THERE are now hopes that Barrie Knitwear might soon be able to look at expanding the size of the workforce at its Hawick mill, following its takeover by luxury French fashion label, Chanel, writes Mark Entwistle.
Two weeks have now passed since news of the famous Paris firm’s acquisiton of the Barrie mill in the town’s Burnfoot Industrial Estate.
Last week, TheSouthern reported the relief felt the town that a deal had finally been signed, securing the jobs of 176 workers and the future of a 140-year-old local business.
There had been months of worry for employees, after parent firm, Dawson International, went into administration in August because of pension problems.
But this week, Barrie managing director, Jim Carrie, told TheSouthern there had been a “return of very positive feelings” in the factory, now that the uncertainty about the future has been removed.
“Employees have gone through a difficult period in their lives, but their continued commitment to Barrie has been a major feature during that period,” Mr Carrie told us. “Relationships between Chanel and Barrie have always been very strong and there has been a great deal of trust and confidence between us. The day-to-day working relationship with Chanel could not really be much stronger, but strategic plans will be developed to look at how the Barrie business can grow with the help of Chanel.”
Asked if there was any chance of worker numbers being increased, Mr Carrie told TheSouthern: “The numbers employed might hopefully increase at some point as strategic plans are developed and implemented, and we will start our initial discussions regarding the future over the next few weeks.
“The main thing to remember at this early stage is that the events of the last two weeks have been fantastic news for Chanel, Barrie and, crucially, for the employees.”
Speaking to TheSouthern from his Paris office, Chanel’s president of fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, pictured above, said the acquisiton reflected the high regard in which Chanel held Barrie’s craftsmanship and skills and was a testament to the importance of knitwear in the French firm’s collections.
Mr Pavlovsky has now twice visited Hawick and the Barrie factory -– once for negotiations and on a second occasion last week to meet the employees.
And on the question of Chanel’s famously flamboyant creative director, legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld, visiting Hawick anytime soon, a Chanel spokesperson told us: “It is not on his agenda, but we will keep you informed if he decides to visit it.”