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STALLHOLDER SPOTLIGHT – CASHMERE WITH A DIFFERENCE FROM OLIVE & IRIS

By August 10, 2020 No Comments

Our Story – by Sue Harrigan of Olive & Iris
I started my professional life as a fashion designer in Rome many moons ago working mainly in couture and ready-to-wear for Alberta Ferretti, Lancetti, Valentino and Princess Galitzine. Despite leaving the industry my passion for textiles and beautiful clothes has always been an important part of my life. Over the last five years I’ve been working with a small independent family run business in Northern Tuscany. They produce beautiful, hand finished cashmere that’s spun and dyed around Lake Como.
I’ve always loved cashmere but disliked the ‘stuffiness’ of many brands and would often get home with my new purchase and take out the scissors and cut off cuffs, hems and ribbed necklines. So when I came across this little factory high in the hills of northern Tuscany who required no minimum on orders, my creative urge to
design a couple of things for myself was made possible. The style that started Olive and Iris, was fondly known as ‘Mani in Alto’ (hands up!), a jumper.
Soon friends and friends of friends wanted them and so my small business was born.
The indigo collection
Always keen to push boundaries and experiment I
became completely obsessed with the idea of using indigo with the ancient technique of shibori. After seeing an exhibition at the V&A ‘The Fabric of India’, I called a great friend, who happens to be the leading authority on all things indigo, Jenny Balfour-Paul. She was full of enthusiasm when I told her what my plan was.
I now produce a small collection of hand dyed Indigo cashmere shawls, jumpers and kaftans at my home on the edge of Dartmoor. It’s not an easy route but it is a worthwhile one, once I’ve got the indigo vat alive and working. It can take many hours of tying in the shibori design using lentils, chickpeas, marbles and anything else I think might be useful to create something interesting. Then, with a deep breath I plunge my cashmere into the vat and watch the alchemy begin as each piece pulled from the vat is bright yellow, then green, teal and finally blue. The strength of the blue depends on the amount of dipping of the knitwear. The darker the blue the more dipping is required.
It’s an intoxicating process creating beautiful unique pieces of cashmere. It is slow fashion!
In addition all our products are packaged in linen dust bags which are produced using old tablecloths picked up in the markets around Tuscany making Olive and Iris plastic free.