2018 marks the 10th anniversary of The Real Shetland Company and we have come a very long way since we first started trading.
The company was originally formed to create, market and promote a distinguishable brand for wool sourced exclusively from Shetland, Real Shetland Wool (RSW). At the time, there were many impostor products that used the term ‘Shetland’ in goods that mostly contained cheap foreign wools or synthetic fibres.
Over the following 10 years, working closely with our partners on Shetland, Jamieson and Smith (J&S, the home of RSW) and their parent company, Curtis Wool, we succeeded in defining our brand which is now recognised and highly sought after, all over the world.
It is with great sadness that now in 2018, we see a re-emergence of those imposter products, desperate to latch onto the heritage and quality of genuine RSW.
The Shetland ‘Type’
Unbeknown to many, there is a technical loophole that exists from a time when ‘Shetland’ referred to a quality of yarn or finished product. This term is now outdated and mostly unused bar for a select few manufacturers who seek to exploit it.
In our opinion, the correct description of a non-Shetland wool product choosing to use the Shetland name should be clearly marked as ‘Shetland Type’ but for malicious purposes, these ‘type’ products are often simply marketed as ‘Shetland’.
We cannot mention any specific manufacturers, suppliers or retailers but we can inform and educate our customers as to the difference between our products as well as share a little of the Shetland Story behind our brand.
The simple truth is that even these ‘type’ products must properly describe their wool content so we ask that whenever seeking a genuine RSW throw, cushion, carpet or similar, you take a moment to check the wool content. Most ‘Shetland Type’ goods are made using Australian Merino or NZ lambs wool.
The manufacturers who use this loophole are actively harming the Shetland crofting community who we have tried so hard to support.
The Shetland Story
The heritage of Real Shetland Wool dates back to the Vikings, who are believed to have brought Norwegian sheep to the Islands which were then bred with local sheep. The Shetland Islands were the ideal landing point for early Viking settlers and a perfect environment for raising sheep, who thrive on the land.
With grassy hills, kelp laden beaches and a contrasting climate specific to Shetland, the sheep living here grow a unique fleece, both springy and crinkly. Today, the eco-system is much the same but the Viking farmers have descended into who we now refer to as crofters. The Shetland crofting community continue to care for their sheep in much a similar manner but with the added benefit of modern day animal husbandry techniques to maintain their health.
Given the unique characteristics of Real Shetland Wool, demand for the fibre remained constant until imposter products started to flood the market.
Through J&S, Curtis Wool sought to support this important crofting community by offering a stable and generous price for their wool, shortly after, the RSC was formed.
J&S buy the vast majority of all wool grown in Shetland and deal direct with over 700 Shetland crofters, maintaining the commitment to buy wool at a price well above that of their mainland counterparts.
With there only being a relatively small amount of wool produced on Shetland, the balance of the annual Shetland wool clip tends to remain on the Islands. The RSC and our partners are the only businesses with access to enough RSW with which to offer a diverse range of genuine RSW products. Buying RSW products, helps our network support the Shetland wool industry.
The Future for Real Shetland Wool
Here at the RSC, we feel that the argument for the ‘Shetland Type’ terminology is a dishonest and misleading tactic that damages the good reputation we have forged for wool sourced from Shetland. Unfortunately, as long as this loophole exists, there is little we can do about it other than educate the public.
Sadly, even some customers of the manufacturers exploiting this loophole believe their products to be RSW when in fact it is not. Whether this is them turning a blind eye or that they’ve been purposely mislead by their supplier, we can’t be sure.
We see the future in a positive light, providing we can continue to get this message across. With there now being a ‘origin’ wool test that can identify the origins of a fibre, we hope that we can challenge the imposters and once again defend RSW.
All we can ask of you is to seek out Real Shetland Wool and enjoy all the benefits of our fibre that these impostors are trying so hard to imitate. Remember, RSW is easily identified by the Three Sheep logo; if you don’t see the Three Sheep, it probably isn’t Real Shetland Wool.
Friends of Real Shetland Wool
The Real Shetland Company is not the only manufacturer of genuine RSW products. We do have the most varied range of RSW goods, ranging from throws, bedding, carpets and more (now available through www.adamcurtisonline.co.uk) but it would be wrong not to mention some of our fellow supporters and their high-quality products.
Jamieson and Smith are the home of Real Shetland Wool and have a stunning array of hand knitting yarns, wool top, garments and more. Located in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, J&S is where Martin Curtis set the foundations for Shetland Wool Week. We are proud to have worked with them for so many years.
Vispring are one of the UK’s most prestigious bed manufacturers and huge supporters of the Shetland wool industry. Their commitment to the RSW brand has been paramount in enabling our partners maintain fair prices for the Shetland wool clip.
Dries Van Noten, the acclaimed fashion designer has taken a special interest in RSW and used it alongside the J&S branding in a range of clothing seen on catwalks and in the music world.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support. The last 10 years have been filled with ups and downs but we would never have made it this far without our wonderful customers who have helped us conduct our business and develop our brand. We look forward to serving you and defending RSW long into the future.
For those of you who are unaware, The Real Shetland Company Ltd and Adam Curtis Online are part of the same family business network. Together we strive to support British textiles and promote eco-friendly wool products.