Designer Yvonne Scales tells Sophie Dawson how she came to start up a business selling stylish country clothing

WITH horses, cattle, sheep, two pigs, six dogs and a number of Siberian cats to look after, muddy jeans and wellies are the order of the day for Yvonne Scales. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to look stylish on occasion. The stylish capes she fashions from British tweeds and fur help her make the transition.

Her range of luxurious cover-ups – and now gilets, scarves and headbands - is also increasingly popular with customers at the country fairs and shows she attends up and down the country.

Yvonne, a mother of three from East Cowton, near Northallerton, has always enjoyed drawing and designing, but the move to producing clothing for sale was born out of tragedy. After her husband died in a car accident, money was tight and she began making her own clothes. Her friends loved them and wanted more, and La Fille Rouge - named after a family pet - was launched. “I made the first cape for myself,” says the 53-year-old. “The first time I wore it, I felt quite nervous, but everyone loved it and encouraged me to make more. It just snowballed from there.”

Yvonne sells online, as well as selling her designs at a range of agricultural shows and horse trials through the summer. Customers come from a range of different backgrounds and wear her capes for all sorts of outings, from the races to the supermarket.

“They are so easy to wear,” says Yvonne. “I sold one to a photographer and she loved it because it was warm, but she can also move easily. “I made one for a lady to wear over her suit at her daughter’s winter wedding and I’m in the process of making a lace cloak for summer weddings.” She has also recently branched out into making gilets, scarves and headbands.

Bringing a feminine edge to farm and country living, La Fille Rouge capes use tweed and upcycled fur - “the fur I use is all vintage. I won’t use farmed fur,” she says - carefully put-together to give a fashionable feel. “I suppose tweed is always considered countrywear, but there is so much more to it than that. It’s very versatile, and also very stylish.”

The design process is extensive; Yvonne sometimes spends as much time deciding which fabrics will go together as she does actually making her pieces. “I seem to get bursts of inspiration when I can be making several at a time, working late into the night to get them finished,” she says. “Because the capes are lower at the back, the lining is visible, which makes it part of the design and as important as the tweed itself. On the capes I make, the collar is most important as I wanted the ‘Audrey Hepburn’ look.”

Using British fabrics is important to Yvonne. She uses the hand-loom Harris Tweed, from small family weavers on the Isle of Lewis, or Yorkshire Tweed, from Marton Mills in Otley. “The tweed from Marton Mills is exquisite and beautiful to work with,” says Yvonne. “Both companies have been very supportive and I was invited to Marton Mills to meet all the staff and designers. It was a fabulous experience.”

Yvonne says her capes can be worn all year round, depending on the type of tweed. “Harris tweeds tend to be heavier and more suitable for winter wear, but the Yorkshire tweed is much finer and regulates the temperature well.”

When she’s putting together her capes and other creations, partner Steve is her biggest critic. “He has a good eye. I do have to ignore him sometimes, though,” she laughs. And her favourite design so far? “I have several! I love my own, which has a matching skirt. I’ve recently made a green tweed with vintage stole which is a real eye-catcher. The tartan one is stunning. Oh my, I could go on and on…”

Yvonne will be selling at Kiplin Hall Flower Festival, June 19-20; Alnwick Ford Horse Trials, June 24-25; the Great Yorkshire Show, July 11-13; Reeth Show, August 28