In recognition of Plum of London’s recent achievement in being awarded the Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury, the founder of the ethical alpaca brand was recently interviewed and offers his thoughts on everything sustainable, British and of course alpaca.
Tell us a little about the origins of Plum of London
A few years ago, owing to a number of sudden events in both a personal and professional capacity, I had the opportunity to do work with a knitwear brand which is where I first experienced the incredible attributes, qualities and benefits of alpaca fibre. The Incan society was literally ‘woven together’ by alpaca fleece with the very best reserved to clothe royalty and nobility and has since been referred to as ‘’The Fibre of the Gods’’, but only now is Western society starting to appreciate its incredible attributes and true value. Knowing that alpaca yarn was for some reason underappreciated in Western society, I saw an opportunity to create ethical and sustainable alpaca clothing which has the potential to revolutionise the knitwear industry. Armed with a strong desire to support the British knitwear industry, I then sourced sympathetic mills who can all be attributed in helping me realise my ambitions: to create sustainable and eco-friendly luxury British knitwear using ethically sourced alpaca yarn. This remains firmly at the heart of the Plum of London brand
What’s your vision as you take the brand forward?
To provide others with the belief and evidence that alpaca is the future of knitwear an quite possibly clothing. With this, I believe that alpaca can change people’s lives and ultimately the environment for the better. It’s an incredibly versatile and highly adroit yarn meaning that it’s purely a matter of time before other are fully informed, educated and have been made aware of what this yarn’s true capabilities. By continuing to create clothing which meets the ethical values our environment deserves whilst ensuring that the needs of the increasingly demanding consumer requires, we will create an evolving brand which will remain at the forefront of sustainably pioneering clothing and allow us to be a key influence in the future.
What are the benefits of alpaca over wool?
A huge and significant number! Alpaca fibre truly is incredible and needs to be handled first-hand in order to be fully appreciated. We do find that many people have quite negative preconceptions of alpaca but thanks not only to the incredible qualities of the fibre but also our ability to revolutionise the manufacture of alpaca yarn, the quality and handle of our products is exceptional and amazes all who come across them. Essentially, the first comment we hear when is that alpaca’s incredibly soft – its handle is far superior to wool – it’s always softer than they’d imagined. Alpaca also lacks the prickle factor associated with wool and merino whilst some claim that it’s even softer than cashmere. Royal alpaca is better performing than merino both in breathability and thermal qualities, hypoallergenic, naturally antibacterial and possesses incredible strength – it’s stronger even than mohair. I could go on – alpaca is mesmerising but I don’t want to bore you!
Why is made in Britain so important?
Often, the made in Britain label is seen merely as a reference to something traditional or heritage whilst avoiding the significant part it actually plays but it would be a mistake to undervalue its importance. Not only do we have a chance to support our own highly skilled workers who have shown huge resilience over the centuries but we strongly believe that alpaca not only has the ability to help revive the British knitwear industry but also revolutionise knitwear itself. The versatility and adaptability Britain has shown from the invention of the first knitting machine in 1589, to the industrial revolution and more recently to Scotland – famed for its cashmere production, the decline of the industry would be devastating to the communities which were not only built upon it but once thrived because of it.
Our desire to continue the historic achievements of the British knitwear industry is not simply nostalgia, it is borne out of a creditable belief that using our highly skilled workers, we can create a better product which will be revered and cherished the world over. After all, our aim is to create truly indispensable sustainable fashion which will be adorned and loved for many future years and shun the fast-fashion mentality that is all too prevalent on today’s high street and this is a trend we need to buck at the earliest opportunity.
How can consumers be assured they are buying from a brand they can trust?
Ultimately, it all comes down to the transparency of the brand. It is their responsibility first and foremost to provide a suitable level of engagement with the consumer and offer the relevant information. There are a number of new marketing techniques brands are adopting to raise their exposure and to promote their values which are wide and varied but thanks to organisations such as Positive Luxury, it is becoming a little easier for the consumer to fully appreciate the philosophies and ideals that various brands possess.
How do you think the textiles industry can influence consumer demand for sustainable and ethical production?
By creating durable and high performance products which are made to last. The tendency to use synthetic materials, the production of which also has a major detrimental impact on our environment, is culpable of the increasing woes our planet is experiencing. If we can source materials ethically, conscientiously and responsibly, we will soon be in a position to reverse this course. The ‘throw away mentality’ that seems to be imbedded in the psyche of today’s western society can also be halted as the consumer will become more acutely aware of the dangers their current shopping habits will have both socially and environmentally if maintained.
Describe Plum of London in three words:
Sustainably pioneering alpaca