Why recycling cashmere is cool!
You may have come across recent articles about how Asos and other major fashion brands are moving away from sourcing intensively farmed luxury fabrics. We think that this is great…not only because of the eventual positive effect it will have on the land and animals affected by intensive production but also because it shows that mindful consumption really can affect the world in which we live. Brands like Stella McCartney and Patagonia (and us!) have been working on mindful consumption for some years and through education and transparency it is finally getting easier to make better choices when investing in your wardrobe.
When I started Turtle Doves I concentrated on re-using post-consumer waste textiles. This was because of a firmly-held belief that the best way to minimise the negative impact of human activity on the planet is to re-use items already in the system rather than buying new. This is still something I feel passionate about; in fact, now more than ever.
Re-use has been the cornerstone of our company since we began and we still make all our cashmere products from post-consumer waste. The second-hand cashmere we buy is washed by us and hand-graded so that we can make the most of every piece. Only the perfect bits are re-used; using innovative and carefully constructed designs we manage to save at least 90% of each jumper.
Innovation really is important. I call it ‘waste-led design’ but it’s often also called ‘frugal innovation’ or ‘doing more with less’. We look at the shape of the items we have and always make sure that our designs maximise the potential of every piece. This may sound complex but with nearly 10 years of experience we have developed a design ethos and supporting systems which make this possible and practical, something we’re very proud of.
Click here to see a selection of our best-selling British Summer designs.
We are also proud to be a zero-waste business because even our own small pieces of cashmere waste go back into the textile industry to be re-worked into either recycled yarns or industrial textiles (for example carpet underlay). The longer you can make anything last in one form or another the better it is for the environment.
If you love cashmere but are keen not to add to the problems that mass-consumption can cause, then re-use is the best choice. It’s also worth mentioning that we pay the living wage as a minimum and employ flexibly to suit family situations. We have low water use and carbon footprint and do not re-dye fabrics.
We create high quality British products and are really excited to be a part of the growing number of British businesses bringing manufacturing back to the UK (read more in our March of the Makers blog here).
If you are interested in doing more with less there are a couple of ways you can join us in our recycling effort if you have a cashmere jumper which you no longer wear for whatever reason. We offer a very popular ‘Gloves for your jumper’ scheme which you can read about here or our ‘closed loop’ recycling system through which any Turtle Doves product which has come to the end of its time can be returned to us and we will re-use what we can and safely recycle the rest.
In 2016 we were recognised for our efforts winning a Gold Award in the ‘Green Apple Environment Awards’. This was for environmental best practice in the wholesale and retail sector and the winner of the same award the year before had been M&S! We have collaborated with the RSPB to help raise funds for the turtle dove, which is in serious decline. We are also proud to be stocked by Friends of the Earth, Amnesty International and English Heritage.
Below are the answers to some questions which have been asked of us in the past. If you’d like to add one to the list please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get on to it.
Thanks for reading, Kate xx
What is cashmere?
Cashmere is the hair of a mountain goat and, although originally from the Kashmir Valley in Northern India it is now farmed in Mongolia, China, Nepal, Pakistan and Iran as well as Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. The cashmere wool is collected by combing the goats in the Spring to collect the natural shedding of the winter under-coat.
What is the negative impact of virgin (first use) cashmere?
As with any farming which has intensified over the years there are questions in some areas about the treatment of cashmere goats, and the resulting effects of over-using the land they are farmed on. It is becoming increasingly clear that the industry is in need of change for environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare reasons. The re-use of pre-loved cashmere knits gives a much longer useful life to the original virgin item and reduces the demand for new cashmere items.
Why is cashmere so popular?
Cashmere is known for its extreme softness, warmth and lustrous quality which are due to its fine fibres. The fineness of the fibre is typically between 7 and 19 microns (ordinary sheep's wool has a diameter of about 36 microns) which means that it is very soft to touch and super-warm too.
Is recycled cashmere more or less expensive than new?
Cashmere can be hugely expensive to buy new and even second-hand is not cheap. Typically recycled cashmere items will be less costly than virgin cashmere items. We try really hard to create designs which are cost-effective as well as lovely to wear and we are proud to be competitively priced in the market even taking into account the time invested in recycling the product and paying the British living wage.
How are the pre-loved jumpers treated before being re-used?
Every piece of knitwear that comes through our doors is washed, dried and graded so that we know we're making it into the best 'new' item it can be.
Why is recycled cashmere more ethical?
By re-using knitwear already in the clothing system you are not only making it last longer but also reducing the need for more virgin cashmere. Over time this should give the industry time to initiate the changes needed to bring back the sustainable, caring farming methods which consumers are demanding.
How does recycled cashmere compare to virgin cashmere?
When you buy recycled cashmere you know that you are investing in a sustainable product which is already in the clothing chain. Each piece that is re-worked will be different and that's part of the joy of re-use.
Should you choose to buy new cashmere there are a small number of companies who offer a sustainable, ethical and transparent supply chain and it's worth putting in some research to look into what you are investing in before you buy.
Can I have my own old cashmere re-made for me?
We offer a made to order service which you can see here; this can be used to make memory garments and for this bespoke service it's best to email us here to arrange to chat it through. We also have a 'Gloves for your jumper' scheme where you'll get a free pair of our best-selling fingerless gloves in exchange for a 100% cashmere jumper; more on that here.