When I started Izzy Lane I found out that farmers were burning their wool in the UK in protest that the pittance they were paid didn’t even cover their shearing costs. Wool had gone out of fashion and what there was, was being imported from Australasia where there is dubious sheep welfare - the practice of mulesing and live export of hundreds of thousands of animals on horrific journeys to the Middle East. I decided I needed to start a British fashion label using British wool.
However, as a vegetarian, I needed wool from sheep which would not be killed. It led me to investigate the wool industry and the sheep industry. I couldn't find a slaughter-free flock in the entire world and on top of this there was no traceability whatsoever. ( I have since been corrected that there are some ! )
While there are a number of ethical wool producers in the UK, wool is generally a by-product of the meat industry. My only way forward would be to have my own flock. I wouldn’t breed, I would rescue them and let them live out their lives. In a short space of time I rescued 600 – old ewes, male lambs, spent rams - if it was going to be killed I would take it. I of course had to pay the market prices.
I focused on Shetlands and Wensleydales for the incredible quality of their wool. Needless to say I ended up with other breeds too – some of which I intercepted on their way to the abattoir.
I pieced together the chain of processors I would need. It took a long time as the textile industry was in ruins. There were weavers, spinners and dyers shutting down on a daily basis. I found the last of 52 worsted spinners in Calderdale – now shut. I tried to find a button maker, there used to be hundreds in Birmingham, the only remaining one was a working museum. Eventually in 2007 I launched my brand Izzy Lane with two imperatives – to help save the British textile industry – but far closer to my heart – to give animals a voice in the fashion industry, as they had none.
As well as creating a cool fashion label, Izzy Lane( www.izzylane.com ) was also a powerful platform to raise awareness and campaign for animal rights. I went on to win multiple RSPCA Good Business Awards, New Designer of the Year at the RE Awards, and be a finalist in the Observer Ethical Awards, the Daily Mirror Animal Heroes Awards and the Global Sustainable Luxury Awards. Izzy Lane has received extensive national and international press and was featured in two series of ITV The Dales and other BBC TV and radio shows. Our collections have been exhibited at London Fashion Week and in Paris, Milan, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and Las Vegas....... and in a catwalk for the Queen !
My organic produce delivery company Farmaround ( www.farmaround.co.uk) had funded the set up of Izzy Lane. I now had two businesses in premium products when the recession hit and some very difficult years followed. Many of the plans for the label had to be put on hold and it was all about survival and feeding the sheep.
This project is about kick-starting a broadening of the brand direction with designer Socks, Throws and a line of Knitting Yarns.
I am sitting on a large stockpile of unprocessed wool accumulated during these last few difficult years. With your help I can move it all into processing and manufacture, and into sustaining the sheep. And of course, this will also enable me to get back to fighting their corner in the fashion world and the world in general.
THE IZZY LANE SOCKS
Our beautiful socks will be made by a small manufacturer in Nottingham.
The Wensleydale Contrast Socks will come in a choice of 8 different colour-ways. The Wensleydale is a rare breed with only around 1800 left in the world. Their wool is soft, fine and lustrous.
The Shetland Walker Socks will be available in three colour-ways and made with cushioned soles. The Shetland is a rare breed with only around 3000 in the world. Their wool makes beautiful hard-wearing socks.
The Alpaca Contrast Socks will come in a choice of 6 different colour-ways. Their fibre is similar to cashmere - soft and luxurious. These socks are finer than the others and perfect everyday socks.
The Alpaca Bed Socks will come in three different natural colour-ways and are soft, cosy and warm.
All socks are available in Mens and Women's sizes. They will have 5-10% nylon added for wear.
If you choose a Sock Reward, I will send you details of all the colour-ways for you to choose from.
THE IZZY LANE WOOL KNITTING YARN
Our beautiful wool will be worsted spun in West Yorkshire into yarn and made into 50g, 4-ply balls for hand-knitters. The Shetland wool will be available in their natural colours of moorit, katmoget and smirgit. Along the way I have also rescued a mix of other breed types, each sheep with its own story of lucky escape. Their wool will be dyed into the brighter colours.
If you choose a Knitting Yarn Reward, I will send you the choice of all the many colours, dyed and undyed, which will be available for you to choose from including those in the photographs. We will also give you fabric 'IZZY LANE FLOCK Cruelty-Free Wool' labels to enable you to sew into your handiwork the origin of your wool.
THE IZZY LANE THROWS
These will be made on traditional looms in the Scottish Borders. I will use the Shetland yarn to make beautiful, soft, worsted spun throws in both their natural colours and dyed brighter colours. They will each measure 60" x 67" (154cms x 170cms). Perfect to throw on your bed or your sofa or for use as a travel blanket or picnic rug.
If you choose a Throw Reward I will send you the choice of all the different colour-ways and patterns you can choose from including those in the photographs.
All our products will be Made in Britain. The wool used is from my beautiful sheep which will live out their lives in peace here in the Yorkshire Dales. From their rescue and nurture through to the end product I can ensure the integrity and authenticity of the yarn and each piece. Your support will secure the future of the sheep and ensure their voice is heard – that sheep can exist without being eaten. Animal welfare is at the core of Izzy Lane, the animals will always come first.
The Alpaca in the socks are from friends' British alpacas kept as pets, never to be hurt or eaten ! Much of alpaca fibre in the UK is fromSouth America where they are also eaten as meat.
Risks and challenges
The sheep are generally sheared at the beginning of July when their wool has 'risen'. The wool is then sorted into different breeds and different colours. It is sent down to West Yorkshire to the scourer, who washes it, removing the dirt and grease. From there it goes to a carder who combs it ready for spinning, then to the worsted spinner. Once spun it is ready to dyed, or simply balled in its natural colours. It is then sent to the sock maker or to the weaving mill to be woven into throws. The throws will then need to be sent to a finisher.
The main challenge for the project is that the wool moves seamlessly through the mills without getting stuck in any queues. Bad weather can delay the shearing and mill holidays or VIP customers with big jobs on can delay the processing. There are so few mills left and with the fashion industry turning at such a rate and wanting to manufacture in the UK again, it can get quite congested.
I am hopeful though that by booking my slots and staying in regular contact with the mills, that I will be able to fulfil the project on time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)