A brand synonymous with luxury appeal and beautiful fabrics is that of Elle + Riley, newcomer to Osborne Street’s fashion fold. Established in 2016 by mother and daughter duo, Yolande Ellis and Elle Pugh, the cashmere label gives new meaning to soft and cosy knits. Zara Overton caught up with co-founder Elle Pugh to learn more about how the brand came to be.
How did Elle + Riley come to be?
Mum travelled to Nepal a few years ago and when she was there found a plethora of cashmere and met with artisans. There was not a lot of choice when it came to buying cashmere in New Zealand and most of the options were only available in winter, so we decided to create timeless pieces that were available year-round. Elle + Riley Cashmere grew from there.
Have you always had an interest in fashion?
I grew up on fitting room floors. Mum has always had amazing style and a love of clothes. When I was younger, she worked as a stylist and pushed me to get my first job in retail, there was no turning back from there!
How do you best recommend taking care of cashmere?
1. Gently remove any pilling with an Elle + Riley Cashmere Comb.
2. Fill up a basin or wash bucket with cold water and pour in two capfuls of Elle + Riley Cashmere Wash.
3. Gently squeeze the suds through the fabric, taking care not to rub, wring or stretch your garment. Rinse well, squeeze out as much excess water as possible, roll in a towel and gently squeeze to remove additional excess water, leave to dry flat on a towel in the shade.
4. Steam if necessary, to eliminate wrinkles.
Why did you decide to focus on cashmere knits?
We both love cashmere and there was a real gap in the market for it in terms of year- round accessibility here in New Zealand. A lot of brands did merino or cashmere blends, but we wanted to solely focus on one thing, and to only use the best fibre out there – pure cashmere.
Describe the Elle + Riley customer.
Our customer is discerning, elegant, intelligent and understated.
Working with family can sometimes provide its challenges. How do you manage working together?
Is it collaborative or do you focus on different aspects of the business? A bit of both. We have been working together for 4 years now and have a nice pattern and routine in terms of who does what. We collaborate on design and production. I focus more on our online and digital side of things and Mum manages and has taught me a lot around the overall operation of the business and financials as she’s had a lot of previous experience here.
What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t think I have one! Usually in the mornings I would walk my puppy George or go to Pilates. Then have a coffee and get ready for work. Most days we stop for a coffee and a morning WIP, then we head into the office or one of our stores. Our day can consist of merchandising and visiting our teams in store to running through our production plans and design for the week, updating the website, holding fittings or being on set at a photoshoot.
Can you tell us about your latest collection and the inspiration behind it?
We wanted to give the collection a really timeless and elegant feel. Cashmere is something you have in your wardrobe forever so our colour palette remained classic. Each design is something timeless with a small modern twist for a subtle wardrobe update.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?
If so, what is it? Year on year it has to be our Camilla Chunky Turtle Neck. I love oversized styles and it exudes cool whilst making the wearer feel cosy and fabulous.
The traceability of garments is becoming a more important consideration for consumers when making a purchase. Can you tell us where you source your cashmere from?
All our cashmere is sourced from Inner Mongolia. The companies we use for our yarn production have a GCS certification which was created to improve the welfare of cashmere goats with respect to the Five Freedoms as well as the economic, social and ecological conditions experienced by cashmere farmers, their families and communities in Inner Mongolia. The Standard lays out a clear and comprehensive set of criteria that govern all aspects of sustainable cashmere production. Regular checks are performed by independent auditors in order to monitor compliance with these criteria. Full traceability is available for all fibres.
Cashmere is a luxury with a higher price point than other wools. What are your top tips for investing in timeless pieces?
Try to choose something that will work with the other pieces in your wardrobe. The good thing about our product is that it is timeless, so no matter what it should work with all your classics and basics and should last forever. Buy high quality fabrics that may seem more expensive at the time but you will see longevity out of these pieces.
Best fashion investment?
I recently purchased a pair of boots by The Row. I have worn them 4-5 days a week since and I adore them.
And your worst?
I don’t know that I have ever regretted an investment piece but certainly regret fast fashion purchases I made when I was younger that you wear a handful of times and take to an op shop because they were too trendy.
Your Newmarket store is beautiful and luxurious. Can you tell us about the store design?
This was our third collaboration with Katie Lockhart and again the team have done an incredible job. There was a lot of space to fill so the challenge was making it feel cosy and luxurious like a home. We took elements of our store in Queenstown which has a beautiful calm feeling and reflects the timeless qualities of an Elle + Riley Cashmere garment. Katie designed a family of tables and freestanding shelving units that are more like pieces of furniture than traditional shop fittings. To elevate it further we have added in marble and onyx plinths as well as marble detailing in our shelving to enhance the Elle + Riley experience.
What is the best part about having a store in Newmarket?
It’s a place we have always shopped and the Teed/Osborne Street area has such a great community feeling, lots of locally owned businesses and other New Zealand brands – it’s wonderful for customers to shop who can find everything in one place!
What would we find in your handbag?
Not a lot! Always my phone, card holder, lip gloss and a pen.
What do you do to get away from work and de-stress?
Pilates, relax with my dog and my partner Sam. We often head away to Mum’s house in Omaha for some down time away from the city.
How would your best friend describe your personal style? Classic, effortless and feminine.
It’s 10am on a Sunday morning, where will we find you and what are you doing?
Walking the dog, having coffee somewhere in Ponsonby or cooking breakfast at home.
What’s next for Elle + Riley?
We’re looking forward to settling in to our two new Auckland stores (Newmarket and Commercial Bay). There is still a lot of unknown in terms of what will happen to retail and the rest of the world at the moment. We will be focusing on building our community here and abroad, and constantly improving our brand and product range for our customers.
32 Osborne Street