Quality is never an accident,’ said John Ruskin, English art critic and writer, ‘it is always the result of intelligent effort.’ It’s a quote that resonates with Lorraine Acornley and Stuart Maxwell. They founded ESK Cashmere two years ago, naming it for the valley in Scotland where the company has its factory, and quickly made a name for themselves as purveyors of cloud soft cashmere sweaters and knitwear staples. Their home collection, ESK Hause, meanwhile, features plush throws and cushions in organic hues.
ESK grew from a desire to create garments that didn’t cut corners when it came to quality. “Stuart and I were working for a mutual client,” says Lorraine, who has designed for Alberta Ferretti, JOSEPH, and Albam, among others. “When we met, we found we had similar ideas and got on really well. Stuart has been making luxury knitwear for 25 years, and he wanted to produce a collection of sweaters. I was delighted to be involved on the design side.” Lorraine sketches the collections from her studio in London and sends them to Stuart who brings them to life.
The duo source only the finest long length Italian cashmere fibres, and work with a group of Scottish spinners to ensure their products are of the highest quality. “It takes about four years for a cashmere goat to produce enough hair for a sweater,” says Lorraine, “and while pilling is an intrinsic quality of the finished cloth, the longer fibres pill less which is why we use them. Once one of our sweaters has been knitted, we treat it with PH neutral Scottish water, which makes it incredibly soft. It’s nature aiding the process.” Lorraine grew up in Scotland but now lives and works in London. “The wilderness is beautiful – the landscape and its colours are amazing – but having lived in the city for 20 years, I draw from the urban scene too. There is also an element of masculine versus feminine, a slightly borrowed from the boys look that I think comes from the juxtaposition of those experiences.”
Everything at ESK, from colour selection and dyeing, to hand stitched tags and sustainable packaging, demonstrates a level of craftsmanship that ensures their garments are treasured for decades. “We want it to feel like a best kept secret, like you’ve stumbled upon something really special. ESK is for people with a discerning eye and people who appreciate the little details.”
ESK already graces the shelves of upscale retailers including Barneys New York, JOSEPH, Monocle, and Trunk Clothiers. Lorraine and Stuart also plan to open a flagship store in London to offer their clientele a more tactile experience. “Having a store is the dream, because then people can experience the products first hand,” says Lorraine. “With ESK, it’s when you touch the garments that you realise how special they are.”