Booming mill needs bigger workforce

Barrie managing director Jim Carrie
Barrie managing director Jim Carrie

Staff at Barrie Knitwear are on overtime until more workers can be taken on to keep up with the demand for its luxury products.

That is the message this week from managing director Jim Carrie, who has revealed that not only is there an urgent need for more skilled employees at the Burnfoot factory – but that the workforce could soar to levels similar to those of more than two decades ago.

“Business is busy and we would like more skilled people, many more,” revealed Mr Carrie. “The factory was built to house more people and we aim to fill it again.”

Such a positive admission is the latest instalment of good news at Barrie, which has continued to go from strength to strength since being bought by Chanel in 2012 – although the mill had been profitable for 10 years before Dawson International went into administration. Since then the factory has increased employee numbers from 175 to 215, invested more than £1million in knitting machines, and set up a training school that has 15 apprentices learning their trade.

And having opened its first store in Paris in July and another in London just recently, the future certainly looks bright for the 112-year old mill.

Mr Carrie, who has been at the helm for 22 years, said: “As we get more and more into fashion-type products, the complexity increases enormously, as does the amount of time it takes to make the garments. Our need is for vital hand skills such as body linking, collar linking, hand-sewing and stitching.”

He added: “We set up the training school to cope with people retiring, but now we need it to increase our workforce. It is great news for everybody; we could take another 50 people.”

Barrie’s launched its own 20-piece debut collection for Autumn-Winter 2014 last year – fronted by actress Lily Collins (daughter of Phil) and shot by Lagerfeld – and having sold spring-summer 2015, and now developing autumn-winter 2015, the boss says they curretly need 10-20 new employees to further develop their luxury cashmere lines, stating: “Our target is major retailers worlwide. Barries garments, designed by a designer already with Chanel, are complicated. Some of the garments take ten hours to knit, which is why we need more skilled people. The factory is really busy, and people are working long hours.”

Alongside a main showroom in Paris, the Barries brand is also stocked at luxury retailers like Harrods – and Mr Carrie says the 25-year relationship with Chanel is as strong as ever. Alluding to such couture customers, he added: “That is what differentiates us, the total focus on quality. People spend a lot of money because they get the best, and such quality is going up and up.”