My next Fashion Week feature is Simply Merino. This Canadian slow fashion company makes merino wool clothing for babies and children—and they have some adult pieces now, too. Today I’m interviewing Shannon Dixon, the woman behind Simply Merino.
Can you please tell me a little bit about your company for readers who haven’t heard of it?
Simply Merino is a family-run (I mean a mom-run!) small business in Vancouver, Canada. We specialize in 100% Merino wool clothes for kids and a few items for adults. Our wool comes from Australia, and we design and make everything locally. Our designs are simple, which highlight the beauty of Merino wool, and the craftsmanship of our local manufacturer.
It is truly a small shop, as we keep all of our inventory in our garage with our shipping and packing goods. When my two-year-old is napping I am responding to emails, working on social media, or taking photos. When both of my kids are sleeping at night, I am outside in our garage packing orders. It is a one-woman shop, and I truly love it!
Why is merino wool a good choice? (including in terms of sustainability)
Merino wool is a fabric that is very sustainable. Unlike synthetic material, Merino wool is a renewable fibre which means that it is able to replace itself naturally on its own. As long as there is grass for the sheep to eat, and water for them to drink, then their fleece will grow every year. To make sure the sheep have grass and water, standards have been put into place. Wool growers must adhere to good environmental practices.
Merino wool is also biodegradable which makes it even more sustainable. Synthetic fabrics can decompose very slowly, but Merino wool decomposes very quickly and also releases valuable nutrients back in the soil. (On a side note, before decomposing Simply Merino pj’s, you must remove the elastic, thread & tags as these are not biodegradable … we’re still working on this. ☺)
For people who are concerned about animal welfare, what can you tell us about merino wool and the treatment of the sheep?
This is a topic is extremely important to us. Of course, we don’t want to be making beautiful wool products from sheep who have been mistreated. We are dedicated to finding Merino wool suppliers who treat their sheep ethically.
There is one standard that customers should know about when buying anything wool. It is the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). This standard addresses the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on. It ensures that wool comes from farms that treat their sheep responsibly. Our supplier is fully certified to the RWS, so rest assured that the sheep who allowed us to make our products from their fleece were treated with respect and kindness.
What about dyes? What sorts of dyes do you choose and why?
Dyes are super important when it comes to making a conscious decision of what to purchase. Our Merino wool supplier is Oeko Tex 100 certified. What does this mean? This certification is about how the fabric is processed, including things like dyes. They are free from harmful chemicals and are safe for human use.
One reason why Simply Merino came to life was the idea of dressing newborn babies in synthetic fabric and dyes made from toxic chemicals. It is extremely concerning how many chemicals are found in baby/kids clothing. It makes my heart hurt when I read clothing labels.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
We are always trying to make our small business the best that it can be. If we find a better Merino wool supplier with higher ethical and environmental standards, then we would be happy to switch.
As much as our wool is important to us, waste is close to our hearts as well. The fashion industry is incredibly wasteful, and we are really trying to do our part for the environment. Today we are focused on being a waste-free company. We recently rented a second garage to keep the scraps from our manufacturer. The scary part is that if we didn’t ask for our scraps to be kept for us, then all 30 garbage bags would be in the landfill. We are super excited, because we’ve designed and are still designing new products from our off-cuts. We also don’t use any plastic in our packaging, and are always looking for alternatives.
I really feel the movement for transparency within the apparel world, and I do think that good things are to come for the fashion industry … I hope, anyway!
Photos courtesy of Shannon Dixon.