Wool. It’s possibly my favourite textile, in terms of comfort, warmth, and look. If treated right, wool can last a long time too. But is wool ethical?
There’s been much debate over wool. It’s obviously an animal byproduct, meaning many vegans avoid it like the plague. PETA produced an exposé (warning: graphic) in July this year, showing certain UK sheep farms mistreating their animals. It does raise the question over all wool: how do you know how the animals have been treated?
I’m of the opinion that ethical wool is only that sourced from farms who treat their sheep well, and that the farmers are paid fairly too. To be able to meet this criteria, fashion brands need to be transparent about where they source their wool, and state which farms they work with.
Don’t Pull The Wool Over Our Eyes
Right now, it’s still extremely hard to find out where each fashion brand gets their materials. It’s often seen as a “trade secret“, but that is changing – fair fashion brands are using their choice of ethical farmers, producers, and factories as a real selling point.
For wool, the added pressure comes around the sheep themselves. I stopped eating meat due to the wide-spread ill treatment of animals, and I also avoid first-hand leather because I don’t want to support the meat industry. I don’t have as much issue with wool, because shearing doesn’t normally harm or kill sheep, goats, or alpacas.
However, as Lucy Siegle reports, there’s only one spinning mill in the whole of the UK, meaning the production of UK-only wool is severely limited. Right now, we need to look further afield – and it’s the Americas and Australasia that produce 90% of the world’s wool.
My Wooly Outfit
This leads me onto how I stumbled across what is reportedly the world’s fairest cashmere. Naadam works with nomadic cashmere goat herders in Mongolia, paying them 50% more than the industry average, and then producing their luxury knits themselves so as to reduce the cost to consumer. Their factories also use 100% clean energy, and avoid harsh chemicals and bleaches.
I met with Naadam at a recent trade show, and really enjoyed hearing how they’re cleaning up the industry – taking it from faux to fair luxury. My cropped cashmere jumper is the centrepiece of this outfit, and my knitwear collection too!
I paired my show-stopping jumper with a second-hand wool skirt in a grey blue (from eBay, as per usual), my new pair of recycled semi-sheer tights from Swedish Stockings, and white gold vermeil circle earrings from AUrate New York.
Where To Find Ethical Wool & Cashmere in UK
One jumper probably isn’t enough to get through the British winter, so I’m hoping to add to my collection from one of these other ethical wool retailers…
Ally Bee: Pretty grey and cream yarns from British alpacas and sheep, plus cradle-to-cradle cashmere and merino
Finisterre: Merino from non-mulesed sheep in New Zealand, guaranteed the freedom from thirst, hunger, cold, illness, and manhandling
Flock: British and Italian woollens with a complimentary repair service and recyclable packaging
Johnstons of Elgin: Superfine woollens sourced in Australia and made in Scotland
Myssyfarmi: Wooly hats made in Finland on a family farm, and knitted by a group of grannies
Naadam: Ethical cashmere sourced directly from Mongolian herders and made in clean energy factories
The North Face: Climate-conscious practices are employed by US sheep farmers for The North Face to offset emissions
Oubas: British and Irish lambswool garments, spun at their Scottish mill and made in their Cumbrian studio
Patagonia: Activewear using slow-washed merino sourced from the grasslands of Patagonia
People Tree: Sourced from New Zealand from animal-welfare farms and merino from non-museled animals, hand-knitted in Nepal
Stella McCartney: Re-engineered cashmere, as well as wool from hand-selected, high welfare sheep farms
Study 34: Responsibly produced high-quality alpaca knitwear made in Arequipa, Peru
Ted & Bessie: Ethical and sustainable knitwear made with fleece from their herd of UK-bred alpacas
Thought: Sustainable and ethically-sourced wool, as are all of Thought’s fabrics
Wool is a natural product. That means it’s natural, renewable, and biodegradable. When you’re finished with your favourite pieces, make sure to pass them down, recycle them where possible, or compost garments made from 100% wool.
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