From behind a heavy wooden door in Wells Road Ilkley, Knoll Yarns trades its wares across the globe.
Supplying fashion houses Chanel, Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Prada, Ilkley based Knoll Yarns is a global business trading in 36 countries. The company’s yarn collections are designed, coloured and stocked in the UK before being exported across the globe.
Managing Director Sean Cranningan explains how he started in the industry and brought the business to Ilkley; “In 1971 I began with a textile marketing degree at the then Huddersfield Polytechnic, this included studying marketing, business, a language, law and textile production. My degree covered everything; spinning, finishing and weaving as well as work experience – I’ve used every bit of it!
I worked in the industry from 1975 for 3 and a half years before setting up as SC Yarns. We were agents representing German spinners selling their products to many UK businesses.”
The business changed its form in the late 90’s as British manufacturing began to decline. In the 2000’s the British Industry collapsed, with the big mills of Huddersfield and Bradford closing. So instead of representing German, French and Italian spinners selling to a declining UK trade, Sean’s business began to merchant yarn.
When Sean was offered Knoll Yarns, an archetypical stone spinning mill, which had already started to produce yarn in Turkey, he took over the name and stock and brought the business to Ilkley in 1980.
Now each year, Knoll Yarns produces a collection of Lambswools, Shetlands and British Wools spun to their specification in Turkey, Italy, Mauritius and the UK. They are also the exclusive exporters of Donegal Yarn on the market.
Although Sean and his team travel the world the business is deeply rooted in Ilkley. Sean explains the benefits of being in the town; “Ilkley is an attractive place to work, there’s no doubt about it. There is a great quality of life here, it is a great place to be. We find there’s no problem in recruiting staff, as there is motivated, high quality personnel available in the town.
With all our yarns in stock in warehousing in Bradford and because the office is remote, there is no point in commuting. The perceived disadvantage of not being in the city is less and less of a problem, and with emails and other technology we can work anywhere in the world – it’s a 24/7 business.”
Knoll Yarns now employs a team of six, has a turnover of £6m and prides itself on being an important supplier of lambswool and pure new wool yarns both to the UK and worldwide knitwear and weaving industries.
After 42 years in the business Sean has no plans of slowing down, he ends: “It’s an interesting job, I’m proud of what we do, and I have no intention of retiring!”