All in the detail

October 3, 2018

Eleanor O’Neill studied fashion knitwear at Nottingham Trent University before building her experience in the industry, working for global brands. She returned to the North East to establish STUDY 34, a fashion studio dedicated to producing quality fashion, working directly with Incalpaca in Peru to ensure an ethical manufacturing process. She explains more…

When did you first become interested in fashion design and why?

I’ve always been interested in making things. Even today, though my garments are made elsewhere, I still make a lot of things – I’ve come to the realisation recently that it’s my way of relaxing. I’ve always liked to make functional things and I suppose clothing is just that: something I can make that is useful as well as beautiful.

Where did you study and how did your career progress after you graduated?

I studied fashion knitwear at Nottingham Trent University. After graduating, and having worked in New York for the global supply chain manager Li & Fung as well as in Switzerland for Hugo Boss, I took a role as a knitwear designer for the Italian label Stefanel. After that, I came back to the UK to set up STUDY 34.

Which designers have inspired you?

Stella McCartney’s fierce pursuit of ethical fashion at all costs is remarkable and labels like Eileen Fisher and Filippa K also set an amazing example. I’m also inspired by labels like The White T-shirt Co., Hiut Denim and Veja. They all do one thing exceptionally well, and I’m a regular customer of all of them!

When and why did you establish STUDY 34?

STUDY 34 started in 2015. I was frustrated with the lack of interest in the fashion industry in where clothes come from. I wanted to create a role that would allow me to be more involved with the supply chain from start to finish: from sourcing the fibres to marketing the finished product and experiencing every process along the way. It allows me to better understand the impact my decisions have on the environment and others in the supply chain and challenges me to be a better designer.

Tell us about the ethos behind the studio.

By using exclusively natural, sustainably sourced fibres in neutral colours I design classic pieces that are designed and made to last beyond the seasons. With a focus on drape and quality, each style is designed with the customer’s ultimate comfort and convenience in mind. And by investing in a supply chain focused on quality and craftsmanship, STUDY 34 knitwear is the ultimate modern and sustainable luxury.

Why did you decide to base the studio in Newcastle?

Although I’m not from Newcastle, I went to school here, and my boyfriend also runs his business in the region, so I feel very much at home in the city.

What are the advantages of basing yourself in Newcastle – what about disadvantages?

Newcastle is a hugely welcoming city and has a very diverse startup community, I have lots of friends here who also run their own businesses. One of the disadvantages, for my business in particular, is that the fashion industry in the North East is relatively small, and I often have to travel to London to build my network.

Tell me about your knitwear and, briefly, what’s the process for producing your products?

I design everything in my studio with fibre mixes in mind that I bring back from Peru. I then send the completed design to be sampled, and following approval from myself they go into production. The manufacturer orders the yarns in the selected colourways from another local producer I work with, and then produces the knitwear in line with the specifications. The process, from initial design to the styles being available online takes about 9 months, but I think they’re worth the wait!

What makes alpaca wool so special?

So many things! It’s very soft – the hair of the Huacaya alpaca is short, curled, dense and sponge-like which gives it strength and elasticity. The microscopic air pockets found in alpaca fibres mean that clothing made with it is very light and breathable too, and this structure also means alpaca garments drape beautifully.

Do you have a typical customer?

Women aged 25 to 75 purchase my knitwear, which is fantastic and suggests STUDY 34 knitwear can be styled in so many different ways. My usual customer profile is professional women between 35 to 45 with their own style and importantly, appreciative of quality and craftsmanship.

What’s your future plans and ambitions for STUDY 34?

My long-term plan for the business is to continue growing sustainably. Also, to encourage more consumers to be interested in where their clothes come from and understand the value of investing in quality and craftsmanship.

Instagram – @study.34