North East entrepreneurs, Jo Lennon and Jo Storie, have launched KnitLab North, a design and prototyping studio for aspiring knitwear brands.

The duo offer a knitwear design studio with onsite facilities to support clients, bringing together prototyping and micro-production with commercial and marketing expertise to help new brands bring products to market.

Having met on a digital business course, Jo Lennon, a strategic marketer and Jo Storie, an international knitwear designer, have combined their respective skills to bring the first knitwear prototyping facility to the region.

KnitLab North, is a design studio that brings a design and collection to life, from sketchbook to shopping basket, all under one roof to support anyone looking to create knitwear, designed and made in Britain and promotes responsible and sustainable manufacture offering more manageable solutions to fast-fashion.

The company has recently invested in new office premises at B.Village, Cramlington, and has launched a Crowdfunder to help expand its prototyping and manufacturing capacity.

Jo Lennon, said: “We’ve been through the design and development process in the UK and we struggled to find the support we needed to make small volumes to test the market.  We experienced a number of challenges and want to support other people who may face the same barriers we faced when taking their product to market.

“We want to nurture and foster anyone looking to build a knitwear business whilst championing British design with a specific focus on promoting sustainable and quality yarn.

“Unfortunately, many people are not able to bring their dream to life. We are here to change that. As a small business, we wanted to produce small quantities to test the market, rather than commit to overproducing and wasting product. What we found is that few factories wanted to work with a retailer producing one-off or very small quantities.

“We have made our vision a reality and now have the onsite space to support clients with their journey so that they can test the market and develop products slowly. We can offer support in a number of ways from design consultancy through to brand building or a fully integrated service guiding a client from conception and design through to launch.”

As a knitwear designer with over 25 years’ experience, working for brands in New York and the UK, Jo Storie has witnessed a growing shift in the industry.

Jo Storie, said: “The British knitwear industry is due for a fundamental shake up, we’ve got a steady supply of designers and manufacturers, yet our most talented designers look to manufacture offshore as it is often easier and cheaper to develop and experiment outside of the UK.

“We want to keep that talent at home and cater for their needs with design focused development, small batch production and a practical approach to brand marketing. We aim to help our designers be more creative and take some of the risk out of their product development.

“We’re looking to partner with larger manufacturers as support brands that are ready to grow having had a chance to road test their products reducing the risk and headache for them. Joining with British yarn mills and manufacturers resonates with our core values of keeping things local and sustainable.”

The duo are reaching out to the North East to support their Crowdfunder which closes on 24 December as they look to grow the business and offering, in return, some of the very first knitwear pieces to come out of the facility.

They hope, that in establishing a prototyping facility in the North East, they can build and encourage a new industry for the region, adding to some of the existing clothing and textile icons such as Barbour and designer, Nigel Cabourn, that have roots in the North East.