It’s Finally a Trend: “Fewer, Better Things”

I started Isle of Skye Cashmere over 15 years ago with the idea that I ought to be able to find top quality cashmere at a fair and reasonable price. It seemed like a simple concept, but it proved to be very challenging to execute. It was particularly difficult when the world was moving in the direction of “fast fashion” and rock bottom pricing for clothes mass produced in the Far East by mill workers earning less than $2 per hour and working 7 days a week.

Rita- Lake Como Italy
Rita at Lake Como, Italy wearing her Jessica Cardigan

I solved the first part of this equation by identifying Scottish yarn spinners and knitting mills as the best in the business. All of my sweaters use yarn spun and dyed by the 2 premier yarn makers in Scotland. And my sweaters are knit in Hawick, Scotland by 3 mills that make sweaters for the premier European designers such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes. In 2012, Chanel publicly affirmed their belief in the supremacy of Scottish cashmere by acquiring Barrie Knitwear…a knitting mill in Hawick Scotland. Chanel saved this longtime supplier from bankruptcy and assured they would continue to be able to produce cashmere sweaters for their collections made by the finest craftsmen in the world. We use Barrie Knitwear as one of our suppliers… I source a number of the sweaters on my website from this mill. You can read about Chanel and their love affair with Scottish Cashmere here.

The second part of my equation was delivering Scottish Cashmere to my customers at a reasonable price. I accomplished this by sourcing directly from the mills in Scotland and keeping my overhead very low. My customers don’t have to pay the markups for several layers of middlemen, for expensive real estate on Madison Avenue, or for lavish advertising and promotion budgets.

Having said all of this, I know that my sweaters are not cheap…most are in the $250 to $500 range. However, Isle of Skye Cashmere Sweaters are foundation pieces – basics for your wardrobe that will last years and years. They will maintain their shape, their rich color, and their silky soft feel long after you have thrown away those cheaper “fast fashion” cashmere sweaters. And the quality of my sweaters is comparable to the ones produced by the high-end designers such as Chanel or Brunello Cucinelli- which have a price tag of several thousand dollars or more.

Now, more companies in the ecommerce world have adopted business concepts that are similar to the ones I started with. There is a lot being written today about “The Power of Buying Less by Buying Better”. The recent article in The Atlantic now describes this as a trend:

“There’s a big trend in the growth of ecological sensibility, the growth in demand for artisanal products, and more handmade items,” explains Juliet Schor, a professor of economics and sociology at Boston College who studies consumer behavior. “More people are rejecting mass-production for aesthetic reasons and because of the exploitation in the fast-fashion system.”

But I started my business this way in 2000, not because it was a trend, but because I believe in quality, craftsmanship, and fair pricing as principles of doing business. It seems that the number of other companies that are promoting these same ideas is growing, and I am really happy about that. The more that other businesses sell the power of “fewer, better things”, then the more customers will come to appreciate what Isle of Skye Cashmere Sweaters are all about.

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