Accessories Fashion

Lily Cole and the North Circular

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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

The North Circular may sound like something you’d learn about in Geography class, but in fact, it’s rather more interesting than that–it’s a knitwear company founded by British supermodel Lily Cole and her Australian colleague and friend,  Katherine Poulton, which has a very ethical mission indeed.


Eco-advocates and animal lovers Katherine and Lily would  always joke about building a knitting empire fuelled by hand-knitting grannies. But one day, their dream  became a reality when the two fashion models met Izzy Lane, who  rescues mainly Wensleydale sheep from slaughter houses and sustains them through their wool.  Wensleydale sheep are a rare and endangered breed, producing one of the  finest and most lustrous fleeces in the world. Their wool falls into long ringlets almost to  ground level in unshorn sheep–the two models knew instantly that this would be the source for their new business, which they dubbed The North Circular.


Every single item is knitted by  “talented grandmothers, girls and a few strong men,” to use Lily’s and Katherine’s words, and production, which is specialised in hats, gloves and scarves, is realised  entirely in the UK, passing only 120 miles from sheep to spinner to dyer to knitter within the ‘north circular’ route in the UK. This creates a low-carbon product and makes The North Circular  items even greener–and of course, inspired the name of the brand.

People who wear their knitwear promote a high quality item that is ethical, supporting high  standards of animal welfare. There’s also great eco-care in packaging (kept to minimum,  using recycled and recyclable products for boxes, tags and tissue) and custom tags (that  tally how many sheep have been rescued to date).  Moreover,  5% of the  profits from The North Circular are donated to the Ethical Justice Foundation, which  campaigns internationally on issues such as protecting the natural environment, the  people and wildlife that depend upon it, by empowering local communities to investigate,  expose and peacefully resolve abuses.

But the two kind-eco-hearted models are nothing compared to the team of knitting  grannies, who provide excellent advice on life in general and the beneficial effects of  knitting. Aileen from Perth, Scotland, suggests everyone gave knitting a go: “You should  give it a try – start with something simple and go from there. Once you get the hang of it it is very therapeutic.”


Gran Eileen from Quinton, agrees: “I started knitting at school at around the age of 8. I thought I’d stop around the  age of 80, but now I’m 91 and still going strong!” But you needn’t be a granny to love knitting:  Luke the London boy was taught the ancient art by a friend and completed his first knitted tie on a journey from France to London using two pencils and  some string.



Time to pick up the needles, ladies…!

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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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