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Girl you need to know: Elle Pugh from Elle + Riley

22 September 2016

You might recognise this local girlboss whose cashmere pieces are "classic yet subtly modern for the refined, contemporary woman."

WORDS BY Fashion Quarterly New Zealand

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You might recognise local girlboss Elle Pugh from her business’, Elle + Riley dreamy Instagram account. The cashmere label born out of her family’s Omaha home with her mum Yolande Ellis launched only months ago but it’s safe to say their swift ascent to being a household knitwear range has been nothing short of inspirational. The local duo say their pieces are “classic yet subtly modern for the refined, contemporary woman, her partner and her family” and we couldn’t agree more.

Miss FQ‘s Digital Editor, Skye Ross caught up with Elle to talk investment pieces, what it’s like working with her mum and of course, the luxury of cashmere.

PS: How cute is her dog, Clooney? Elle told us he’s the inspiration for their grey pieces!

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Miss FQ: Why did you decide to launch Elle + Riley?

Elle: After visiting Nepal a few years ago Mum fell in love with the country and the cashmere produced there, bringing back pieces for family and friends with the idea that one day she might start importing it. I moved back from London in April this year and was at a crossroads with what I wanted to do next, Mum had just left her business so we started brainstorming about something fun we could work on together. We felt there was no real destination in the current market for everyday cashmere pieces that were available all year round and that is how Elle + Riley was born.

For the people who aren’t familiar with Elle + Riley, how would you describe the aesthetic of your brand?

Modern, simplistic, sophisticated and accessible.

A photo posted by Elle + Riley (@elleandriley) on

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Why did you choose to focus exclusively on cashmere?

There was never really any other option for us, it wasn’t about designing clothes, it was about producing beautiful quality cashmere that we wanted to wear ourselves. Cashmere is such a premium wool, known for being warm in winter and cool in summer, and is so luxurious. Once you start adding in other blends of wool etc the fabric loses it’s beautiful feel and quality so we thought we’d stick to one thing and do it right.

Why is cashmere so expensive?

Cashmere is more expensive than other types of wool for many reasons, cashmere goats only live in specific climates like Mongolia, Afghanistan and Iran, where it is extremely hot in summer, and very cold in winter. The goats hair is then combed rather than shorn from the fine, soft underbelly; it’s a more time consuming process. It takes wool from more than two cashmere goats to make one sweater with each goat only producing around 150 grams of cashmere per year, so the lengthy production process and availability of wool are the two main contributing factors.

A photo posted by Elle + Riley (@elleandriley) on

How should we be taking care of our cashmere?

You shouldn’t need to wash your cashmere too often. When it does need to be washed, hand wash in a mild detergent, tightly roll in a towel to squeeze out excess water and lay it flat to dry. We have developed a 100% natural cashmere wash, and a cashmere spray which acts as a deodoriser to refresh your cashmere between washes. Visit our website for more information on taking care of your cashmere.

What is it like co owning a business with your mum?

It’s been an interesting journey! We’ve always been very close, and have a very similar style. It’s worked well because we represent two of our target customers so there is always a great perspective on style development and whether they work for younger men and women as well as more mature customers. We don’t create anything we don’t both like. We have different ways of wearing each piece as well which I think is great for our customers to see.

A photo posted by Elle + Riley (@elleandriley) on

Where do you see your brand in five years’ time?

Owning the online cashmere market, with targeted popups and collaborations with fantastic like-minded businesses. Our goal is to be offering new pieces every 6-8 weeks, so nailing production timings will be key for us. We also hope to visit our factories regularly, especially our new factory in Nepal – supporting these communities is very important and we want to build long standing relationships with our amazing suppliers.

Which fashion brands or designers do you admire?

I recently read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight the founder of Nike, which was incredibly inspirational so Nike as a brand definitely. Cliché but Chanel, always. I’m a huge fan of Marc Jacobs, Raf Simons, Philip Lim and The Row.

What do you think are the ultimate garments every woman should have in their capsule wardrobe?

I’m still trying to nail most of these myself! At least one Elle + Riley cashmere sweater and scarf of course, a black blazer, an oversized coat, a perfect pair of sneakers (or three) – either Stan Smiths or Isabel Marant’s for me – a pair of black heels with an ankle strap, a classic pair of sunglasses and the perfect v neck t-shirt – casual but still sexy.

A photo posted by Elle + Riley (@elleandriley) on

Why do you believe women should invest in quality items instead of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’?

I’ve actually lived by this forever and have been lucky to work in fashion where I could invest in quality items for a lot less than what they cost most people! You pay more for quality items for a reason – they are designed better, fit you better and last longer. I’ve never regretted investing in quality items of clothing yet I’ve discarded bags and bags of cheap pieces that fall apart, pill and die after 2-3 wears. I have pieces that I’ve owned since I was 18 and still wear today, enough said!

Elle + Riley work with the oldest cashmere houses in Scotland, Shanghai, Beijing and Nepal.
Follow them on Instagram!

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