There was jubilation in Hawick this week, with news that the French luxury fashion house Chanel has saved almost 180 local jobs by acquiring the town’s under-threat cashmere manufacturer, Barrie Knitwear.
There had been fears for the future of the 140-year-old firm, which produces Chanel’s classic two-tone cashmere cardigans, after parent company, Dawson International, went into administration in August due to pension fund issues.
News of the takeover by the Parisien label, which has renowned designer Karl Lagerfeld as its creative director, has been welcomed, both by union representatives and local councillors.
Alex McLuckie, GMB Scotland senior organiser, said the union had always felt confident that the highly skilled and productive workforce at Barrie, which produces a high quality product, would be saved.
“The news today that Chanel has taken over Barrie Knitwear is really good news. It lifts the uncertainty for the 180 employees and we can now look forward to continuing employment for our members in the Hawick site now and into the future,” said Mr McLuckie.
Local Scottish Borders councillor David Paterson (Hawick & Hermitage, Ind) commented: “It is absolutely fantastic news, not only for Hawick, but for the whole Borders economy, that such a prestigious name like Chanel has taken over Barrie Knitwear, safeguarding the 180 jobs.
“They are obviously well aware of the extremely skilled and dedicated workforce that produces some of the best quality knitwear in the world, and hopefully the company will now go from strength to strength.”
Barrie managing director Jim Carrie told us: “This is great news for the employees and the area.”
Barrie produces 20,000 to 25,000 pieces for around 100 clients worldwide, and Chanel says the firm will continue to be run by its current management team and will be able to uphold all existing contracts without exclusivity.
Chanel said the acquisition had secured the jobs of all Barrie’s 176 employees and safeguarded a historic brand.
Head of its fashion division, Bruno Pavlovsky, told the AFP news agency that the French label had worked with the Hawick company for over a quarter-of-a-century and had feared there was a real risk the Borders company could have disappeared.
“It made sense to be able to keep working with such extraordinarily competent people,” said Mr Pavlovsky.
And he added: “The company is one of the last in Scotland that is capable of producing sophisticated wares to display on the catwalks, and then to manufacture them.
“Through this acquisition, we reaffirm our commitment to traditional expertise and craftsmanship.”
Barrie Knitwear is the second foreign firm to be acquired by Chanel, following the Italian shoemaker, Roveda.
Borders Lib Dem MP Michael Moore also hailed news of Chanel’s acquisition of Barrie Knitwear as great for the region.
“I am very pleased that Chanel has made this investment in Barrie which recognises the company’s historical significance to the textile industry and its importance as a major employer in the Borders,” said Mr Moore.
Local Conservative MSP John Lamont said the news would come as “a great relief” to employees at Barrie Knitwear who had been waiting nervously for news for more than two months to find out about their futures.
“Chanel is a world famous company, that operates on a global scale, and with Barrie Knitwear in its ownership, I am confident that the future of the firm is safe for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“I now look forward to seeing Barrie Knitwear continue to go from strength to strength and hopefully provide more local jobs in the future.”