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Sheep Inc takes eco-fashion to the next frontier – Robb Report

When it comes to climate change, the proverbial jury is out. More than 97% of actively publishing climatologists agree that anthropogenic temperature change is a reality, and challenges to this claim, though abundant, never stand up to even cursory scrutiny. The causes are myriad but, notoriously, fashion contributes up to 10% of global carbon emissions per year.

If these grim realities are irreversible, however, Edzard van der Wyck, the co-founder of Sheep Inc, never got the memo. The cardigans, hoodies and jumpers from the three-year-old London label are not only beautifully cut and crafted, but also biodegradable and designed to last a lifetime. Moreover, according to the company, its operations save more carbon than they emit.

“Our starting point was understanding how to create beautiful products while addressing the climate emergency,” van der Wyck said. Robb Report. “There are so many systemic issues with the way things have traditionally been done in fashion.”

Sheep Inc founders Edzard van der Wyck (left) and Michael Wessely.

Mouton Inc.

Besides CO2 emissions, Sheep Inc is zealous about responsible waste disposal. “The statistics are shocking,” says van der Wyck. “Over the past two decades, we have witnessed an accelerated growth in the production and consumption of clothing. Large amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to produce clothes that are worn a handful of times before being thrown away.

Following the appetite for fast fashion has made textile production one of the dirtiest industries on the planet, producing 1.2 billion tons of CO2 a year and, as van der Wyck puts it, “exploiting cheap labor to satisfy Western desires for increasingly cheap clothing. which are treated almost like single-use goods.

There’s no such thing as a tough moral stance to inflame social media with skepticism, so it’s perhaps inevitable that Sheep Inc’s social media posts are often inundated with comments from people, their mind sniffers. hypocrisy lit up at 11, eagerly dismissing all claims of carbon negativity. But van der Wyck insists the claim is valid.

Freshly sheared wool being prepared to be made into yarn.

Sheep Inc’s production begins with sourcing wool from sustainably raised sheep.

Ben Curran

“It starts with looking at product needs,” he says, noting that “the most durable items are the ones that will be part of your wardrobe for generations to come. What follows is to determine which material is best suited to perform the desired function in the most durable way possible. »

Van der Wyck and his team found that merino wool ticked all the boxes. The natural material, used in many luxury sweaters, is fully biodegradable and effectively regulates body temperature, meaning it can be worn all year round. “It also has natural antimicrobial properties,” adds van der Wyck, “so it cleans itself and odors don’t linger on the fiber, minimizing the need for washing, which means it has a low impact on lifespan.”

Unlike traditional fashion brands, Sheep Inc has built its supply chain from the bottom up to control and mitigate carbon emissions every step of the way. In the case of Sheep Inc, that means starting with woolly sheep. “Our wool is sourced in New Zealand from sheep farms at the forefront of the regenerative agriculture movement, sequestering more CO2 from the environment than their operations emit – approximately 10.5kg CO2 per kg of wool produced.”

A lightweight crewneck ($190) and color-block hoodie ($220) from Sheep Inc.

A lightweight merino wool crewneck ($190) and color-block hoodie ($220).

Mouton Inc.

Van der Wyck insists that all of the brand’s suppliers work with solar electricity and engage in other sustainable manufacturing methods. But, the Facebook skeptic can (and regularly does) cry, what about transportation? New Zealand sheep farms are hardly local to Sheep Inc’s head office in London. Van der Wyck happily explains: “The reality is this: the low net emissions profile at the farm level far outweighs the negative impact of transportation. Transport, if carried out by boat as we do, represents a proportionately small part of our overall footprint, averaging around 0.6 kg of CO2 impact per sweater. Compared to the 10.5 kg of CO2 that Sheep Inc’s farms remove from the environment, shipping costs are minimal.

Of course, everything, even van der Wyck saying those words, has a carbon footprint. So how can a manufacturing method, no matter how diligent, be carbon negative? “We invest 5% of our income in regenerative biodiversity projects,” he says, referring to a fund the brand set up in partnership with the head of climate science at London’s University College.

A flock of sheep in New Zealand, where Sheep Inc sources its wool.

A flock of sheep in New Zealand, where Sheep Inc sources its wool.

Aaron Smale

Each sweater is fully traceable, back to the sheep it came from, via a QR code tag on the hem (made from a bioplastic derived from castor beans, of course). Van der Wyck is adamant that it’s more than just a marketing gimmick: “A simple tap of your phone lets you see the journey of the sweater, its carbon footprint at every step of the supply chain. supply, and it also lets you name and track a real one – live sheep on one of the farms that supplied the wool.

Ultimately, it’s about getting people to think more deeply about what they’re buying: “Every product carries a story of creation, and that provenance – the journey of a garment – must be taken into account. before you make a purchase…the awareness is where the change really starts to take shape.”

Unfortunately for those social media opponents craving green shame, van der Wyck’s explanations are pretty watertight. Cynicism makes it easy to assume that planet-friendly brands are only there for the marketing potential, but what if green kudos were just happy guarantees of doing the right thing? Sheep Inc certainly proves that the latter is possible.

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds