I rarely come across a wholly transparent, sustainable company that produces incredible quality in the most caring way possible, and when I do, it deserves the spotlight. A clothing company called Sheep Inc. was recently brought to my attention, and what I discovered about how they conduct their groundbreaking business truly deserves a Doff of My Hat.
As you’ve probably guessed from the title, Sheep Inc. specialises in providing clothes that utilise one of nature’s most versatile sustainable products: sheep’s wool. What separates this high-quality clothing company from others is that it not only produces exquisite quality garments that make its customers look good, but equally as important, it makes them feel good about themselves.
The Sheep Inc. Story
The knitwear brand is the brainchild of Michael Wessely and Edzard van der Wyck. Edzard has a background in fashion, particularly marketing and creative strategy, whilst Michael’s background stemmed from high-level roles in the financial services industry. The two men wanted to create their own clothing company and undertook extensive research into the market. They found a gap that the most conscious consumers wanted filling and knew they could be the ones to do it.
Edzard and Michael created Sheep Inc., a direct-to-consumer knitwear brand focused on sustainability that embraces traditional techniques and combines them with the most modern technology. The result of this is the first naturally carbon-negative knitwear brand. For most companies, laying claim to being the first at something would be more than enough, but “hold your horses” (or should I say sheep); there’s a lot more to shout about with this clothing brand.
I can imagine the conversation the two men had when they sat down to map out their vision for the company: “Right, we’re going to make the best quality wool garments possible, but they must be affordable, do exactly what they were designed for and need to last.”
“We’re also going to ensure that everything we do is sustainable. We need to be completely eco-friendly, and that is non-negotiable, so we’ll design software for our suppliers that tracks any pollution during every production stage so that everyone gets a full oversight of how our garments are made. We’ll get a company like Carbon Footprint Ltd to go through everything to confirm what we’re doing is being done right, so we have the proof. Anything else?”
“Well, as we can trace our wool back to the exact point of origin, why don’t we let our customers adopt the actual sheep that gave its wool to make their garment as part of the experience? They can even name it, and we’ll give them a history of what the sheep’s been up to, when it gave birth to lambs, and if we use GPS trackers, we can even show them where it is on the farm whenever they want; this way, our customers will always know they are doing something positive and feel connected!”
My imaginary conversation between the Sheep Inc. founders is based on what the two have thus far been able to achieve, and it doesn’t mention the other groundbreaking initiatives they’ve introduced, such as only sourcing wool from carbon-negative certified farms in New Zealand. In addition, all the knits they create are 100% biodegradable, and they only deliver their products using maritime transport, which is less polluting than air transport. There’s a whole host of other positive things they are doing, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on their website.
As mentioned, Sheep Inc.’s wool is sourced from carbon-negative certified farms in New Zealand. Each of these farms is continuously finding innovative ways to regenerate the land and, at the same time, help protect the indigenous creatures that live there. Sheep Inc. invests 3% of its revenue back into the projects chosen with the help of ZQ’s Regenerative Index (ZQRX).
Sheep Inc. Product Quality and Customer Experience
As with many of the things I write about, I couldn’t in all good conscience write a bespoke overview of a brand without having experienced what it does or creates first-hand. Fortunately, Sheep Inc. kindly sent over one of their Merino wool hoodies for my wife to experience.
Even before the Sheep Inc. hoodie arrived, the brand was helping to build the anticipation with emails informing us it was on its way. In addition, there was a lovely email titled “It’s almost time to meet your sheep”, with a detailed guide taking us through the free adoption process, and as animal lovers, you can imagine how excited we were getting. This is done via a special button on the clothing that one scans with a mobile phone.
The third email was titled “The art of Caring” and is a detailed guide explaining how to look after Sheep Inc.’s Merino clothing to ensure that it maintains its good looks and lasts.
The hoodie arrived in a brown cardboard box, with a graphical guide to the knitwear’s journey printed inside, and as you’ve no doubt guessed, everything is, of course, recyclable. Inside the box was a 100% organic instruction manual, the grey coloured Merino wool hoodie wrapped in paper, a lined dual drawstring canvas bag with a pocket holding a wooden Sheep Inc. garment comb, and on the bag is a printed the following message:
“We believe in a better way of doing fashion. We believe it’s time to act. We believe in reconnecting to the source. We believe your clothes should be designed to last a lifetime. We believe in the warnings. We believe that time is of the essence. We believe in telling it like it is. We believe in transparency. We believe in ethical production. We believe in carbon negativity. We believe in total integrity.
We believe it’s time to face the consequences of our actions. We believe you deserve better from the brands you buy. We Believe ‘Sustainable’ is no longer good enough. We believe in seasonless design. We believe in our collective responsibility. We believe in a better future. We believe in sheep.”
The hoodie is, as expected, of excellent quality and is levels above other hoodies we have. The design is timeless and reinforces the statement above that what you are buying is something that, with the correct care, could last a lifetime and won’t date.
On the elasticated waist of the hoodie is an orange button, about the size of a Smartie sweet. On its rear is a QR Code, which is the start of the sheep adoption process once scanned. We decided to name our sheep ‘Softy’, inspired by how the hoodie felt to the touch. We also grabbed the opportunity to see where she was at that present time, and our GPS showed she was in the middle of a large patch of greenery in a mountainous region in New Zealand, and she had given birth to lambs the previous year.
This reinforced to us that although we had a fine-quality product in our possession, we’d become part of something much larger. We had joined a movement fronted by a knitwear company that was clearly showing other brands there was a different, more positive way to do business. Sheep Inc. has proven that not every ounce of profit needs to be squeezed out and showed us that our hopes for the fashion industry were not just a “Pie in the sky” dream, which was priceless.
Every day, more and more consumers are looking at big-name fashion brands and are questioning how sustainable they are. In all fairness, their business models make it almost impossible for them to join the sustainable journey that some younger and more streamlined clothing companies, such as Sheep Inc., are on. It’s a sad fact that many millions of clothing items are buried in landfills each year, and that’s one reason why I am constantly urging readers to spend a little more to get quality, timeless things that will last.
I think the big worry for the largest clothing companies is there will undoubtedly come a time when consumer consciences will force them to look elsewhere for quality clothing. Ethical brands like Sheep Inc. will be more than prepared to fill that void when that time comes.
For more information on Sheep Inc. and to make a purchase, visit their website https://sheepinc.com.
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