Enrich & Endure: Bringing a traditional industry to a modern market

When siblings Sarah and Lorcan began designing linen aprons for their favourite local eateries, they became part of a rich history of linen production in their home town. We spent a day with them in London visiting some of the great cafes and restaurants they supply aprons to. The magnificent photographer, Jim Marsden was with us to capture the day and here you can see his images and read Sarah & Lorcan describe the quality ingredients that go into making every Enrich & Endure apron.

How did Enrich & Endure come to be?

Sarah –  Enrich & Endure came about by putting our heads together and coming up with a bright idea for a business that we could both enjoy and be 100% passionate about. We knew we wanted to do something creative and unique using local resources that were right on our doorstep, that resource was Irish linen. Our hometown of Banbridge is steeped in Irish linen heritage. Irish linen is such a fabulous product and it became very clear to us that we wanted to bring this traditional industry to a modern market.

Now we specialise in aprons – aprons for people to wear in their kitchen at home, or their studio or shed, as well as in restaurants, cafes, bars, bakers, florists and hotels. But before we put our focus entirely on aprons we were a homewares company creating linen cushions, napkins and throws. The move from homewares to aprons was totally organic. Basically we have always loved good coffee, teas, juices and above all, great food. We had always really wanted to somehow collaborate with our favourite watering holes and restaurants. So we started asking local places if we could design aprons for their staff . Word of mouth soon spread that we were designing customised Irish linen aprons, and so when more and more restaurants and coffee shops started to approach us about working together we began to think seriously about the idea of aprons.

Lorcan – We really struggled to come up with a name at the beginning, before going back to the drawing board, to the basics of what we wanted the brand to represent and the values we wanted it to embody – and there it was, scribbled down in block capitals on the original spider diagram: ENRICH AND ENDURE! It has no hidden meaning, it is exactly what it says on the tin and that is what we love about it. It’s our brand name but in short it is also our ethos, a constant reminder of what we are ultimately trying to achieve – a sustainable business that will stand the test of time just like our products.

Can you tell us about the linnet bird you use for your logo – how did you choose it and what does it represent for you?

Sarah – The graphic design team we were working with came up with it actually. One of the girls went home one evening and was chatting to her Dad — a bird watcher — about the different projects she was working on. When she mentioned E&E, an Irish linen company from County Down, he suggested creating a linnet bird as the logo. It’s native to the area and traditionally would have fed on flax – the linen crop. It was perfect and we immediately fell in love. We really like how the lines of the logo almost look like a traditional Celtic bird drawing. Another reason why we love it so much is we are big Thin Lizzy fans and with the lead singer being called Phil Lynott, it just seemed like it was meant to be.

There is a striking page on your website which visualises the ‘anatomy’ of your aprons. Any business is only as good as the sum of its parts – so can you break down your business for us?

Sarah – We work with all sorts of restaurants and crafts-people to create aprons that are perfect for their venue and team. We like to design aprons as an extension of the interior of a space. When we collaborate on custom jobs we work with the owners/managers at the initial design stage. Together we talk over what colours work best and what kind of styles are in-keeping with the vibe of the venue – be it casual, smart, classic or quirky. We also like to play with angles and shapes of pockets to reflect aspects of the branding or interior of the building.

Once final designs are confirmed we collect the fabric and take it to our production team – that is where the magic begins. We cut the linen in layers using a cutting saw and a jazzy chain mail glove, then the cloth is handed over to the stitchers who construct the garment with meticulous skill and precision. The aprons then go onto embroidery machines to get pimped up with whatever logo the client wants and our little bird branding in the corner. Finally, each apron gets inspected and pressed before heading out of the studio doors and on to its proud new owner, wrapped up in ribbon with a hand written note.

You state proudly that you source all the ‘ingredients’ for your aprons locally. Can you talk about these materials, and how ‘the local’ is important to you?

Sarah – Absolutely. Our linen is all woven in Ireland and comes from a supplier in our hometown – literally ten minutes from our house. Our brass hardware and care labels are all made in the UK and our production unit is only a fifteen minute drive from the office. We are so lucky to be able to work on such a local scale. To have everything right on your doorstep means you get to really know the people involved behind the scenes, from the gentleman at the warehouse who prepares the linen for collection, to the stitchers and cutters, to the delivery man. It takes so many people to make a production business like ours function smoothly and we are grateful we have the opportunity to know these people personally, it’s a really friendly environment to work in. Having production so close by also keeps you very much involved and in control of what is going on. It means we can run through samples quickly for customers on a tight deadline and always be able to guarantee when orders will be ready. I can’t imagine being anything but local in this business.

What makes the linen you use so perfect for aprons?

Sarah – We believe it is the perfect fabric for our aprons because not only is it breathable, durable, comfortable and light, but it is also drop dead gorgeous. It ages beautifully and becomes softer with each wash. We spend a lot of time in aprons ourselves and know that comfort is key. Linen is one of the strongest natural fibres known to man so it is more than able to take the rough and tumble of the daily grind in a kitchen!

When you began working together, what did each of you bring to the business?

Lorcan – Sarah is definitely the more artistic one. She has always had a real eye for design and is really creative. Before this I managed a property business for seven years so I brought that corporate, sales and management experience to E&E.

How has your upbringing influenced what you do now?

Sarah – We had a really fun upbringing and we both loved the outdoors. I was always very into art and Lorcan loved business studies/economics, I guess this has followed us into our adult careers. Our Dad is a fantastic cook, he trained as a chef and has pretty much taught me everything I know in the kitchen. His appreciation for good food has definitely been passed down to us and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that we are now working with restaurants and chefs on a daily basis.

What makes working with a sibling different from working with anyone else?

Lorcan – We can be completely ourselves around each other. We are totally honest and straight up and that’s why it works. We live together, work together and share a lot of the same interests and friends, there is no escape! Quite often siblings seem to have that relationship where they can be brutally honest, yet never offend or fall out.

In what ways are you most alike and most different?

Sarah – We are really alike in that we have similar interests, we share a lot of the same hobbies and hang about with the same friends. We also both have the same work ethic and drive plus we both want the same things out of the business. We differ a lot though in personality. I am very organised. I’m always planning ahead, writing lists, keeping a diary, collecting things, whereas Lorcan is much less organised and laid back. He is definitely more entrepreneurial and prefers to think on his feet.

Your aprons have found homes in cafes, restaurants, shops, hotels, florists and many more workplaces across the UK and Ireland. Can you describe some of your favourites?

Lorcan – I always think the simpler the better when it comes to the apron designs, we much prefer to let the fabric do the talking. My favourite colour is the charcoal and it is probably our most popular – it looks awesome with contrasting straps and bartacks.

Sarah – I love the bright colours like lava and turquoise but I agree with Lorcan – the charcoal is a classic and works well with almost any colour.

From looking through your Instagram feed, good food is obviously very important to you both! If you had to cook one dish for your sibling what would it be?

Sarah – Oh that is a tough one. I really love creating exotic salad dishes, I know it sounds like an easy option but I absolutely love experimenting with unusual flavour combinations and playing with sweet and savoury.

Lorcan – Shakshuka (it is my signature).

How do you feel you have changed as individuals and siblings through running Enrich & Endure?

Sarah – I definitely think Lorcan and I working together has made our family extremely close. We have a lot of support from our sister and parents. Starting a business has its ups and downs and having our family there to talk to and seek advice from is so important. It is a very honest environment, there are no office politics or rotas, we just work together to make this a success and enjoy the journey along the way. As individuals we have had a great sense of fulfilment from working with quality products that we are proud of and with extremely interesting people.

Can you describe a typical workday and a typical day off?

Sarah – So a typical day for me would be organising emails then depending on what is happening with production I would drive to our mill where we get our linens from and collect the rolls of fabric. I then bring them to the production team and go through the designs that need to be made. I approve any sampling or embroidery testing and then take away any finished orders. We check, iron and pack all the aprons before they head out to customers either before 8am or after 6pm (if possible) so we can get more office work done during normal working hours. To be more efficient and fair we usually do this together with the music absolutely pumping, it’s like a proper factory line when we get in the zone! I also run the social media, which just happens whenever throughout the day.

Lorcan – I am the one who usually works directly with the customer. I do all the sales meetings and Sarah runs production and design. I am often on the road meeting people and showing them samples. I tend to go over to England for at least a week each month and when I am at home, I am often on the road. An added perk to this side of my job is I often get to sample some delicious food and coffee at my meetings.

Sarah – I absolutely love to cook and bake, I try to make a big effort to create something interesting and new for one meal a day. I am obsessed with cookery books, I read them like novels! I am also a trained yoga instructor and I am mad about fell running. So my three favourite things to do are cook, stretch and run!

Lorcan – I am really big into climbing and cycling. I climb at least three nights a week and at the weekends I am usually out on the bike. This year I started growing my own vegetables and planted a plot out the back. I really enjoy it and have big plans for the future.

Enrich & Endure is part of a wide community of craftspeople and creatives and you seem to be very supportive of other small businesses, can you talk a bit about this?

Lorcan – In the most part we work with small independents. We love the hands on approach from a lot of customers and see them as an inspiration. In the beginning it was the small businesses who really supported us, they just got what we were trying to do and gave us the opportunity to grow. We still value the support you get through every order and understand how important it is to support other small businesses where you can.

What are your dreams for the future of Enrich & Endure?

Lorcan – We are so excited to continue to make aprons for the best restaurants and cafes throughout the UK and Ireland. Our plan for the future is to stay focused on delivering an awesome product and service and let as many people know about us as we possibly can. We also plan to introduce a collection of napkins to the shop using the left over linen from the aprons we make.

From what, where or whom have you learnt the most?

Sarah – I think I speak for both of us when I say our parents. Our Mum is meticulous when it comes to organisation – she definitely set a good example on how to stay on top of the administrative side of business. Dad was always very entrepreneurial and creative. We have definitely learnt a lot from them and are lucky to have their support.