A weekly spotlight on the fabulous independent businesses who make Nottingham unique.
We spoke to Founder, Creative Director and Rainbow Queen, Megan Crook, ahead of her week- long pop up at John Lewis with her independent business Megan Crook Textiles.
Hi Megan, thanks for joining us. Let’s find out more about the person behind the business! Can you tell us about your background?
"I was born in New Jersey and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania – a country girl at heart!"
"I grew up in a very artistic household. My dad was a custom cabinet maker and my Mum is an all-round creative human, working as a ceramicist, factory painter and running a dried flower business throughout my childhood. There was always an attitude of ‘you make things, you sell them’, so from a young age I was attending markets and selling my own hand crafted wares! As a child I wanted to be an architect, so would make and sell replicas of people’s houses from balsa wood – I was only around 8 and remember making $200 and being completely over the moon. It’s safe to say I was always artistic and creative, and was definitely encouraged to monetise my artistic talent from early on."
"I am a self-taught designer, never studying knitwear or fashion in a formal education setting. Originally, I had plans to study ceramics and print making, but knitwear was also a passion. As a 16-year-old waitress, I was spending all of my tips on expensive knitwear, so it dawned on me that I should just learn to knit to save some money! I became quickly obsessed, knitting under the desk at school and sneaking it into work – it’s safe to say I was knitting before knitting became cool!"
So, how did you come to start this fabulous business?
"After high school I had my son, and I started working in a shop which also sold my knits. Surprisingly, I found I was actually making more money in knitwear sales than I was in wages, which inspired me. So when I moved to the UK shortly after, knowing I couldn’t afford to send my son to nursery, I instead made the decision to set up my knitwear label and work from home, juggling parenting and knitwear design!"
"It started as ‘Crooked Knitwear’ and it has expanded and rebranded in the 15+ years since, to Megan Crook Textiles."
"I began working with knitwear piece workers, and taught myself to knit by machine, to have a more controlled and consistent approach."
"Within a year of starting the business, something awful happened when I was ensnared in an infomercial scam, lured in by the promise of business investors and exponential sales and business growth. They instructed me to employ a factory to make my knits and pay out lots of other expenses upon their advice. Upon arriving in Miami to film the infomercial, I discovered that things weren’t as they seemed, and I was escorted off the premises. This left me feeling depressed and hopeless, especially as I was living alone in the UK, so far away from my family and friends. But it’s safe to say I am not a quitter. I was determined to make it work to prove to everyone that my life and business in the UK had value. So armed with all these amazing materials, I wanted to use them in a different way than they were intended. My knitwear disaster had left me bruised, so I needed to make some lemonade out of these lemons."
"I began crafting hand stitched leather bags, using the materials and yarns to create stunning plaited handles. I did really well with these bags, and after a few years of word of mouth I built up a repertoire of events that I still participate in now. I dabbled in trade shows, and in 18 months I went from 3 stockists to 35 worldwide, which enabled me to work from home with my son while I fulfilled these orders. I manifested a blossoming business out of something that had really struck me down, inspiring my motto ‘be the rainbow after the storm’.
After my trade show successes, I was invited to participate in the Young Designers Awards, and won a spot in at New York Fashion Week, showcasing a collection inspired by Gustav Klimt and Bottega Veneta in an off-schedule show. Winning this award and making this collection inspired me to push myself creatively and led to me getting back into knitwear and teaching myself how to make garments. And the rest, is history! Welcome to the world of Megan Crook Textiles and the beginning of a long road to self-taught textile Queendom!"
Tell us what a great day at work entails:
"There’s so many! For me, it would probably *not* be sat in front of the computer doing admin! My favourite days at work are ones that I can spend developing new ideas and making – I just love getting stuck in! The joy of finishing a new sample and it being just as fabulous as I had imagined is pretty special, and when customers complement the style and fit of my garments, it makes all the *not so fun* admin days behind the scenes oh-so worth it!"
Tell us about your favourite service/product that you offer. Why is it your favourite?
"My embellishment work has become a staple of Megan Crook Textiles, I like to call it ‘painting with textiles’. Going back to my roots in knitwear, I always wanted to use these beautiful raw materials to create something special and unique. And unfortunately, sometimes even the prettiest of yarns lose their spark when knitted up. I wanted to celebrate these incredible textiles, so started using them as an embellishment, an applique, onto the surface of garments and accessories to really showcase these materials in all their glory! I place the yarns like brushstrokes onto fabric, and stitch them into position, creating stunning pieces of wearable textile art! This also means every embellished piece is entirely unique!"
What’s your ideal day out in Nottingham like?
"Nottingham is such a hive of creativity, it’s such a wonderful place to live and work. I make an effort to shop consciously, which involves shopping mainly vintage, second hand or from small indie designers. We are lucky to have so many of these on our doorstep in the city, so a day of trawling through amazing vintage and second hand charity shop finds, topped off with some nice food and a Bloody Maria cocktail from 31K sounds like a winner to me!"
Anything else you would like to add?
"Come see us! We love being a part of the creative Sneinton Market Community, and urge you to come visit the Avenues to check out our rainbow studio and all the other incredible creative businesses down here. And with bi-weekly outdoor markets, it’s worth a visit - promise!"
"For all our fellow festival lovers, I also run a brand called Get Crooked, which celebrates colourful and inclusive festival fashion, partywear and all things rainbow. Bright as the day, wild as the night!"
It's In Nottingham have teamed up with John Lewis & Partners and The Great British Exchange to provide eight Nottingham independent businesses the chance to ‘pop-up’ in the John Lewis Nottingham store throughout the summer.
Megan Crook Textiles will be in store 13-19 September. For more details on the event please visit www.itsinnottingham.com/features/the-great-british-exchange/