A cup of tea with Enrich & Endure
by Isabelle Wilkinson
When we set up our first bricks-and-mortar site in 2015, we worked hard to translate the brand, that was thus far rather nomadic, into that first physical space. We enlisted the help of Kennedy Woods to design the interior and Sheffield-based MPH to build of all our bespoke joinery and our Old Street pop-up was born. It was important to us that the ethos behind Good & Proper was not only about the tea offering, but indeed reflected in every part of the experience. So when Emilie stumbled across Enrich & Endure on Instagram, an important relationship was born. Now much more than just suppliers of our aprons, brother-and-sister-duo Lorcan and Sarah have become friends of ours, and sharing the journey with them has been an invaluable support over the last couple of years - they even hosted us in Northern Ireland back in March! We were therefore delighted to sit down with the two of them to hear more about how they work with materials to produce aprons that are built to last, the rewards of keeping things local, and how they plan to further revive the ageing Irish linen industry.
Tell us a little about Enrich & Endure and how you came to work together.
We’re from Banbridge, Northern Ireland and we spent our childhood passing by Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, acutely aware of the declining market of linen-making that was historically vital to the local economy. After travelling the world and pursuing other careers, we sat down and decided to put our energy into reviving our local linen industry. Our goal was to create innovative products with soul, that are built to last. Although we set out as a homewares company with a successful range, we’ve always been aware of the versatility of linen and we were keen to explore other uses for this unique, natural material.
Being obsessed with quality food and hot drinks done properly, the idea of creating an apron just kept creeping up. We initially collaborated with one of our favourite coffee shops, to design the perfect apron for their team and the rest grew from there.
You now make aprons for the best cooks, chefs, restaurants and cafes in London, Northern Ireland and beyond. How do you go about designing your aprons?
When we design new pieces, colour is at the forefront of the process. We look at which colours work together, whether complementing or beautifully contrasting with one another. For example, if we are designing custom aprons for a new restaurant, we meet with the client and consider what kind of look they want to achieve. Casual, smart, quirky, subtle or statement - design details like pocket shape, logo placement, strap and stitch detail colour, are all considered for an overall effect. The interaction between staff and the customer is hugely important and what they are wearing can really help set the tone for an experience. We consider aprons as an extension of the interior design and aesthetic and know that it is all about the detail; the big and the little ones.
Where do you source your materials from?
We work as locally as physically possible - our linen supplier is literally a 10 minute drive away from our office (our family home) and our production studio is only a 15 minute drive away. We work with 100% Irish linen and that’s it - no leather add-ons or other fabrics. We simply love linen and are proud to work within such a respected industry that has such a strong heritage in our hometown. The hardware on our adjustable neck straps is 100% brass, forged near Manchester.
What happens next - how do you turn that material into an apron?
The first stage is the cutting - this is done in layers using a hand saw. The different components are then sewn on (we have different sewing machines for specific processes). Once the apron is constructed, we add on our signature bartack stitch detail - this is the tight zigzag stitch detail you see on the belt loops on your jeans. Bartacks clamp down the areas that might undergo stress, like the corners of pockets, and we often use a contrasting thread colour for this to add that extra moment of design detail. For custom jobs, we then embroider the client’s logo onto the apron, before finishing the whole job with our seal of approval - our little embroidered linnet bird that nests neatly in the bottom corner of every apron.
We have an awesome team of stitchers who make our aprons for us. The studio is so close to our office, so we are incredibly involved in the process, popping in and out of the studio every day, approving samples, checking products and personally packing everything up before shipping.
Some people might find the idea of working with family to be tricky - how do you find it, working together as siblings?
We always get asked this and the truth is that we love it - it’s certainly not for everyone but we genuinely get on so well that the dynamic just works. Neither of us can imagine working in any other environment. We can be brutally honest with each other so there’s no office politics to tiptoe around. We are totally upfront and direct with one another. Working with family means that you have the same common drive and you are always there to support one another.
Tell us about how the G&P X E&E relationship came to be.
We first got chatting to Emilie back in June 2015 after she typed #aprons into Instagram and coincidently came across our page. Back then we were still a linen homewares company and had just started collaborating with local businesses to make their staff aprons, Good & Proper tea was our very first London job and now the trade side of our business is primarily focused on London, so we have Emilie to thank for the intro into the big smoke! We are so grateful for the random #aprons search - without knowing it at the time, it completely changed the pathway of our business. We immediately loved the Good & Proper ethos and Emilie’s passion for tea and detail. We chatted back and forth via Skype - I remember Lorcan and I having a kind of ‘apron fashion show’ in front of the laptop, holding up different colours of linen and pocket shapes. As the concept developed, we created mock-up designs and prototype samples until we finally got the perfect apron.
How do you feel when you see your aprons in action?
SO proud - it’s the best feeling ever! Our apron community is so varied from cooks, baristas, florists, silversmiths, ceramicists and many more incredibly creative talents. We feel so honoured when we see our aprons hard at work! Instagram is great for this and we love it when anyone tags us with their #ApronsInAction
Aside from seeing your products being used everyday, what has been your proudest moment of business so far?
We have had so many proud moments, but I guess one of the greats was a few months ago when I was standing in the culinary section of WHSmith and looked around to see our aprons on the covers of several of the books. Knowing that some of our favourite people are creating delicious food, drinks and products wearing our aprons, and then flicking through the pages and seeing our aprons in action too, it’s a crazy feeling!
What’s next for you?
We are currently in the throes of designing more aprons for our online shop and will be adding them to the collection in the New Year. This next range will have a big focus on colour with all the designs having some strong contrast detail (like clashing straps and pockets and bright stitch detail). We are also planning to introduce a new cross-back apron - we have been testing it out for months, checking the details and we have fallen in love. It’s going to be super comfy and casual.
And finally, you’ve told us about your attention to detail, and the care you take with each and every product; why is this way of working important to you?
Our aprons are handmade, and we obsess over every little detail, never cutting corners to ensure the highest quality. Our ethos is pretty simple - quality materials, longevity, local craftsmanship and top-class design, so no matter how often you wrap it around you, or rub your hands down it; it just gets better with age. For us, it’s all about community and getting to know the people who wear our aprons - those makers, creators, and doers are the reason we love what we do so much. We are constantly meeting such interesting and passionate people who inspire us to be creative, and inspire us to do things properly.
As well as supplying aprons to some of the finest establishments around, Lorcan and Sarah have also launched a range of napkins, and will be hosting a stand at the Good & Proper Tea Christmas Makers Market on Thursday 7th December.