In this guest article, Isobel Davies, founder of Izzy Lane, the British based ethical luxury brand, discusses the issues within the British wool industry and the reasons why she set up her brand. Izzy Lane have donated a beautiful knitted cardigan, made from Wensleydale rescued sheep virgin wool to be auctioned off at our Bid for Better event on 13th December.
Through a very convoluted route of being an avant-garde jazz saxophonist to being a singer/songwriter, then starting the first organic box scheme – I arrived in fashion. It was unexpected. I am part country girl, part urbanite.
Through my work with organic growers I discovered that farmers were burning their wool, as the pittance they were paid for it didn’t warrant it being moved off the farm. That rang alarm bells. This beautiful, versatile British fibre which creates herringbones, checks, houndstooths and hopsacks, our main export for centuries was being deemed worthless, ‘a waste product’. Whilst we continue to import wool from Australia and consume vast quantities of unsustainable, unbiodegradable synthetics. On further scrutiny I found that since our wool wasn’t being used for anything but carpet, all processors of the industry were shutting up shop by the week – the scourers, the spinners, weavers, combers, finishers. With garment manufacture outsourced to Asia – even the button and zip makers were going under and yet, it seemed that no-one was aware of it. There was no mention in the press. I quickly decided I had to start a British label using British wool and British manufacturing. I would draw attention to it before it was too late. Thankfully, I’d always loved fashion and was looking for a fresh challenge. This led to the set up of Izzy Lane.
Instantly, I ran into a brick wall. How on earth could I use wool from animals which are going to be slaughtered for meat. It repulsed me. I thought that somewhere there must be flocks of sheep kept for other reasons than meat, an ethical source of wool. But it didn’t exist anywhere in the world. I quickly realised too that there is no traceability of animal fibres in the fashion industry. Most lambswool is shaved from the skin of the lamb after slaughter. It was impossible to know if the wool in your sweater had come from sheep, live exported for ritual slaughter as a boat-load were last week, from Ramsgate (November 2012). I was shocked and it became another imperative for me, that Izzy Lane should shine a light on animal welfare in the fashion industry. I went on to rescue a flock of around 600 sheep from slaughter –a lot of male lambs and a lot of ewes which would have been culled for missing a pregnancy or miscarrying – there is zero tolerance. They will now all be able to live out their natural lives.
In my designs I fuse my metropolitan and country sensibilities into chic, cosy, timeless pieces, which will be worn for decades. When their time is up they will effortlessly biodegrade back into nature – just like us.
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