The lass who found her niche in knitwear

Meet Hilary Grant. She lives in the small picturesque Scottish settlement of Orkney, where she’s fairly isolated from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the population. Here, from her idyllic little haven, she designs luxurious yet practical lambswool knitwear. Scarves, hats, and gloves are woven offsite in the most stunning array of seasonal colours. Her winter accessories have offshore markets enamoured, and her once niche company now supplies to some of the world’s most reputable boutiques and department stores.

A Day in the Life of Hilary Grant

How long have you had your own line of knitwear for?

I’ve been in business since 2011 – although it feels like almost double that!

Where did the idea come from to start a luxury knitwear company?

I studied knitwear design and worked in the industry for a number of years after graduating. I got experience in lots of different areas of the trade, from illustration to product design and development. At one point, I was lucky enough to work for a start-up company, where I got to see the whole process from start to finish. I found that so exciting. I knew at that point that I wanted to set up my own business.

Hilary Grant Knitwear

I spotted a gap in the market – there wasn’t enough knitwear available in between the cheap acrylic knitwear and luxury high-end cashmere. My pieces are made via the same processes used to produce the finest cashmere garments. We just use high-grade lambswool instead, which makes the price more accessible to a wider and younger market.

What’s your most adored scarf, hat or pair of gloves?

My personal favourite is the new Loki Shawl. It’s quite a decadent size at about two metres long, and really wide. They can be worn like shawls, belted around the waist or wrapped around your neck as a big cosy scarf. I wear mine quite often – it feels like a big hug and so comforting!

BLANKETSCARF-LOKIGRADIENT-BLACKWHITE-HILARYGRANT-SCOTTISH-KNITWEAR-03

Are you working on any new projects right now?

I’m about to start designing a new range of blankets for next winter.

What do you love most about your job?

My business brings lots of opportunities to meet many many people of all sorts, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of running the business. I get so much enjoyment from working with my suppliers, other businesses I collaborate with and building relationships with customers. Some brilliant friendships have formed from these relationships too.

And what’s your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement has been securing stockists in a major department stores overseas. When I first started my business this seemed like an impossible feat. I supply a few of Japan’s luxury department stores, the most famous of which is Isetan in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Do you mostly sell in Scotland?

My business is based in such an isolated place but the knitwear is sent all around the world! You can find it in independent boutiques around the UK, as well as major department stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland and the United States.

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few …

School spoons and polaroid cameras. I also love stationery – different kinds of papers, pencils and notebooks. It’s been an obsession since I was very young and used to write to pen pals around the world. I was in Japan recently on business and visited Tokyu Hands – the biggest craft and stationery shop I have ever seen. Japanese stationery is so exquisite and unique.

Notebooks Hilary Grant

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

I really try hard not to fill my house with lots and lots of things. I will often save up to buy something a bit special, such as a really nice piece of pottery. I also think that if you use natural materials in your home, you can rely less on lots of ‘stuff’ to make it feel homely and personal. I bought a reconditioned Ercol armchair last year and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made – a proper investment piece.

A life lesson you’d tell your younger self?

That hard work will pay off, and failures are just opportunities to learn.

Your go-to recipe for a busy weeknight?

My partner does most of the cooking, but if I’m on my own then a fail-safe dinner is a big chunky slice of sourdough bread, toasted with goats cheese, beetroot and lots of salad piled on top.

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home?

Orkney. I love the big empty skies and the dramatic landscape.

Best place for a cup of coffee?

All that is Coffee in Glasgow. Best flat white I’ve ever had!

Favourite restaurant?

The Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow’s West End. I went here for dinner to celebrate my 30th birthday. The attention to detail, atmosphere and attentiveness of the staff is nothing short of extrordinary. It’s a really special place.

Best place to pick up fresh produce?

William Shearer’s in Kirkwall is like one of those old fashion general stores, where you can buy everything from local vegetables to wicks for old tilly lamps. The local fish shops are fantastic too.

The best nook in the city for reading or writing?

When I’m in Glasgow I love going to Tinderbox which has lovely coffee and lots of different spaces where you can nestle yourself in and get a bit of peace.

Your top five fashion spots?

I love the little compact streets of Tokyo in places like Aoyama – it feels strangely suburban, and there are little shops with niche Japanese and European brands tucked away.

Hello Sandwich

Best green space or park?

The best place is outside in the wilderness, where it hasn’t been landscaped.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

I spend my laziest of Sundays sleeping in late, watching a box set on Netflix and spending a long afternoon helping my partner cook a big Sunday lunch.

If not Orkney, where would you be?

I’m not sure where I would be. When you work in a creative industry there are so many options that come up. You can end up doing jobs that you’d never expect to be doing in places you’d never expect to be! If I wasn’t in Orkney I would be closer to my manufacturer in Edinburgh.

Hilary Grant, Scotland.

Find Hilary Grant knitwear on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter

If you own a boatload of quality knitwear and need some tips on how to care for it, read Hilary’s guide on how to keep your woollens in perfect shape.

Are you a collector of genuine woollen winter accessories? Tell us about your favourite piece in the comments below or tag @khoollect in your pics.

Portrait photo by: Alannah Cooper

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