equally uncertain. What I found so helpful was the input of the Texprint panel and the experience of winning a place and exhibiting at Première Vision.

As a graduate, you’re inexperienced when you first start selling work. Texprint provides information that you sometimes don't pick up at university. It was amazing to have the support as I made the transformation from student to professional designer.

I have aways felt incredibly grateful to Texprint so it is great to give something back. Now I’m on the Texprint judging panel as well as being part of the Hero Mentoring scheme – sharing the knowledge I've acquired over 30 years in the business.

Quinton Chadwick is the knitwear label that I run with business partner Jane Chadwick. Jane had previously run her own ready-to-wear label and forecast consultancy developing smart yarns with the IWS and DuPont.We started our business 20 years ago, selling our first collections in Barneys New York and Tokyo, and Le Bon Marché, Paris, as well as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols here in London.

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection

Thanks to our early success in sales abroad, we won the UK Fashion Export Council small business design award. This was amazing and really helped establish the brand. We soon realised that what overseas buyers liked, apart from our idiosyncratic English design and quirky colour sense, was that our product was good quality and highly crafted here in Britain. They loved our modern take on heritage knits.

We launched at a time when UK textile mills were hit hard by the competition from overseas. It was sad seeing so many spinners and knitting businesses in decline, so we became determined to support them and passionate about keeping the traditional knitting skills of the UK alive. 

However, there were a couple of scary seasons in the early days when factories went bust in the middle of our production run. But we stuck to our guns and started working with a cooperative of hand framers in Devon with whom we still collaborate today.

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection

We also found a couple of family-run mills in Nottingham and Scotland that have weathered the storm by staying small-scale and consistent in their high quality. While it has not always been easy, we are very proud that “Made in Britain” has always been a big part of our brand DNA.

We never wanted to be associated with ‘fast fashion’ or the poor ethics and labour conditions of so much manufacturing in the Asia and the Far East. Sustainability is increasingly important too: the company only ever uses natural fibres and keeps to British spinners for yarn supply.

And today we still export across the world. Australia is a new and expanding market for us, while closer to home we have just had our third successive sell-out season at Liberty in London. It’s such a wonderful store for supporting real British brands like ours.

We have our roots in the craftsmanship of knitting, yet move our designs along with current trends. We also enjoy working collaboratively – any excuse to experiment with yarn, texture and colour. Recent initatives have included bespoke collections for companies as diverse as Dashing Tweeds and Anthropologie. And we are about to embark on an exciting handknit project with a big American firm – watch this space!

www.quintonchadwick.com

Quinton Chadwick autumn/winter 2017/18 collection

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