Redheart England is an English knitwear company that’s been around since 1996 to bring fine details and everlasting quality to our closets. Their pieces are uniquely hand knitted and hand loomed by English artisans–a slower process that results in durability. We talked to the brand’s director, Jacqueline Kroft, about the quiet yet coveted company and her natural connection with sustainability.
What is the design and company ethos of Redheart England?
Redheart looks at the human body in an architectural sense. We try to drape the fabrics off the shoulders and form the fabric of the wool so that it contours the body as well as being extremely warm, comfortable and long lasting. As well as being incredibly healthy for your skin, because wool is of course a natural material and therefore allows for your skin to breathe, that’s why we always use 100% wool.
There is a strong commitment for Redheart England’s knitwear to be hand knitted and hand loomed. Why is that?
Some of the garments have to be made by hand because we are using thick wool and we have to make a lot of refinements in the garments/shapings inside the garment so that it fits in a very special way. We use the hand-looming process on garments which need to be a finer gauge, but rather than make them entirely by machine, hand looming them gives them an organic look and you can see and feel that there was a human touch.
How do you ensure the fibers you source meet the company’s sustainable and ethical criteria?
Before we start working with a mill we make sure they raise their sheep on small farms and in a respectful and ethical manner and trust them to maintain those standards. The mills we deal with have been around for centuries and have great integrity, we believe that their long histories of doing so ensures a level of reliability.
Running your business requires a special and close connection to the knitting community in England. Can you talk to us about the community?
The knitting community has shrunk a lot. I started off using quite a lot of knitters in the near area in and around Stroud (in the Cotswolds, where we operate from). I would go to their homes and get to know them and their families because Redheart works on the pleasure principle of creativity; the knitter is only as good as they are happy. I challenge them with good ideas and designs and they reciprocate by giving us the best quality we could ask for.
We’ve been lucky because the knitters, seamstresses and tailors we have worked with have integrity and are proud of their work. I’ve known knitters to unpick an entire garment because they saw a stitch that was wrong halfway through.
Unfortunately we have gone through a dip in the number of knitters available because we had previously relied on an older generation. However, there is a new generation emerging and I would say that our workforce is getting younger. Our knitters are mostly women, although we have had a couple men, and in age they range now from 20 to 85. They live in the area and they’re usually very family orientated, so they can do it in their homes and make a good wage doing something they enjoy.
I think it’s here that we see most clearly the positive impact that this company has. A lot of the women who work for us have children to support and need the money to do so, but they don’t have the schedules to work conventional 9–5 positions; working with us gives them the flexibility to do both, and to do it in their own time.
With our older knitters it gives them a purpose and it combats the loneliness that can creep into people’s lives as they get older. That’s the beauty of Redheart. Some people call it a cottage industry, but I think that term undermines what these women are doing — the whole corporate concept of our society downplays the power of small industries, but the small industries have more creative input in society.
Who is a Redheart England shopper?
We have a lot of creative people as long-term clients — actors, directors, musicians and artists.
Do you think consumer behavior is changing?
I do think customer behavior is changing, definitely. People want clothes they wear and use forever again, they’re moving away from fast fashion because it’s like hoarding and it’s confusing to have so many clothes, it’s better to have fewer things which you love and which you know will last.
Are there any special considerations when you’re designing sustainably?
We design the garments to suit the wool we’ll be using for that particular piece. You have to make sure you have the right materials and wools, because half of the joy of designing a garment is the materials we use. The great difference between Redheart England and other design companies is that each garment is woven separately therefore is woven or knitted individually, making it extremely special.
Instead of cutting into a fabric, we weave fabric whilst we are making the garment.
Do you have an all-time favorite design?
For my favorite design of all time it would be between the Brubeck Dress or the Point Dress, with of which we’ll be rereleasing in AW19/20, and of the newest collection I would say the Orson Jacket. The Orson is knitted completely by hand by our oldest knitter, it’s an incredibly hard piece to knit and so the finished product is a feat in design.
How do you see your shoppers becoming more sustainable in other aspects of their life?
We feel that if you wear 100% wool and natural garments you will become a healthier person. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it has to breathe. We hope that because they’ll feel happier and healthier they will, as a result, go to things which are more natural; whether that is sleeping, eating or consumption of other products.
How do you see the sustainable fashion movement growing in the next 5 years?
I think it’s going to see great expansion because people are becoming more aware of the environmental issues we face and that their one contribution can have an enormous impact. You can see it in a lot of aspects, from the consumer level, with people switching to plant-based diets, to industrial responses, like Gucci and others vowing to eradicate fur from their collections. As for us, we’ll keep doing what we’ve always done and we hope that we’ll be able to make a positive impact on the world, our local community and the lives of our workforce and customers.
Where can we buy Redheart England?
You can buy our clothes on our website, Comme des Garçons and Journal Standard Luxe in Tokyo. We also offer made-to-order as well as completely bespoke services and you can contact us about those through our website.
You can also follow the company on instagram: @RedheartEngland
Images: c/o Redheart England