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Designer Emily Scholes started Olann approximately four years ago: a thoughtfully handcrafted knitwear company made with environmentally conscious materials in beautiful Irish Tweeds, Canadian Alpaca, and Merino.

Emily studied knitting at university in England and worked as a knitwear designer in London after graduating. After moving back to Canada, she didn’t knit for years. But when she picked up her needles again, she began designing – constantly staying mindful to make a business of it. For her, that meant using natural, ethically sourced fibres, creating beautiful designs and trying to support local businesses as much as possible. Throughout the challenges of remodelling a business, Emily persevered, and out of the struggles she feels as though she’s created her best designs and most cohesive collection to date.

“It feels so good to have moved Olann into the sphere I really wanted it to dwell in: embracing slow fashion, educating people about natural ethically sourced materials and understanding the value of craftsmanship.”

What goals have you set out for Olann?

I want Olann to grow and continue to be known for creative, accessible and wearable designs. I want to be able to support my family doing what I love, and that means being able to design and make into the future. I have been working on publishing my patterns this year and this is a big goal of mine that I need to continue to pursue.

How do you measure success and what challenges have you had to overcome on your journey?

I love hearing stories from customers who have bought my products. I love connecting with my customers personally and hearing their stories about how they are wearing their Olann pieces. And it’s wonderful to hear shop owners who carry my items tell of their sales successes and love of the brand. There have been many hurdles along the way up to this point: sourcing the right fibres; creating good designs; being able to charge the right prices. And also the challenge of time management, and balancing all the needs of a small business whilst also doing all the knitting for Olann. Not to mention trying to be healthy and strong so I can continue to do this work. Without the support of family this wouldn’t be possible. There will be challenges ahead too, but I think I’m learning to balance all these needs better as time goes on.

How does your brand philosophy support you as a creative?

It really influences my designs as I’ve been able to identify my customer clearly, and then also push the boundaries of this narrative to try and reach new people beyond what would be my usual scope. The boundaries I have set for myself when it comes to fibre choices focuses my creativity. There are still so many avenues I want to venture down when it comes to exploring sustainable practices, material choices and design ideas, but it’s exciting to think that the more I learn, the better Olann will become.

Do you think it’s difficult for creatives to monetize a business?

For me, I think it’s difficult. Creative and craft-based businesses are challenging to make sustainable income from. There is no formula that I can use as a knitter that truly reflects the value of my work. The hours that are put into every piece cannot be appropriately compensated. But I love what I do, and I know my customers love it too. A huge part of my work with Olann is to promote the idea that slow fashion is important, and that supporting craft in our communities is vital. And if people can be encouraged to truly think about where they are spending their money, then those concepts trickle into so many aspects of their life, and that really helps our environment, our communities and sense of well-being.

How does Olann work to continue producing high quality knitwear and what can customers expect for the future?

I’m always thinking about the next steps for Olann. I usually start dreaming of next years designs in the summer months and try to find time to jot down ideas and play with wool samples, so I’m prepared when the rush of the holidays has died down.

I want Olann to get better year over year: with a more focused mandate, better sourced raw materials and more exciting designs. Olann will always be a slow-made, hand-made fashion brand, and I hope my customers will continue to value and support this ethos. Things can only get better!

© 2021 Merrymen.

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