Isobel Davies is the founder of Izzy Lane, one of the world’s leading ethical fashion brands. Her multi-award winning fashion label uses wool from her flock of rescued sheep; the Izzy Lane flock is the only ‘commercial’ slaughter-free flock in the world. She’s an ambassador for the British textile industry and produces stunning knitwear that has graced the catwalks globally.
“…I can use my wool throws and my Izzy Lane jumpers to buy all my Christmas presents. I could also swap them for beauty treatments or language tuition. I can swap for all I need in the business as well as all I desire for my lifestyle, including holiday accommodation. I’m going cash-free in 2015…”
Isobel, it’s been nine months since you became Womanthology’s first contributor back in March this year. What have you been up to since then?
I suppose my businesses are like my babies. I have them, I nurture them and then I can’t let go, so the family just gets bigger and bigger. I have just given birth to another one. It is called SwapHopper (www.swaphopper.com) and it launches this month.
It is an online private members club for small business owners, freelancers and anyone with a skill they can trade – cash-free shopping where ones stock or ones skills ( from design to accountancy to dog walking ) can be traded.
Cashflow is an issue for most people and especially when you have your own business, you often need professional services which you can’t afford. It is sort of what I do anyway in my businesses. I trade clothes for photography, organic food for website maintenance, but it is hard to cold call.
At Swaphopper everyone is there because they are up for a trade. Having a fashion business, I know all too well what it is like to sit on stock which you can’t sell. But what better way to do your Christmas shopping. I can use my wool throws and my Izzy Lane jumpers to buy all my Christmas presents. I could also swap them for beauty treatments or language tuition. I can swap for all I need in the business as well as all I desire for my lifestyle, including holiday accommodation. I’m going cash-free in 2015.
My other businesses are problematic – drivers dropping their van keys down drains, lorries breaking down on the M1 with all the produce you need for that day’s packing. Hundreds and hundreds of animals needing feeding.
I needed to come up with a business idea that was purely an automated website – no staff, something where the only necessary intervention would be transferring money from pay pal into the bank account. I waited for two years and nothing came to me, I thought my brain had packed up and would not deliver me my perfect business.
I was on day four of a terrible migraine, it was 1am and a full moon. As I tossed and turned for the next six hours, Swaphopper emerged out of my fevered brain – all fully formed.
You’re clearly passionate about the work you do. How does professional passion and authenticity help distinguish Izzy Lane from the competition?
On Thursday I went to the office – we are in the sticks in rural Richmondshire. In the field next to the office was a pen of lambs and old ewes; they had been ‘graded out’ from the rest of the flock and were having their bellies shaved ready to go off to the livestock market and for slaughter in some Godforsaken place.
I could not walk on past, it would have broken my heart. I intervened, I persuaded the farmer to sell them to me and ten minutes later they were brought to my rented fields where they will live out the rest of their lives. I am a liability to myself.
It is why Izzy Lane is so important to me and captures the essence of everything I am. For me it is a beacon of hope for farm animals, I will do anything and everything I can to keep the flame burning, to show them as beautiful, gentle creatures deserving of our love and respect.
No animal should have to endure what we do to them, little lambs separated from their mothers – terrified, hungry, hurting – shipped and traded around the globe. Shipped out of Ramsgate to Romania or re-traded in Marseille and ending up in places like Iraq and Libya for brutal religious slaughter.
Compassion in World Farming found Irish lambs in killing tents in Singapore. This is why Izzy Lane exists. The Izzy Lane flock is the only ‘commercial’ slaughter-free flock in the world.
What is ethical fashion and why is it so important to your customers?
People are becoming increasingly aware of the horrors of how animals are treated, they can’t avoid it; the internet is awash with the images. My customers recognise that where they put their money is what will determine the future of our planet and everything on it. It is the companies who they give their money to who will survive and shape the future.
Please can you tell us about the new collection and where the inspiration came from for this?
As ever, the new Izzy Lane collection is eclectic and chic – chunky knitwear and ‘must-have’ coats and skirts in tartans, contrasting patterns and weaves with lots of asymmetry.
You are very active on social media. How has this strategy allowed you to connect with supporters of the Izzy Lane brand?
On our website we convey and sell the clothes but it is on social media that we are politically active – fighting to inform and change minds, to debate , to make the future a better place than it is today…for animals.
How does Izzy Lane sit alongside your Farmaround brand?
Farmaround, my organic box scheme delivers to customers all over London and the North of England. It was founded on the same sort of principles as Izzy Lane – to love and respect our fellow creatures.
It addresses human health, of course. Why would we willingly consume the hundreds of chemicals sprayed onto our food when we know the toxicity of much of what is used? Our generation is three times more likely to get cancer than our grandparents’ – hardly just the effects of modern life – that would not be logical. What would be logical is that it is the result of thousands of chemicals in our environment. For that reason and to preserve our countryside for wildlife is why I became an advocate of organic farming.
You’re based in the one of the beautiful parts of North Yorkshire. In July the twentieth Grand Départ outside of the French borders came to Yorkshire with an estimated worldwide television audience of 3.5 billion people watching in more than 188 countries around the world. What did this mean to you and the local community?
Being partial to Frenchmen, it was very exciting to host the Tour de France here in Yorkshire. It was the biggest party we had ever seen and still, some five months on, no-one will take the yellow bunting and yellow bicycles down, they are still strung across walls and nailed onto trees across our beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Everyone wants the Tour to come here every year now.
What is next for Izzy Lane?
In mid-December Izzy Lane will see the launch of its cruelty-free silk (where the worm is not boiled alive as in all other silk ) nightwear – dyed and hand printed using natural dyes. And then in February, being pregnant yet again, I will launch sister label to Izzy Lane – ‘Faux and Gamine’ – my must-have shoe brand of stunning shoes and boots from faux snake and faux leather to show at London Fashion Week alongside the AW2015/16 which we are currently working on.
So all in all, very busy busy… Must get on now…!
To Womanthology readers – please come along and be a founding member of Swaphopper (http://www.swaphopper.com/) for £12 for your first year
The Izzy Lane Winter sale (http://www.izzylane.com/) is now on, but as Womanthology friends you can get an additional 10% off using discount code WM2
And last but not least Farmaround (http://www.farmaround.co.uk/). If you live in one of our delivery areas and would like to try us out, we can offer you 50% off a trial delivery of our organic fruit and vegetables quoting again WM2