Dear Campaign for Wool,
We’d like to introduce ourselves as the organisers of Wovember.
We are Felicity Ford and Louise Scollay and Wovember is an annual celebration of wool that takes place every November. We aim to encourage our audience to enjoy wool throughout the whole month; disabuse consumers about misleading advertising spin and product descriptions; and educate our readers widely on the historical, cultural and material significance of wool. We encourage people to wear wool during the month of November, and we share intelligent content on our popular blog and other social media channels, exploring wool from all angles. Our content is sourced from many voices within the wool industry who volunteer their time to write for us and, in turn, we produce Wovember each year out of our own pockets and our own time. We do this because we believe that wool, and the people who work with it, are extraordinarily important. (You can see our website at wovember.com, and our archive of previous years’ work at wovember.wordpress.com.)
Our contributors and audience are a rich and diverse community of hand-spinners, knitwear designers, hand-knitters and crocheters, weavers, dyers, shepherds, shearers, felt-makers, sewists, mill-spinners and other wool workers. Working at grassroots level or as small, independent companies (largely in the craft sector) these businesses and enthusiasts collectively learn about wool, and find new and innovative ways to work with, to create, to promote, and to market this wonderful fibre.
We have followed the activities of The Campaign for Wool for many years and broadly share the same intentions to educate the world about the versatility and importance of wool. A great number of our supporters among the world of small independent businesses are also yours (as listed on your supporters page). We share many of the same followers on our respective social media channels. Yet today we feel impelled to write to you about the tone, tenor and content of your marketing, and the way you seem increasingly to be excluding those who most closely work with wool from a campaign which purportedly exists to promote it.
We feel that for a number of years your campaign – and the considerable funding that lies behind it – has principally targeted the high-fashion and luxury markets, and has been overwhelmingly focused on large brands, celebrity events, and publicity stunts. Though such things perhaps have their place in effective contemporary PR, we feel that through an overemphasis on courting big businesses and tabloid publicity you are currently alienating some of wool’s most loyal, effective, and talented ambassadors.
In our daily work as knitwear designers, pattern creators, yarn-spinners, mill-owners, shepherds, shearers, felt makers, bloggers, podcasters, and committed researchers and writers we are very close to wool. We explore the special qualities of wool from rare and native breed sheep; we research and write about the effects of different sorts of preparation and spinning; we design beautiful and useful woolly products and we build new audiences for wool by telling them real stories of its provenance and production. These audiences are large, international, and highly engaged. They are formed of people who are interested in making wool a meaningful part of their lives, from knitting or hand-sewing their own wool garments, to choosing to buy wool socks, or waistcoats from committed creative companies, to purchasing other useful woolly items like throws, and duvets, rugs and carpeting. Surely these are audiences you, too, would like to address and engage?
In a contemporary marketplace where the provenance of goods is a growing matter of interest, you cannot really afford to ignore a thriving independent sector which is now changing perceptions of fashion (from fast to slow), sharing skills, creating worthwhile sustainable products, and generally winning the public over to wool at a local level. Surely the public you intend to “educate about the incredible benefits and versatility of wool” might be interested to hear about the experiences of the daughter of a Yorkshire shepherd who recently produced a popular yarn for hand-knitting from the formerly undervalued fleeces of her father’s flock? Perhaps they would equally be inspired by the story of how a chef and a micro mill are collaborating to produce limited edition, single-flock yarns? Indeed, we would respectfully suggest that these interesting examples of local success and creativity tell a far more inspiring, and easy-to-grasp woolly story than the rather confusing narrative which you recently championed on all your social media channels: of the “British” suits worn by the England football team, grown in Australia, processed in China, Italy and Romania, and stitched in Cambodia, (albeit of woollen cloth which was finished in Yorkshire and sold by Marks and Spencer).
We sadly note that at the forthcoming Dumfries House Wool Conference (also being described in your marketing and publicity, apparently without irony, as The Davos of Wool) all the named speakers are spokespersons from high-end fashion brands and commercial furnishing manufacturers. We feel strongly that a meeting of wool’s great minds and stakeholders – such as this conference purports to be – should really include representatives who work closely and creatively with wool from sheep to fleece, from fleece to yarn, from yarn to finished item.
We therefore politely ask the Campaign for Wool to consider the following among its forthcoming activities:
*Profiling and publicising the work of successful grassroots wool workers as well as the activities of big businesses and brands
*Consulting with experts from within the craft and cultural sectors on building inclusive, well attended events at which attendees can really learn about wool
*Inviting delegates from grassroots organisations as well as from big businesses and brands to events at which important decisions are to be made regarding the future of wool
We are also keen to hear how we might more effectively bring our projects to your notice; are there practical constraints that make the above ideals difficult to put into practice, and are there ways in which we can help? We are keen to work with you, and to receive your feedback.
At Wovember we have had an ongoing focus on closing the gap between producers and consumers of wool. But we now feel painfully aware of a different, but equally problematic gap between the luxury brand-focused activities of the Campaign for Wool and those of the inspiring people who actually work with, and celebrate wool as part of their everyday lives and businesses. For the future sake of wool, we would really like to bridge this gap.
Would you like to help?
YOURS IN WOOL,
FELICITY FORD AND LOUISE SCOLLAY