Meet Cheshire-based interiors textile designer Zoe Glencross
- Credit: zoeglencross.com
Finding your bliss often comes from a chance meeting, and that’s precisely what happened with Zoe Glencross, whose Mottram St. Andrew-based textile design business is going from strength to strength
Zoe Glencross is the founder of textile design business Zoe Glencross, which, with more than 30,000 followers on Instagram, has found a ready and willing audience for her nature-inspired prints.
Zoe lives with her family, barrister husband Jonah and children Ben and Toby, in a converted barn in Mottram St. Andrew, moving here from Didsbury just over eight years ago. Having studied law at university, the key thing she learned was that law was not the career for her, but instead joined Marks & Spencer as an assistant buyer, in their London offices.
‘That was my first experience with working with product, with designers and suppliers. The standards are very high, at that time everything they were making was predominantly made in the UK and I learned a lot about developing a range, at looking at the cohesiveness of design and a collection. I enjoyed my job and learned a lot. Then I met my now husband, who had a pupillage in Manchester and eventually followed him north.’
Six years later, the couple started a family, and Zoe took a career break, leading to a fortuitous meeting.
'I met Jacqueline Waggett, at a toddler group,’ Zoe explains. ‘She’s a fashion designer, and had designed the Pacapod baby changing bag a year earlier and had got into John Lewis. We just immediately clicked and she asked me to come and work for her, as she was on her own and needed some support. I spent about four years with her, and learned a lot about launching and growing a brand. I was so inspired by her – she showed me, all the time, what can be achieved. Her business then relocated to Devon and shortly after that we moved to Mottram St. Andrew.’
Zoe credits the move to the Cheshire countryside with inspiring her to start her own business.
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‘When we bought the barn here it was still in its pre-developed state, and the developers wanted to make it ultra-modern, really contemporary, which we didn’t want. We wanted it to reflect the rural environment around us, and its own history. So once they had taken it to first fix, I stepped into a project manager role, working with all the various trades and designers to get the house we wanted. It was a really nice creative project and then once we’d moved in I started thinking about setting up my own business.’
Wanting to unite her experience of bringing a small brand to market and her love of interior design Zoe pondered many and various options. It was an advertisement for a fabric printing course, run by fabric designer Vanessa Arbuthnott, that proved the key to Zoe’s dilemma.
‘I went on a day course and absolutely fell in love with it. I came back and said to my husband, I have got to do this. It was like flicking a switch. I went online and bought some basic lino-carving equipment and few silk screens and set it up on my kitchen table. I was making loads of mistakes but gradually I got more and more positive feedback – friends asked to buy pieces to frame, for example, so I decided to see if I could design and market a little collection of interiors fabrics.’
Zoe invested in more equipment, set up in the garage and knuckled down to some serious printing.
‘Every design begins as a sketch,’ she explains. ‘Some I then carve into lino and use that to handprint onto linen. Some I take my sketch and transfer this onto a silkscreen. My whirlwind design, for example, started as a single linocut leaf, which I then repeatedly printed in a circular motion. I have a blend of techniques that I use. I’m not just a linocut printer, or a silkscreen printer, I tend to combines different techniques. I think that comes partly from not being classically trained. I didn’t go to art school, so there are no rules in my head of how things should be done. Once I am happy with the printed fabric, then it gets scanned and we work with the screen makers to scale it into a big silk screen for production. It’s all done in the UK, everything including our homewares, nothing comes from China.
‘I produced loads of designs at the start, all hand-printed, and because of my job with Pacapod knew I would be wise to run some focus groups and get some honest feedback. It was a bit scary, I was so nervous – this would be make or break, really. It all went really well and was a huge confidence boost to just go for it.’
Go for it she did, sourcing production in the UK, and linen and cotton fabrics. During this time she built her website and her friend Andrea, of Plush Upholstery Workshops in Altrincham, had her students reupholster various pieces with Zoe’s fabrics which were then photographed for the site. The business officially launched in June 2015, and within a matter of weeks Zoe won an award from Country Homes & Interiors magazine, which gave her three sessions with Suzie Watson as a mentor, and was runner up in the One to Watch category in the Homes & Gardens Interior Design Awards. All this gave Zoe some exposure and her business began to grow.
‘I started online only, and then started working with stockists around the UK. In 2018 I was invited to do a collaboration with sofa.com on some exclusive fabrics for their furniture, cushions and rugs, which was very exciting.’
It's already known the lockdowns of 2020 created an upsurge in interest in interior design, as people had more time and at home, more money and more will to make change. For Zoe, it was massive.
‘We tripled our turnover in 2020,’ she says. ‘It was non-stop, part of a huge growth in the whole industry. We worked really, really hard. I decided to clear through all my remnants, promoting Instagram sales in my stories. The response was unbelievable. I had accumulated many samples of fabric over the years and hadn’t been able to bring myself to throw any away, and this was a great way to make sure it found a place with someone who wanted it. During lockdown so many people were getting their sewing machines out, trying something new, making something for themselves and so it was a win-win for us all.’
Growth was maintained in 2021 and Zoe now has a team of five who support her with running the business, dealing with orders and freeing her up to design, in her new ‘posh shed’ as she calls it, with views across the countryside. It has also led to her most recent, and exciting, design collaboration, with Cotswolds-based designer and interior designer Bee Osborn, of Osborn Interiors, with whom she has created the Zoe & Bee Collection, featuring five designs printed across 13 colour-ways, which launched in January.
‘I am also launching a new collection of my own this year,’ Zoe says, ‘which will have very much a French flavour. I have also now added wallpaper, cushions, lampshades and candles to the range. We have also done a huge study on our eco-credentials. We work with linen, which is a really sustainable fibre, uses fewer pesticides and fertilisers, and is grown in Europe, so low road miles to us. It’s much more sustainable than cotton, which uses a lot of water, so we are dropping that. We also work with One Tree Planted, and a tree is planted for every order received online. We now also make scrunchies from the remnants, so nothing goes to waste.’