A NORTH East entrepreneur has salvaged a brand lost in time by bringing mid twentieth century knitting patterns back to life in a contemporary fashion range which is now selling globally.
The Beehive Brand is the brainchild of former Barbour designer Andrea Freeman who has created a range of knitwear for men and women made from British wool and manufactured in the UK.
The first production run of the eponymous collection titled Men of Action, taking inspiration from wartime heroes and the original brand’s history, sold out online. Recent export trials have also been successful, securing the likes of Japanese retailer Journal Standard.
Born and raised in Darlington, County Durham, Andrea was always fascinated by the Patons and Baldwins knitting wool factory, where many of her family had worked.
This enthusiasm led her to collect a range of historical “Beehive” memorabilia, ranging from knitting patterns and shade cards for wool shops, through to fabulous original adverts from the post-war era of 1940s and 50s when home knitting was “all the rage”.
She secured the opportunity to revive both the 230 year old brand and the Beehive trademark, and has since designed collections of menswear and womenswear knits, from her studio in Darlington.
Andrea said: “The shapes needed a little adaptation from the original Beehive patterns to fit the modern figure, as our grandparents were certainly more-slight in stature than we are today but this has all been part of the challenge.
“It seemed very natural at the time to come home to the North East after 15 years in the industry to start my own label. The Northern Powerhouse is high on my agenda – I’m passionate about doing business here and proving fashion doesn’t belong to London.
“Looking ahead, we’ve got lots of exciting plans including recruitment at the studio in Darlington. The Men of Action range will be expanded and the Nordic collection will also be introduced next year.
“The 2016 and 2017 ranges will be offered to key wholesale partners to increase Beehive’s presence in the UK and Ireland. However alongside this focus, we’ll be looking to further establish our international links with export trials.
“The Men of Action collection has attracted great interest in Japan, where the English gentleman look is very popular so it’s important we capitalise on this trend and strengthen our new partnerships in Europe and Asia.”
Alongside running her business Andrea is also an associate lecture at Teesside University.
Andrea added: “I’ve worn a lot of hats over the years but being able to create the next chapter in the Beehive story is certainly a highlight. I’d love to start designing children’s knitwear under the Beehive brand so watch this space.”
The Beehive offering includes Great British Fairisles taken from the Beehive emblem, Argyle and cable knit jumpers sit comfortably alongside Beehive pointelle and fine gauge twinsets.