Since its launch in 2013, the luxury British loungewear label Yolke has been loved for its joyful prints and sustainable production methods. Now with beautiful, whimsical homewares in the mix, the brand is going from strength to strength. Here, Yolke’s Co-Founder and Creative Director Ella Ringner talks to Jessica Jonzen about her family’s Christmas traditions
YOLKE CO-FOUNDER ELLA RINGNER LAYING THE CHRISTMAS TABLE AT HOME IN OXFORDSHIRE. IMAGE: COURTESY OF YOLKE
For the nostalgic, Christmas provides the perfect stage both for recreating memories and for conjuring news ones. So, at this time of year, Ella Ringner, the co-founder of Yolke, is in her element: “growing up, my mum was very big on celebrations like Christmas so a lot of our Christmas traditions now are quite sentimental. Creating memories with the kids and as a family is important,” she says.
The daughter of artist and textile designer Hilary McManus, whose accolades include designing for Conran as well as creating the iconic Glastonbury logo, Ella grew up surrounded by colour and creativity. She started her career at Temperley London before studying textile design at Central Saint Martins in London, where the idea for Yolke was hatched, inspired in no small part by her artistic childhood.
ELLA’S CHRISTMAS TABLE FEATURES ANTIQUE GLASSWARE AND YOLKE’S LINEN NAPKIN COLLABORATION WITH DESIGNER CRESSIDA JAMIESON, FEATURING EMBROIDERED STRAWBERRIES AND WHICH CAN ALSO BE PERSONALISED.. IMAGES: COURTESY OF YOLKE
Ella moved from North-West London to Oxfordshire during lockdown with her husband, Humphrey Milles, and their two children, Scarlet, now seven and five-year-old Blue. Their new home in the countryside lends itself perfectly to Christmas festivities. “We had our first Christmas here last year and although we missed seeing family, it was lovely as we didn’t have to go anywhere,” says Ella. We could go out and forage, and the mantlepiece was covered in greenery and wild berries. I learned how to make a Christmas wreath and we just had a really peaceful time.”
A self-confessed city girl, Ella never imagined she’d move to the country, but like thousands of others who left London in 2020, the pandemic changed her priorities. “I never thought I’d leave and live in the countryside but now I couldn’t imagine going back. I feel like it’s slower out here and I’m able to reflect. I’m in the right place to make memories, whereas in the city I felt like I was always thinking – ‘one day.’ It is all actually happening here now.”
Here, Ella shares her favourite Christmas traditions and rituals.
ELLA’S FATHER IS SWEDISH AND SHE ENJOYS BAKING TRADITIONAL SWEDISH ST. LUCIA SAFFRON BUNS FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS. IMAGE: COURTESY OF YOLKE
I love the old traditions at Christmas, and baking is a huge part of that for me. We make a gingerbread house in early December and decorate it – we really go to town on it. I don’t use a kit and the kids get really involved and decorate their own pieces. On Christmas Eve they’re allowed to smash it up! It’s brilliant fun and they really love it.
I also love baking Swedish Lussekatt saffron buns for friends and neighbours as a little pre-Christmas bundle of love. My father is Swedish and we would spend every other Christmas in Sweden, so these really remind me of those happy times.
I wrap all our presents in brown paper from the Post Office, and then make ribbons from old Yolke silks or old clothes which are beyond repair. I’ll also thread the ribbons onto our old glass baubles, and these look so pretty suspended above the dining table.
A lot of our decorations were on my Christmas tree as a child. Some of them belonged to my great grandmother – we have some clip candleholders which would have had real lit candles in them which is ridiculous! But the same candle that was on there when my mum was a little girl comes out every year onto our tree. We tell the children the stories behind each decoration, and every year we buy a decoration each for them and I think those are lovely traditions to carry on – it’s a lovely thing when you’re decorating the tree to have all these stories.
ELLA’S CHRISTMAS TABLE FEATURES GREENERY FROM THE GARDEN, ANTIQUE CUT GLASS, VINTAGE TABLE LINEN AND NAPKINS FROM YOLKE’S OWN COLLECTION. IMAGES: COURTESY OF YOLKE
I always lay the table the night before a big celebration – I do that with birthdays and Easter too, so when you come downstairs in the morning it looks beautiful. I remember coming downstairs as a child and deeply believing that the Easter Bunny had been and it was the same with Father Christmas. Hopefully it’s not too overbearing for anyone else but I love it. There will be a Yolke tablecloth on the table, a wreath in the middle, and candles vintage baubles and antique glasses so it all looks very magical and twinkly.
My style is very vintage and there are lots of traditional things which have come down through the family – the one theme is that it’s very mismatched. We have a set of plates I bought from a charity shop in Sweden when I was about 12 for the equivalent of £1. They’re chipped and the gold has worn off but they’re still so special. We’ve got beautiful Christmas napkin rings which I found in a second hand shop and this year we’ll have our new napkins from our collaboration with the designer Cressida Jamieson which feature beautifully embroidered strawberries on crisp white linen.
ELLA WITH HER DAUGHTER, SCARLET. IMAGE: COURTESY OF YOLKE
On Christmas Eve, the children are allowed to open one present under the tree, and it’s always a pair of Christmas pyjamas – Little Yolke of course! I’m sure my daughter would prefer something glittery with a unicorn on it but she’s young enough for me to encourage her to wear them. We put the stockings up, leave out the treats for Father Christmas and try to get them to bed.
We all wake up on Christmas morning in our matching pj’s – apart from my husband of course! Then the kids open their stockings, we come down for breakfast. We’ll do eggs, salmon and croissants. We always have Classic FM on with the traditional carols playing and start cooking and we try to wait until after lunch to start opening presents. We don’t do turkey – often it’s a nice bit of beef. I grew up having a ham and my husband had turkey but it’s nice to introduce your own traditions, too. There is a real magic to the day – not just for the children, but for us too.