Amelia’s Magazine | Izzy Lane: an interview with ethical knitwear designer Isobel Davies

Yelena Bryksenkova Izzy Lane AW 08-09
Izzy Lane A/W 2008 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

What was the path to setting up Izzy Lane? 
I started an organic food company when I became aware of the hundreds of permitted toxic chemicals used in food production that are wreaking devastation on our wildlife and natural world. Through my work with organic farmers I then discovered what was happening in the wool industry – that farmers were burying and burning their wool because they were paid such a pittance. Because we do not use wool as much as we used to the British textile industry, viagra dosage buy more about once the powerhouse of the nation, is on its knees – as are the communities it once supported. I had no training in fashion but I’d always had an interest in clothes which was nurtured when I lived in London as a singer and songwriter and playing in bands as a bass and saxophone player. If you are creative, you tend to be able to transfer that creativity across different media, and I became determined to start a label using British wool.

Your sheep are rescued from abattoirs – it all sounds very romantic, but how do you find them and rescue them? 
I physically don’t go to abattoirs. I think if I ever saw inside one I would never get over it for the rest of my life. I intervene before it gets that far. I am contacted by breeders who tell me what animals they are sending to slaughter and then I buy them at the market price. I can’t refuse any animals once I am aware of them – I feel it is my responsibility to rescue them. Thankfully the rate at which I am contacted has slowed. The shepherd who looks after them rolls his eyes when I tell him a new batch is arriving. He also gets annoyed that I am being made to pay the full price – some of the sheep arrive with health problems which need a lot of veterinary care.

Izzy Lane A/W 2008 by Yelena Bryksenkova
Izzy Lane A/W 2008 by Yelena Bryksenkova.

Where are you based now?
I moved up to Richmond, Yorkshire a few years ago and it took some adjusting to – I miss my favourite restaurants, the markets and the cosmopolitan buzz of London. However, I am living in the most stunningly beautiful landscape where I can drive for hours without seeing another car. I love walking in the hills with my black labrador, putting life into perspective, but I still go back to London to go shopping and see my friends. It would have been a different story ten years ago but thanks to technology I can do all my work from here.

How does the landscape and people affect the way that you design? 
I think that what one designs comes from many influences, both past and present – most that we are probably unaware of. For example, details of treasured garments from childhood, mother’s coat, old black and white films from the 50’s and 60’s. I am sure the colour palette of the moors feeds into my designs.

How did dairy farmer turned shepherd Ernest Ayre come to look after your sheep?
My first four sheep lived in a paddock at the end of the road but one day they vanished. Ernest, who had adjacent fields, appeared and offered to help find them. He followed their tracks and we found they had gone on an adventure in the woods. I think they’d got lost and found it a bit creepy in the forest at night so they happily followed us back. That is when Ernest fell for the Wensleydales and he offered to take them on… and the next 600.

What has been the most interesting or exciting fact that you have learnt about sheep, since you started working with them so closely? 
I find it really fascinating to observe how sheep are really no different to us. They hang around in gangs and sometimes they will single out one particular sheep to chase around the field – but it isn’t malicious, they just like larking around. I’m always moved by the bond between a lamb and its mother and siblings. They display real affection towards each other…

Read the rest of this interview and see more illustrations of Izzy Lane’s clothing in Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, alongside interviews with 44 other ethical fashion designers and 30 fabulous fashion illustrators. You can buy the book here.

Categories ,Abattoir, ,ACOFI, ,Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, ,british, ,Dairy, ,Eco fashion, ,Ernest Ayre, ,Ethical Fashion, ,Isobel Davies, ,Izzy Lane, ,organic, ,Richmond, ,sheep, ,Shepherd, ,Wensleydales, ,wildlife, ,wool, ,Yelena Bryksenkova, ,Yorkshire

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