Notts-Based Fashion Designer Samantha Brooke, of Waring Brooke, Chats Style and Sustainability

Photos: Jade Emily Photography
Interview: Addie Kenogbon
Saturday 24 December 2022
reading time: min, words

Our Addie Kenogbon takes a (Zoom-based) trip out to Widmerpool, home of Waring Brooke, the knitwear brand putting sustainability at the heart of style… 


With the cold, dark days well and truly here, it’s official - knitwear season has arrived. However, as you dust off your trusty favourite jumper or head to the shops to stock up on more cosy knits, many may be surprised to see how damaging to the environment something as innocent-looking as your fave bright cheery sweater or scarf could be. 

According to the European Environment Agency, synthetic fabrics such as acrylic knits are responsible for between 200,000 and 500,000 tonnes of microplastics entering the global marine environment each year, with a 2019 study from Plymouth University stating that acrylic garments release approximately 730,000 microfibres per wash.

We catch up with Samantha Brooke, founder, award-winning designer and owner of Nottinghamshire knitwear brand Waring Brooke, to find out more about how she strives to revolutionise the knitwear industry through her iconic, luxury sustainable knitwear pieces, which are all made to order using clean energy from her studio on a green waste recycling site in Widmerpool.

Sustainability in the fashion world is such a hot topic right now. Can you tell me more about what Waring Brooke is doing to help make a change?
Our studio is located on a green waste recycling site. All your wood waste that you put in recycling that goes to the tip, that basically comes to us to use. We take in wood waste from throughout the whole of the Midlands, turn it into wood chips and then put it into the biomass power plant that we have on site. Then, that generates sustainable electricity for us to use at the studio, as well as for the whole of the Midlands.

Secondly, I use biodegradable fabrics, which is very important to me. I buy the yarn from a Leicester company and care has been given to where it’s sourced from and which dyes are used. I’m also looking into using recycled plastic yarn which has been made out of bottles, so that’s something that’s hopefully coming next season.

I used to see the disruption that would come out of the fast fashion industry. It horrified me

Was it a conscious decision to be more sustainable?
Sustainability has always been really important to me. In fact, our family has had the wood waste business for twenty years, so it’s just something that I’ve grown up with.

I used to work in China, and I used to see the disruption and waste that came out of the fashion industry there. It horrified me to see how much waste there was. It’s not just the waste from the factories either, it’s the dyes that they use for the yarns and the fabrics, which are often cheaper in these countries because they don’t have the laws that we do. So, the water for the dyes was just going straight into their running water system, which was horrific.

For people who don’t know Waring Brooke, how would you describe it? 
It’s ethical – everything is made to order so it’s made thoughtfully and by happy people in-house. It’s slow fashion, it’s luxurious, it’s country, it’s wearable, it’s functional. Whenever anyone buys our clothing, they’re getting a well-made piece each time. I like to put the ‘W’ on my pieces so people can see you’re undeniably wearing Waring Brooke.

How do you get inspiration for your designs?
It’s just from what I love. Lately I’ve done a collection inspired by Baroque architecture. But a particularly special range for me is the Sunset collection. It’s inspired by when my partner proposed to me last year in Norfolk’s ‘Sunset Beach’ (Heacham beach) - ironically there was no sun, so there was no sunset whatsoever. However, my mum passed away a couple of years ago and her favourite bench in Norfolk was at that beach and the spot where my partner proposed. When he did, all of a sudden the clouds lifted by maybe an inch or so, and there were just these strips of light, and it felt like mum was just saying, ‘They want a sunset, they’re going to have a sunset.’ We got the dreamy experience for my proposal. She was 100% there with us.

My other pieces have also been inspired by my mum. Before she passed away, she was an artist and she used to paint. I took some of her paintings and turned them into the animal pieces in my collections. The stallion, the dog and the boxing hare - they’re all paintings of my mum’s. So I like to think I’m taking a little bit of her with me wherever I go. Every single piece I do means a lot.

I have monthly drops but what I create next just depends on how I’m feeling. When I have an idea and I get excited about it, the thought of then waiting for a year before releasing it just doesn’t feel right

Are there any launches coming up we should know about?
I don’t follow seasons. I have monthly drops but what I create next just depends on how I’m feeling, if I’m honest. When I have an idea and I get excited about it, the thought of then waiting for a year before releasing it just doesn’t feel right. I make everything using a knitting machine, so it means I can make a sample, and then have it photographed and out on the market within two days. In fact, I’ve actually done that with my Union Jack flag blanket. I think it’s important for me to only have it made in-house. I do all the personalised stuff too, which only has a week turnaround.

In terms of new launches, though, I have a new chequered collection called Waring Brooke Squared coming soon. It will feature a scarf, headband and snood, and each piece will be beautiful and personalisable, so you can have your own initials on it. This makes it more unique as you become part of the brand rather than just buying something off the shelf. Instead, you’re buying something special.

What would you say have been the highlights of Waring Brooke so far?
I was in YOU Magazine, which was quite a surreal moment as in the past I used to work for Max Studio and Alberta Ferretti and would see my designs on the catwalk, but obviously it wasn’t my name. So it was quite nice to see my pieces in print with my name on it this time. Also, I’ve been nominated as the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year which I’m honoured to have been shortlisted as a finalist for. It’s out of about 6,000 companies, so I’m really happy about that. 

Congratulations on the nomination! So what does the future hold for you over the coming year?
I’m focusing on getting into more shops and retailers and just increasing brand awareness throughout the UK. I’m not sure about having my own shop just yet because I’m a bit scared - but watch this space!

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