Woolly venture with strong ties to Scotland

How a British manufacturer of handmade men’s woollen accessories was inspired by the simplistic style of Scandinavia

There aren’t many place names in this country that lend themselves to the possibility you could leave your hometown of say Sydney and end up living in Sydhavn. So maybe it was written in the stars that Sarah Robinson – the English-born, Scottish owner of the Aarhus-based woollen fabrics design company Robinson & Dapper – would end up swapping the southern Scottish town of Denholm for Denmark.

She lived there from the age of nine, gradually becoming accustomed to the local pastime of both producing and wearing woollen skirts, billowing just below her eye level in the strong winds that sweep over the lowland sheep-farming communities of the Scottish Borders.

But while it might have initially struck her as a bit strange that they were mostly worn by men, it wasn’t until she was older that she began to fully appreciate how wool is woven into the fabric of society in the region of Scotland immediately north of the border with England.

“There are many annual festivals and social events in the Scottish Borders where men are expected to wear kilts,” she recalled. 

“Also when I attended university in Edinburgh, there were formal occasions where kilts were required.”

It was at university that Robinson first discovered an affinity for Denmark. She made several Danish friends, and when she visited them a few years later, she decided to spend a couple of months. Five years later, and she is still here.
“I had vague aspirations towards fashion and design before I moved to Denmark,” she revealed. “But my time here has really made me believe that it is possible to achieve almost anything if you try hard enough.”

She particularly liked the way Danish men dressed. They were neat and stylish – “dapper”, as she is fond of putting it – and she quickly became well versed in the simplistic design language of the Nordic countries. She drew inspiration from one of her friend’s ties, and a business idea quickly followed that involved her returning to her roots … for the raw supplies.

Robinson imports tweed, lambswool and twill from three specialist mills in Scotland, which she carefully crafts into accessories for men – handmade bow ties, skinny neck ties and pocket squares (handkerchiefs) – that celebrate the simplistic style of Scandinavia.

Business is brisk – Robinson has signed deals with several global distributors, and her products are already available in Berlin and Ghent – and she credits her new home town and country with making it easy to get going.

“Living in Aarhus has played a big part in inspiring me to start my own business.  This town is home to so many incredibly talented, creative and entrepreneurial-minded people,” she said.

“I found the start-up process was surprisingly easy. There is a lot of information available here to potential entrepreneurs. The only downside is that almost all of it is in Danish, so it can be challenging to read through all of the relevant documentation.”

Find out more at www.robinsonanddapper.com. The company offers free worldwide shipping.

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