Information for consumers about British Wool Products

Top tips: sustainable clothes shopping, whatever your budget

Charl Knitwear prides itself on ethical, sustainable sourcing and production, creating beautiful pieces of clothing and accessories designed to last a lifetime. We talk to Frankie Davies about her views on slow fashion, discovering how we can all shop for clothes in a more responsible way.

Tell us more about the ethos of Charl Knitwear.

I wanted to produce a sustainable, traceable and ecological knitwear collection. After years working in the industry, I felt dissatisfied with the lack of responsibility taken by market leaders to source sustainable and ecological fibres, processes and care for workers in their supply chains. So I decided to show that it can be done in a kinder way.

I’m also incredibly passionate about preserving British heritage – in my case through the craftsmanship used in knitwear because this is my area of expertise. I believe it helps people’s sense of value and belonging in society, which is crucially important in the current climate. As I grew up in Norfolk it was a natural choice for me to look at Norfolk fishermen’s Gansey jumpers as this is a craft that is almost extinct with only a handful of people able to knit them today. I wanted to create a collection that utilised the language of this craft by reinterpreting it into contemporary pieces.

Give us your top tips on sustainable clothes shopping.

Create a sustainability check list. Before you buy, think carefully if this garment fulfils the criteria on your list.  Is it biodegradable? Recyclable? Organic? Is it made using sustainable manufacturing? Is it traceable? Has it already been recycled? One garment probably won’t tick every box but if you feel like it’s ticking most then that’s a good start!

How can consumers on a smaller budget manage to shop for clothes more sustainably?

Saving up for a special piece, whatever this means for your budget, is a good way to start, but this means that your acquisition needs to be versatile in order to work with your existing wardrobe and look good over the coming seasons. Fashions change so quickly nowadays that it is almost impossible to keep up with every trend and as a result, I think it is better to build up your own style, collecting pieces that suit you more permanently. Creating a sustainable wardrobe is more about collecting and refining its contents over a long term period.

Having said this, there are lots of creative ways to shop for clothes on a budget now, and I would argue that they are much more fun and exciting than just clicking on a website as you will find real one-off pieces at a fraction of the price of new ones, whilst also doing your bit for the planet.

Wardrobe swaps: these are apps or events where you can swap your unwanted clothes for someone else’s: swancyapp, vinteduk, swopped.co.uk, regain_app, swishlittlekids.

Vintage shopping: Cow Vintage has branches nationwide - www.wearecow.com. A personal favourite of mine is [email protected] – a shop based in Suffolk but well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

Up-cycling: Enrol on a sewing course and learn to customise your old garments or vintage finds into new one of a kinds.

Clothes rental: Some great recommendations on renting that special outfit for a wedding or big event - https://www.elle.com/uk/fashion/g29187954/rent-dress/

Factory outlet shopping: Get to know where your local factory outlets are as they often sell excess or faulty stock at discounted prices.  Community Clothing is a great brand which makes its collections from fabric wastage left over by bigger brands. The company books its production slots during the quiet times in UK factories so that their employees are employed throughout the year, providing them with a constant source of income. This also keeps their clothing affordable.

Why do you think wool is a great fibre?

Wool has natural elasticity and wonderful lustre – fantastic properties which don’t fade over time, unlike in synthetic fibres. As a designer, wool is much more fun to work with because it makes the garments really come to life.

Wool is biodegradable, recyclable, naturally waterproof and it really keeps you warm. I think we should be making the most of natural resources rather than using precious energy to process manmade ones.

Why did you choose British wool specifically?

I’ve become increasingly aware that Britain produces a lot of wool, often from rare breeds, that it is massively underutilised. Many of these breeds have been developed over the centuries for the quality of their wool and are likely to die out if we don’t utilise them now. 

Most wool used in the clothing industry is imported from abroad, which is no good for our carbon foot print and also makes it harder to trace back and check for animal welfare standards and for the quality of the raw and spun material.

We should be proud of our British wool heritage and cherish it in order to preserve the rare breeds we have in the UK. To support our farmers in a time when meat is not fashionable, it is crucial for them to be able to diversify – wool is ideal as it is cruelty free and a by-product of existing farming practices.

Find out more about Charl Knitwear and shop online - https://charlknitwear.co.uk/

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Top tips: sustainable clothes shopping, whatever your budget Rook - a cardigan/coat richly knitted with fisherman iconography
The Hardingham scarf, incorporating several traditional Gansey stitches The Hardingham scarf, incorporating several traditional Gansey stitches