The Woolkeepers – putting pride back in British Farming

With the rise of the popularity of Merino wool & the consumer confidence in synthetics taking a knock from the Plastics-in-the-Ocean debate there has been much interest in the keratin product.

Soudi Masouleh

Another highly informative interview with Charles Ross, a specialist in Performance Sportswear Design & sustainable matters and a tutor of mine at Derby University on the MA Performance Sportswear Design course. This time talking about how lockdown and corona virus has effected the wool industry. The Woolkeepers programme was created to inform will customers that the wool product has come from good environmental and ethical practice by using a system set up to record the route of the fibre. Read on!

Soudi Masouleh

Charles Ross

As the United Kingdom starts to recover from the lockdown prompted by Coronavirus, H. Dawson is rolling out The Woolkeepers programme. The national slowdown has given every opportunity for the debate to come back as to what is important: British Wool has forever been associated with a quality tag – that can now be certified. With the rise of the popularity of Merino wool & the consumer confidence in synthetics taking a knock from the Plastics-in-the-Ocean debate there has been much interest in the keratin product.

The demand for this greater level of both information and good practice has been facilitated by a collaboration between wool merchant – H. Dawson and wool buyer – Brannach Olann, and in partnership with some of their key customers: Royal Warrant holders Hypnos beds; the specialised bedding suppliers – The Woolroom; plus HDWool, the active garment insulation. The information will enable their customers to be assured that the wool product came from good environmental and ethical practice by using a system set up to record the route of the fibre, from farm gate to retail store. In simplistic terms it is known that a contented sheep will produce the best quality of wool, so assurance starts with animal welfare, progresses through the principles of sourcing integrity, paying a fair price and good provenance.

With the rise of the popularity of Merino wool & the consumer confidence in synthetics taking a knock from the Plastics-in-the-Ocean debate there has been much interest in the keratin product.

The journey we are all on is described beautifully by Charles Ross, Sustainability Lecturer at The Royal College of Art: “Good practice is an ever-evolving thing, at first there must be a move away from poor practice before embarking on a process which puts more back into the system than it takes from it”. 

“Good practice is an ever-evolving thing, at first there must be a move away from poor practice before embarking on a process which puts more back into the system than it takes from it”. 

Charles Ross

It has been the vision of H. Dawson and Brannach Olann to rework the conventional supply chain model and to provide the British sheep farmers with a new, sustainable and meaningful route to market for their wool. This dynamic approach is reinvigorating British wool by allowing farmers visibility as to where their wool ends up whilst rewarding them with a fair price payment.  Despite the fall in worldwide wool prices as a result of Covid-19, The Woolkeepers are ensuring that for the 2020 wool season, those farmers involved in the scheme will receive the same payment as the previous season for their wool, which is a great step towards genuine sustainability of supply.

A contented sheep will produce the best quality of wool

Certification schemes such as the UK’s biggest farm and food standards scheme, Red Tractor Assurance, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and EOV (Ecological Outcome Verification) are used as third-party verification models to ensure compliance with topics such as animal welfare, safety, sustainability, soil health and social responsibility. For the first time this is a British model that genuinely encourages British wool growers by supporting their animal welfare and sustainability efforts.

The Woolkeepers is a wool quality assurance platform which recognises assurance standards in agriculture and textiles. It is narrated by growers and supply chain partners. The concept was designed by H. Dawson and operates as a traceability platform for third party product verification. This enables a community space which raises the profile of British wool through transparency and collaboration. The Woolkeepers core messaging promotes sourcing integrity, traceability and fair price to the farmer. 

H. Dawson is a 132.year old wool merchant based in Yorkshire. Since 1888 the Dawson family has supplied the finest to the coarsest wool to and from countries all over the world through H. Dawson family companies. HDWool is a wool garment insulation business founded by H. Dawson and involves a highly experienced team based in the UK and USA selling to brands worldwide. H. Dawson and HDWool are based at the UN World Heritage Site Salts Mill in Saltaire and they are heavily involved in the drive to improve awareness of wool as a natural, renewable, biodegradable and climate-beneficial fibre. H. Dawson uses its global network to secure a consistent supply of quality traceable wool to be manufactured in the areas of clothing, interiors, soft-furnishings, carpets, engineering and industrial end uses. “The farmer, in my opinion, has been kept away from the consumer for too long, so we are wanting to create that link between the consumer and the farmer. It means the farmer knows exactly where their wool is going and a consumer knows where their wool is coming from”. Jo Dawson, 4th Generation leader of H. Dawson.

Brannach Olann is a wool buying business whose purpose is to get the farmers a fair price. Brannach Olann, meaning “Walsh Wool” in Gaelic is working on ways to support farmers who look after the land for future generations. The business strives to reduce carbon emissions through efficient haulage providers, strategic depot locations and site maps of all of their wool growers. Brannach Olann deal 100% in British wool for the British market. Brannach Olann has been instrumental in ensuring that The Woolkeepers maintains last season’s prices for this season’s wool – this is unprecedented in the British wool industry.  During a season where wool is at an all-time low, this helps farmers immensely. “We have a short time on this planet and can make a change for the better. Let’s make the change while we can. I hope to leave behind something that is great for the future and not something that is just an idea”. Alan Walsh of Brannach Olann.

Hypnos is a bed manufacturer with an illustrious Royal history to be proud of. This heritage and expertise is harnessed in its design and craft as it hand makes the most comfortable beds in the world. Manufactured in their Buckinghamshire workshops, you’ll find Hypnos mattresses and beds in the best homes, palaces and hotels all over the world.

Hypnos has a longstanding drive to ethically source its materials. The company has always pushed to understand where its wool is coming from, if it’s been grown responsibly on land that’s well managed, and with animals that are looked after. The Woolkeepers collaboration is the first-of-its-kind initiative using Red Tractor verification, the UK’s biggest farm and food standards scheme, to provide Hypnos and its customers with a recognisable benchmark that’s both understood and valued through its Origins Collection. 

“We are incredibly excited to share our vision for comfort and integrity through our new Origins Collection as we once again push the boundaries of innovation to meet the demand for healthy and natural sleep. This collection offers a brand new level of traceability that has really resonated with both consumers and retailers.”

Richard Naylor, Sustainable Development Director at Hypnos Beds

Woolroom is a wool bedding retailer based in the heart of England. They believe there is a better way to do sleep and understand that rather than making a purchase based on price, we should be thinking about what is going to deliver each individual the best night’s sleep, as well as what is going to have the best possible impact on this beautiful planet.

The Oakham based company offers a washable range of temperature regulating, hypoallergenic duvets, pillows and mattress toppers that are hand-crafted to help fall back in love with sleep – night after night. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of their purchases and want to shop with confidence that what they buy was sourced and manufactured ethically. Premium bedding fibres such as down and feather are under increasing scrutiny over ethical sourcing particularly from the Far East and Eastern Europe. Consumers are also becoming much more aware of the environmental impact that purchases can have, and as a result, are now starting to make purchasing decisions based on credentials such as biodegradability and end of line action and the avoidance of micro-plastics during use and end of life.  This is particularly pertinent to memory foam and polyester materials. Food has led the way with “Farm to Fork” and the increasing offer of organically grown food but the homeware sector has been slow to follow but now “Farm to Sleep” will be available! 

“The Woolroom represents an achievement of bringing together British farmers, shepherds, scientists and designers into a team dedicated to delivering traceable products that not only look beautiful, but feel amazing. That give you peace of mind, as well as a peaceful night’s sleep”.

Chris Tattersall. Owner & Managing Director.

For further information, contact Ali Atkins Tel: 07725 888 343  email:  info@woolkeepers.co.uk

For more information please visit

www.woolkeepers.co.uk 

www.hdawson.co.uk

www.brannacholann.com

www.hypnosbeds.com

www.thewoolroom.com

www.hdwool.com