Born out of a love for old things, Turtle Doves is a British design and manufacturing company, specializing in using post-consumer textile waste to create new garments and accessories. Started by Kate Holbrook in December 2009, the story began when she dreamt up the design for wrist warmers that also functioned as fingerless gloves. Having made some for friends who loved them, she tested the idea at a local school fair, where the unique designs received an overwhelming response. “December 2009 gave us the feeling that we had stumbled upon something important and more success for the fingerless gloves followed in 2010, with a high percentage of repeat custom and bulk buying of gifts for birthdays and Christmas. New products such as the patchwork scarf and snood came on stream and we launched a basic website in late 2010,” says Holbrook.
It was during Christmas of 2011 that she thought of expanding the business from a one-cottage enterprise in Shrewsbury, UK, to something that could get a lot bigger. Turnover doubled, helped enormously by the development of the ‘Hug’, a loop of patch-worked jumpers which gave the team the confidence to focus on designing and work on even more recycled goodies. “In 2012 we tripled the number of Turtle Doves markets and shows and developed a website that helped us to take on more established companies. In 2013 we launched the trade arm of our business; we are now stocked in towards 150 shops in the UK and some overseas too!”, says Holbrook. The highlight of 2014 for the brand was supplying to Friends of the Earth and Amnesty international their own bespoke Turtle Doves recycled cashmere range (in red and grey).
All products in the range are recycled. “We buy woolens from charity shops and textile merchants (who in turn buy their waste textiles from charity shops). So as a business we know that part of the money we are spending on fabric is going back into the charitable sector. Also, we passionately believe in paying our employees a healthy wage whilst keeping our prices competitive through clever design and avoiding middlemen”, explains Holbrook.
The company reinvests a lot of their profits in keeping up with technology, particularly digital technology and generating an increasing proportion of the revenue through the website. They now employ 20 people, including an increasing number of ex-Laura Ashley seamstresses whose jobs disappeared in the 1990’s when production was moved to the Far East. Demand for the increasing number of products (now including silk) continued throughout 2015, meaning that for the first time the company could keep seamstresses fully employed during the warmer months. In 2015, the company was awarded a Gold Medal in the Green Apple Awards 2015, which recognize, environmental best practice around the world.
Find out more at www.turtle-doves.co.uk