In my article London Fashion Week: Doubly Green, I featured four menswear designers that exhibited at estethica—the green initiative of London Fashion Week, which requires participants to adhere to the three guiding principles of organic, fair trade, and/or recycled.

After posting the article, I had the extraordinary privilege to interview Isobel Davies of Izzy Lane, a voice crying out in the wilderness for the sanctity of animals that can only baa or bleat. When I spoke by phone to this impassioned knitwear designer from North Yorkshire, I was deeply moved by her devotion, dedication, and distress with regards to animal welfare.

Isobel is a remarkably creative woman, who pursued her dreams of a touring singer and songwriter. Her creativity, however, did not lock her into a musical box but rather led her to embark on an imaginative journey that is still unfolding. In 1994, Isobel pioneered the first organic home delivery box wherein she began collecting and packing fruit and veggies, delivering them to local customers, who now total 2,000!

When Isobel burst onto the farming scene, she was horrified by the brutal realities of the dairy farm. Farmers were burning the animals’ wool, while 80% of the nation’s wool was being imported from overseas. Meanwhile, the sheep were being shipped off to be slaughtered in inhumane ways. "Apart from fur," she reasoned, "no one questioned the origin of wool and leather—a gaping hole in the fashion industry!"

Morally unable to purchase the wool from dead carcasses of sheep and lambs—a hideous image that haunts her to this day—Isobel unveiled her creativity once again and rescued her first 4 sheep in 2002! Since then, Isobel has received innumerable emergency calls, compelling her to rescue a total of 600 sheep, mostly all within the past 2 years!

Isobel pays approximately 30 pounds ($44/33€) for lambs and 60 pounds ($88/66€) for adults, while the prices climb continually. Other costs include feed, grooming, medical care, and shepherding. The Sheep Sanctuary is home two main varieties: the Shetland and the endangered Wesledydale sheep, whose numbers have decreased to 1,800 breeding ewes, of which Isobel owns 250!

When I asked Isobel about her inspiration for the cosy "1970’s goes to the country" theme in her recent menswear collection, again, I was enthralled by her response. While admitting to predominantly British influences, Isobel instructed me that the wool lends itself to the pants, sweaters, and tailored jackets. "It is the inherent character of the wool that designs itself into the chunky knits!"

Izzy Lane collections are all processed within 100 miles of the Sheep Sanctuary. The wool is woven at an ancient mill in Selkirk, using hundred-year-old Victorian machinery and, then, hand knit into the plush chunky garments. While Isobel is researching natural dyeing processes, she informed me that the Shetland wool needs no dye in that the beauty lies in the natural color.

Isobel admits that we do not live in an ideal world, but she will never compromise her label. Rather, she prefers to set a standard for animal welfare—a choice that often leads to a host of sacrifices, such as foregoing mass marketing and retailer chains. But raising the awareness and profile of animals remains her sole reward!

Isobel Davies—radical, pleasantly rebellious, imaginative, passionate, and untouched by conventional institutions—is a lonely voice that will one day become a mass choir! Izzy Lane, sing on!!!

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Comment by shailini sheth amin on April 20, 2009 at 6:02
Hi Francisco,
Great to read the stories you write about lone crusaders doing amazing things in textile industry. They are wonderful and very inspiring esp for someone like me. I work in India to revive and re-invent age old hand spun hand woven fabric making technology. It is hard work and needs single minded commitment. When people around me are still driven by 'fast fashion' and cheap synthetics we work to produce and market fabrics made by smal,l dying units. We support 'almost carbon neutral' fabrics, furnishings and 'feel-well-fashions'. MORALFIBRE frees the environment from pollution and depletion and frees people from poverty. I would love to share my experiances. Please visit our website and read the story. I would love to read more of what you write. Many Thanks

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