Beehive knitwear brand gets its wings back from designer and trainee pilot Andrea Freeman
THE Beehive brand is the brainchild of former Barbour designer Andrea Freeman who has created a range of vintage inspired knitwear for men and women made from British wool, manufactured in the UK and selling across the world.
Born and raised in Darlington, Andrea was always fascinated by the Patons and Baldwins knitting wool factory, where many of her family had worked. As creative director she has brought the Baldwin’s Beehive brand back to life by rejuvenating the original wartime knitting patterns through her contemporary fashion brand from her studio in her home town.
What did you want to be growing up?
Either a pilot, designer or nurse. I’ve achieved one out of the three and almost two – I’m currently training towards a flying license!
How did you end up in the job you’re doing now?
Growing up in Darlington, I was always fascinated by the Patons and Baldwins factory where many of my family had worked. This enthusiasm led me 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’.
I used to have a room at my parents where I had all my sewing equipment and I made up old clothing patterns from Prima. I then went to art and design school and from there, ended up in fashion for good.
Have qualifications got you where you are, has it been sheer hard work and talent or a combination?
I studied fashion at Huddersfield and Nottingham Trent universities, took a placement year out to continue studies in China and then moved to London to intern for Ben de Lisi, Betty Jackson and Nailah Lasharie PR.
I’m a firm believer in formal and informal education. Qualifications are essential in the business world but experience, talent and perseverance are non-negotiable to a successful career.
Do you feel pressure to be a role model to others?
Not really, although I do try to run the business as best as possible so that I can so that I can say I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. Saying that, I have recently started lecturing and mentoring small businesses – something I wouldn’t have done without my first-hand experience.
Do you prefer networking on social media or face to face?
50/50. I make a big effort to engage with consumers, bloggers and media on Beehive’s social media channels but it’s important that I get out to meet people face to face – whether that’s attending fashion shows, networking events or one-on-one meetings.
What is a very underrated business skill?
Having the discipline to be organised – in translation, having a place for everything and everything in its place.
How will your industry evolve over the next five years?
I think the fashion and retail industry will change massively over the next five years. Education is evolving rapidly, wholesale is struggling and the economy needs to adapt. The industry is ripe for disruption and new leadership. I think it will be a really exciting time.
Which three people (alive/dead, celebrity or not) would you like to work with?
I’m fortunate to have worked with quite a few mentors and inspirational creative leaders but there are three that would top my list; Einstein, Adrian Joffe of anti-establishment fashion brand Comme des Garçons and ex Burberry CEO and current senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple, Angela Ahrendts DBE.
What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
That I’m a keen scuba diver, 250+ dives and counting!
Andrea Freeman is also CEO at Redana Studio