Lydia Layton met Eva Evers – Commercial Director of luxury knitwear label Eleven Everything – recently for a cup of tea in the new Soho House on Dean Street. Infusing contemporary designs into beautiful traditional processes, Eva and her business partner Kathryn Spence fashioned a brand and product that’s being snapped up from New York to Japan and covered in publications such as ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar and The Observer. What’s their secret?
Tell us a little bit about how you came to the business?
Well I grew up in quite a creative background, I went to a Steiner school but I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, so my way of rebelling was to go the business route, getting into the corporate world. I’m quite ambitious, but after a while I didn’t really believe in the purpose behind that world. I started thinking about what I wanted from it and at the time it was just business for the sake of money, and I realised I didn’t want that.
When we started Eleven Everything I wanted to focus on something different. It’s very much about the quality of the product. The materials come from Italy and they’re amazing. We’re really focused on the sourcing: we make sure it’s animal friendly, and all manufactured in UK, helping the local economy.
How does it work. Do you have a factory in the UK?
Yes in Yorkshire, midlands, others, and some sources overseas in Italy. Kathryn handles the designing, I handle the business side.
Sounds like a dream team
Yeah, we are different people, but we work really well together. She’s an amazing designer.
So how important is the ethical angle in your marketing approach?
It’s not something we push too much: we don’t want to be labelled as “ethical” over anything else, but we try to retain a balance that emphasises style, class, luxury that’s from reliable, sustainable sources. It’s important but we don’t want to base the brand on it.
It seems like knit wear is coming back in quite a big way
The industry is so innovative and new, it’s on the rise. I think it’s a new era for knitting at the moment, on personal level and on an industry level. People like Wool and the Gang are doing really interesting things with it from a business point of view. But knitters are a niche community. There’s something so meditative and peaceful about it, people are really getting in touch with it.
Do you feel it’s hard to compete in the online e-comms universe?
Not really, I mean there are so many people, so many ideas, but it works when people buy into a brand, into a niche, that you’re good at. Then it’s a blessing. You’ve just got to show as much of your brand as possible to mark you out from the competition. We like to take our time over it, avoid the stress of it. It’s a cliché, but things do get better with time. We’d prefer to take it slow, build it slowly, let it follow its course developing organically.
It’s a running theme in our interviews about the Internet and websites and how they’re changing business, this new era of trade. How much of your business is driven by your online presence and the traffic through it?
It’s a bit of everything really, though it obviously gives us a bigger reach. For us it’s less important to have a really big presence on the internet as we’re a small scale operation with quite a targeted approach. Having said that more and more people are looking us up on things like Instagram. In the past we couldn’t have had that interface with clients.
You mentioned social media - how important is it for you as a company?
Well we’ve been a little quiet with it admittedly. We do one collection per year so it’s not a constant stream of updates on our products.
I saw a gorgeous feature in Harper’s Bazaar. How did you approach them?
We’ve got a fantastic publicist. She’s so on the case. The things you see in those shoots are all our productions, the design and photography. That’s how you bring a brand to life. It’s got to be crafted by you, it’s why people buy into your brand.
It’s nice that you have an international audience, the Internet seems to be making every business pan-global.
Yes totally. We’re just interested in reaching people who have an interest in the process, in the craft and quality of our knitwear. It’s the kind of thing that’s good for all ages, all nationalities.
I guess people will always be cold. I don’t know if it’s a weather thing but I thought it would be biggest in the UK!
No we have orders from all over, it’s like a global village.
Do you have any big plans for future?
We just want to develop the brand the way we want it at our pace, become properly sustainable where we can be in a position where we have a bit more space, a bit less pressure to try more things and make some mistakes and not worry. Like you guys we want to build a brand, create a real crafted presence. In the longer term I’d love for us to move into homewear and menswear. Keep the ball rolling. We’re aiming to base ourselves virtually soon: Berlin, London.
Oh cool. Some of our clients are all virtual, trading globally and living wherever’s best.
Yeah you can be based anywhere, go anywhere, with everything in place. I’m mainly based out of Shoreditch and Soho House: I think being freelance, or Virtual, you have a better quality of life, you can work in the way that’s best for you, focus on you. I like to get up early, go to the gym, head off and kind of streamline my day. It’s great. There’s more freedom to get more out of yourself. Then your customer gets more out of you, and you’re probably a nicer person to be around! I mainly work from home.
The ethos is quality not quantity. Knitting is not going disappear any time soon: we want to be about longevity and quality.
You can check out the incredibly intricate products available from Eleven Everything on their website here: