Mother and daughter duo Yo Ellis and Elle Pugh teamed up to create Elle + Riley, purveyors of exquisite cashmere.
It was 2016 and Elle was on the cusp of moving home from London, and her mother, Yo, had recently sold her business. Both were considering what their next professional move would be.
After a lot of discussion they made the decision to combine their skills and create a high quality and luxurious product. “Mum visited Nepal and got the idea for cashmere,” says Elle. “It’s beautiful and it’s lighter, warmer and softer than other wool.”
The pair began researching and sourced cashmere suppliers in Mongolia, who they’ve been working with ever since. Their pieces are manufactured in Nepal, Beijing, and Shanghai.
What Is Cashmere?
Cashmere is known as the ‘jewel of fibres’ and has long been revered for its luxe factor. It’s three times warmer than other wool and because it doesn’t hold lanolin it’s hypoallergenic. “Cashmere comes from the combed underbelly of the cashmere goat,” says Elle. “Creating the wool is a very slow, sustainable process to which there are around 22 steps. One sweater takes a long time to make and can use the undercoats of two to three goats. Once the yarn has been spun, it gets dyed then sent to knitters. It’s not a fast fashion item.”
Elle + Riley Designs
Elle and Yo design ranges for women, men, babies, and dogs, including everything from sweaters, pants, hats, and scarves to dreamy blankets and throws. “We try to offer something for everyone,” says Elle. “It’s great because we represent two demographics, so even if we’re wearing the same cashmere, we wear it differently.”
Like a good wine, quality cashmere improves with age and gets softer. We want our sweaters to be passed onto the next generation and for this reason, we have created our own care products. There’s an all-natural wash, cedar blocks to help ward away moths, and cotton storage bags to keep out moths, dust and lint. If you care for and love your cashmere, it will love you back.”
A Tactile Experience
The original intention was for Elle + Riley to be an online retail store. “But we soon realised people wanted to come and try it on, cashmere is tactile, it’s an experience,” says Elle.
Starting out with events in people’s homes, Elle and Yo trialled a pop-up store in Ponsonby. “Then, eighteen months ago we set up our flagship store on Ponsonby Road, and six months ago we opened in Christchurch. We will be opening our third store in Queenstown this winter,” says Elle.
The partnership is working well. “We share a lot of the load,” says Elle. “We do the design process together, which is classic rather than fashion forward. I look after the digital side of things and we both like to work in the store as much as possible so we can meet our customers.”
Elle’s and Yo’s backgrounds have come together seamlessly. “I have a retail background as has Mum, plus she is experienced in business—together we’re learning about the bits we don’t know,” says Elle. “We’ve always been close, but naturally we spend a lot more time together now we’re business partners.”
How To Care For Cashmere
Don’t wash it too often—once every five or six wears if necessary.
Hand wash in cold water.
Lay flat to dry out of the sun.
Use a de-pilling comb to remove any small pills from your knitwear.
Store in protective cotton bags with cedar blocks to help repel moths.
Cashmere adds class and luxury to the traditional jeans and sneakers look.
It’s the perfect choice for dinner dates on in between warm and cold evenings.
A cashmere hoodie worn on the way to pilates or yoga is a chic look.
Cashmere pants, ponchos, and travel wraps are the perfect travelling companion.