Comfort and joy seem the most apt adjectives to assign to today's brand. Not in the manner of a festive carol, of course, but as the answer to 'what do I want from my clothes right now?' To be cloaked in comfort and joy sums it up pretty accurately. Another lockdown, and the now familiar return to our comfiest items. Looser waistbands, silk layers, Birkenstocks, hair-bands 'to add zest', perhaps a lick of eyebrow mascara for a Zoom call. And that old friend of a jumper.
Herd is the brand of the day and its founder Ruth Rands is the calming, energising influence we all need in our lives right now. Based in the Cotswolds, Rands and her husband have set out on the ultimate Made in Britain business drive. No cutting corners. Herd is a knitwear brand that can tell you the exact point of every junction of their supply chain. From the farms and fleeces of the sheep to the finishing process at the factory - all can be tracked. The entire cycle happens within 150 miles the green pastures of northern England across which the sheep graze. I have never met a brand like this.
This is not about upscaling and turning over huge sums of money (though that may come). For Rands this is a mission. 'Our main objective at Herd is to help make UK farming profitable, regenerative and something we are all connected to and proud of. We've off-shored too much for too long at great planetary and human cost.' You get the impression that Rands might even relish this latest lockdown since she is a dab hand at working within limitations (nature) and a pace set by someone else (sheeps' fleece can only grow so quickly). If anything I'm envious. Slowing down can make me feel I'm not achieving. And yet it just what we all need. We learn to be more considered. I maintain we will, in many ways, look back and miss this pace. Certainly, as consumers, 2020 taught us we can indeed slow down in our spending habits without feeling desolate. We need to move away from the idea that we can have it all.
I imagine you want to know 'how soft?' and 'how much?' It is beautifully soft. Wool generally has a poor reputation for its wiry touch, compared to its merino or cashmere cousins. Herd uses Bluefaced Leicester wool 'so you don't miss the cashmere or merino, which (also) comes with a hefty carbon footprint ' says Rands. Price wise, Herd items are forever pieces. Expect a higher price than you have become accustomed to, particularly with discounts everywhere right now (Herd don't do sales, they aim to get their seasonal orders as accurate as possible). A piece by Herd is a friend for life and in that respect the cost per wear is worth doing the maths for. The styles are timeless, they will never date, and they work from Autumn through to Spring. This cardigan would be great now with roll necks or a denim shirt, and then over a lighter dress or skirt at that moment when spring approaches but hasn't fully grasped the baton from winter.
Perhaps I have been watching too much of the BBC's The Serpent, but in no way do I want to leave you thinking that this is a hippy, folksy brand. If anything, this is the new forward-thinking approach fashion will (and should) take in the next 10 years. It takes a small brand like Herd to prove that genuine, unblemished, sustainable fashion can be stylish and homegrown. In a television interview recently I mentioned the notion of 'Wear your values' (only to discover its allegiance on social media via #wearyourvalues). Rather than watching another Attenborough and reverting to bad habits perhaps we should adopt 'You are what you wear'? Goodness knows we've got the time (again) to think about it at least.
When I ask Rands about lockdown the reply is simple, 'Sheep don’t do lockdowns - it’s hugely motivating to be connected to the cycles of farming and the seasons, which keep going regardless.” Another name that carries on regardless seems to be Jeff Bezos over at Amazon. I know where I'd rather channel my money right now. Let's hear it for Herd.