Q&A with Kate Holbrook, Founder of Turtle Doves

Q: What makes you stand out?

A: We have created a high value product from post-consumer cashmere waste. In under 6 years we have gone from just me sewing like a maniac to working with 18 people in Shrewsbury on the London living wage. Our employees are our biggest asset. We only use cashmere woollens, largely sourced from the charitable sector, which cannot be resold because of holes or other wear and tear. If customers want to send in Turtle Dove cashmere items at their end of life, we will also reuse them.

Q: Why do you care?

A: I just love reusing things. I can’t bear to see something thrown away that has some life in it. And I love the challenge of designing something people want to buy; often they don’t even realise it is made from reused cashmere!

Q: Is being responsible good for business?

A: I think that a business with a heart gives people the confidence to invest in you. From a business perspective, buying something people want that makes them feel good too, is a winning combination. People are willing to pay a bit more if their money contributes towards supporting a British-made product that reduces waste. Working with UK-based sewers means we are more in control of our supply chain and can, for example, respond quickly with new ideas.

Q: Has the business changed you?

A: I do try and shop responsibly but it’s difficult when you have competing priorities like running your own business and raising a family. For instance I would rather spend time with my family than researching responsibly-sourced presents for them. It’s very time-consuming looking at all the issues around what you buy. What I continue to do is to make things last. I believe in sustainable style – finding styles that suit you and making pieces last – rather than ethical ‘fashion’, which is more about following trends. I also shop in charity shops on a regular basis!

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: The excitement of a good customer review and the flexibility of choosing what and when we design.

Q: Plans for the future?

A: We’re looking to work with a US charity that protects the livelihoods of nomadic Mongolian cashmere producers and helps to reduce soil erosion from goat herds that are too large for the local environment to support. We’re also always on the look-out for new ideas. Watch this space!


Ask the Q