Ethos & sustainability

Stack of contemporary Scottish knitwear in extra fine merino wool, these are cowls in an abstract mottled pattern

NOT fast fashion but quality lifetime wear.

Nielanell customer, 2021

Our heirloom knitwear

Nielanell knitwear is designed to live in, not to follow trends. Our slow fashion approach means taking time to design and make knitwear that will last.

We don’t mass produce. Instead, we make short runs of knitwear. This agile approach to manufacturing gives our customers an unusually large choice of colour and style, and also means less waste.

Ours are classic designs: we don’t start afresh each season, on a fast fashion cycle. Therefore, we don’t have leftover, out-of-date deadstock.

Individually made in Shetland

Each piece of our knitwear is individually knitted by skilled local people and hand-finished in-house. The yarns we use are of very high quality, helping to ensure that each piece is an investment in the future as well as the now. 

Our materials

Although we use a range of fibres, at Nielanell wool is our primary material and we think it is wonderful.  Wool can be recycled; it is compostable, biodegradable and naturally renewable, making it friendly to the environment.

Wool gives a fabric that breathes, is elastic, gives natural odour control, warms us when we are cold and cools us when we overheat. Wool is also naturally fire retardant. These qualities give wool a wide and diverse range of uses.

Yarn

Our yarn suppliers have stringent sustainability commitments in human resources and local communities, traceability, and environmental protection.

Hand-spun yarn

The fleeces that we use for handspinning are sourced locally, or within the UK, and always from vetted crofter or farmers. All our materials are responsibly sourced, and almost every piece of equipment we use has been hand-made by specialised artisans.

Creativity means less waste

Niela’s love of colour means that we rarely, if ever, waste any of the yarns on our shelves. Even very small amounts left on the cones are used for individual detailing and inspiration, or when designing prototypes.

In our wider practice we are always in the process of assessing and improving, to make Nielanell as environmentally friendly as possible. In the past year we have worked hard to minimise unnecessary waste and reduce the use of plastics in our packaging.

Our customers

We love the variety of people that we meet—the stories, the different backgrounds and cultures. It is our mission to make visitors and customers feel welcome whether you visit us in person or online. We seek to inspire you with colour and texture, and also to give you a window into a creative life and career (read about Niela’s journey from law to textiles).

As a designer, it is Niela’s aim to make the wearer feel good—comfortable in their own skin—and contribute in a small way to their wellbeing. Niela has always designed for diverse body shapes. And, because our garments are designed to be versatile, the wearer can use their own aesthetic when styling their knitwear.

We recently conducted a wide-ranging customer survey, from which we learned a lot about our customers’ needs in terms of size and style. This will help inform our future design decisions.

We are always interested in your feedback. We welcome you to get in touch on any of our social channels, by email and phone, or in person!                

Our rural community

Rural sustainability is very important to us. Nielanell is a business that provides employment opportunities in a small, rural village.

Our business helps to bring local, UK, and international visitors to our area and encourages the support of other rural businesses, whether makers or services (we couldn’t manage without our local Post Office!).

We work with several local suppliers and manufacturers, and we are also active within the community and in support of local schools. In addition, as part of Shetland Wool Week, we co-curate Hoswick Wool Week—bringing visitors into the coastal landscape that we are so proud of.

Our hard-working and creative staff

At Nielanell we are passionate about promoting a lifestyle that enables a blend of creativity and business. Family, work, creativity and play are all essential parts of the sustainable lifestyle that we are always striving to achieve, and we recognise the importance of maintaining them all. 

We have a small team, who we value immensely. We aim to reflect this in our practice—whether it be maximising opportunities for working at home, flexible hours or even a well-timed cup of coffee! 

We are keen to give opportunities for work and training to local young people and are so proud of the paths that we’ve watched unfold for some of our young employees at Nielanell, and beyond.

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