As I have just returned from an exciting trip to Iceland I was inspired to write about their famous woolly export. As you may already know I am a self confessed scandi-phile having lived in Sweden so needed little excuse to find out about the different Nordic knitting styles.
The famous unspun wool sweaters that keep the Icelanders toasty through the winter are referred to as 'Lopapeysa' but the yoke pattern we love today actually only originated after WWII. Historically an Icelandic sweater would have a different pattern according to which village it came from in order to help identify fishermen drowned at sea.
The Faroe Islands consist of 18 tiny islands situated in the north Atlantic between Iceland and Norway which is populated by 45,000 people. Here they also use a thick, hairy wool for their traditional sweaters which notably coming to fame recently when worn by Sarah Lund, the detective in the Danish Crime thriller 'The Killing'
The traditional Norwegian 'Lusekofte' or 'Setesdalgenser' has a long history and apparently everyone in Norway at some time in their life has owned a 'Setesdal' They were working men's sweater's but are still considered now to be smart enough over a shirt and tie for business attire. The popularity of the 'Marius' sweater from Norway came later from a 1950's film about a handsome ski instructor who wore this said jumper designed by Unn Søiland Dale. Originally in the red white and blue of the Norwegian flag today it is one of Norway's most sold jumper patterns and is knitted in many different colour combinations.
Sweden has many traditional knitwear designs but the 'Gotland' jumper pattern is the most distinctive. The small Island of Gotland off the Swedish coast has a long knitting history dating back to at least the end of the 1600's.
Danish knitting began out as single colour garments until the navy and white 'Skrå-trøje' of Sejerø appeared at then end of the 1800's. This garment sports some of the snowflake patterns we all associate with Nordic knitwear today.
Of course we have our own amazing knitwear including the Irish Arran, the Gansey and in particular the 'Fair Isle' which originates from the place of the same name; the remotest Island in Scotland. The official versions that are hand knitted here by a dozen or so craft-knitters take about 100 hours to make. These are beautiful unique artisan products that will be treasured for a lifetime - perfect for the slow fashion philosophy I want to be inherent in the Boy Wonder brand. Due to viking invasions and early trading with Scandinavia knitting traditions would have been passed on to us Brits so we can see similarities within these different knits. This is something I would love to build on and develop within my collections. So watch this space for more woolly wonders!
#Knitwear #ScandiChic #Iceland
After writing sometime back about how some UK high street stores are now offering and encouraging recycling schemes I wanted to investigate this further. Where do all these clothes go that we donate through such schemes and even through our humble charity shop? And is this really as sustainable as we think?
Every year over a million tonnes of textiles are thrown away in the UK alone. At least half of that is recyclable but we only currently recycle about 25%. When we do thoughtfully donate our unwanted garments we do it with the best intentions, hoping they will go to someone who will enjoy it as we did and raise money for the multitude of charities we now pass them on to. However after a little research it seems that this is not quite how it works.
Apparently second-hand clothing merchants buy the majority of donated clothing which is then sorted and bundled and then sold on outside of the country. A whopping third of all donated clothes globally goes to sub-Saharan Africa where 300 bales can be sold for £25,000. These cheap and often low quality garments flood these poor communities eroding many local textile and garment industries and eradicating beautiful craftsmanship and handiwork skills at the same time.
Some of the textiles that are unusable as clothing gets passed onto other textile processors who turn them into wiping cloths or other things such as insulation, toy stuffing and carpet padding.
Of course it is far better to donate or recycle old clothing than to send it to landfill but does the idea that we are doing some good by doing this makes us feel that is ok to just buy more? The second-hand clothing sector helps this feel sustainable when actually the rate of consumption is anything but. If we really want to pass these on to be reused maybe we could to try other ideas such as clothes swapping or maintaining our clothing?
Many items are discarded because they need repairing or are stained which could all be dealt with by us if we were willing. Sewing is a useful skill to learn and one all our grandmothers would have done. Stains can be dealt with by dying a different colour. Buttons can be quickly re-attached and holes darned or patched. Some could even but used for the kid's dressing up box!
But the biggest and most important message from this, I believe, is to buy less and buy better quality. That way we won't want to throw or give garments away. We will cherish them and they will last longer than the latest trend or fad from the glossy magazines.
#SustainableFashion #SecondHandClothes #BuyLess
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Now I am starting to source fabrics for the launch collection I am beginning to realise just how difficult this is. I want to use not only sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton or bamboo but also want the fabrics and components such as zips and buttons to be made in Britain. I can hopefully be more certain of the suppliers ethics and the product's provenance if I am sourcing from UK manufacturers. However I am making it doubly hard for myself in wanting both eco credentials and British made goods.
There seems to be very little organic cloth available in the UK at the moment but I am hoping this will increase over time. I have discovered Discovery Knitting (excuse the pun!) who knit GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic jerseys and are based near me. So that's my t-shirts and sweatshirts covered with very little fuel emissions at my end.
There is also the Organic Textile Company who are based in Wales and hold a varied range of fabrics from denim to cotton poplin for shirts. They buy in their fabrics from GOTS certified mills in India, Turkey and China, many of which are made on small hand looms in an artisanal way. The company return some of their profits to help the Indian weavers they work with and support local initiatives. I would rather use British made goods to create an authentically British product but I shall have to compromise on this until more becomes available.
Offset Warehouse have a variety of sustainable fabrics that are ethically sourced but none were suitable for what I needed.
Both these companies will not be able to cover all my fabric needs so I am also looking into a some British woollen weavers who are over 175 years old. It would be amazing to include this textile heritage into the collection, even though they don't stock organic products.
As for components and trims there are not many UK manufacturers left. I managed to find one button manufacturer Courtney & Co. who use corozo to make buttons. These are made from the nut of the Tagua tree from central America, which is a highly sustainable and eco-friendly material. However they only make one style of button and I will need more than that so again I will have to re-think my options until I can find other products.
So if anyone can recommend any UK textile mills making sustainable fabrics or UK manufacturers making eco friendly components please let me know :-)
#SustainableFashion #OrganicFabrics #MadeInBritain
Meet the Manufacturer
The Creative Process
On Monday I attended the Bubble childrenswear tradeshow in London. The Business Design Centre in Islington was bustling with buyers and over 200 different brands showcasing not only childrenswear but maternity, interiors, footwear, accessories and gifts. There were many inspiring labels and beautiful garments and even some seminars on aspects of the fashion business including designing, manufacturing and buying.
Some of the labels I was particularly interested in were organic, ethical and/or made in Britain. The Pop stands showcased fledgling designers and small brands. Among these were Two Little Magpies, a rising star finalist whose monochrome designs work to stimulate babys visual cortex. Their cute clothes contain design motifs to stimulate creative play, languages and learning. The garments are all made in the UK and use ethically sourced materials which are ecologically sound.
The Great British Baby Company won the Green Ambassador award (Congrats guys!) for their beautiful children's coats and accessories range. As the name suggests they are made in Britain using traditional techniques by companies that are over 170 years old. Heritage and luxury are embodied in their classic products that are designed to be treasured from one generation to the next.
A babywear company called Hello Mum also caught our eye also being made in the UK with ethically sourced materials. This brand who were another rising star finalist create baby gifts presented in a box with a hand written note for new mums to cherish.
All the best to these inspiring women and their creative businesses. :-)
#TwoLittleMagpies #GreatBritishBabyCo #HelloMum
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