Bridgette Kelly worked in both the public and private sector before joining the wool industry and has worked both in-house at the British Wool Marketing Board and as a consultant for the Campaign for Wool. She understands the entire fleece to finished product chain of production and works closely with the interiors, fashion and craft sector.
Her current role includes the creative and marketing direction of the wool sector for the Campaign for Wool in the UK and USA.
Wool Story: Our Q&A with Bridgette Kelly
When did the Campaign for Wool begin?
When the Campaign for Wool launched in 2010, it was against a backdrop of low returns on wool to the British sheep farmer and sheep farmers across the world. The Prince, a landlord to many tenant sheep farmers, had been made aware of the fact that wool was not covering the cost of shearing the sheep. As an environmentalist, he felt that naturally grown wool was better for the environment and by far the superior choice for clothing and flooring and many other products. Following discussions with the British Wool Marketing Board, other members of the wool industry and the fashion and interiors sector, he felt that an awareness campaign would help put real wool back in the spotlight.
Why did the first ever Wool Conference take place this year?
The Campaign is very active and much has been achieved, particularly the way the larger global wool organisations – Woolmark, British Wool, Cape Wools of South Africa, New Zealand – have come together to work in a united way to promote wool. There was a feeling that the conference would help focus the whole industry on the amazing assets of the fibre – whilst looking constructively at some of the issues wool faces commercially.
Tell us about The Dumfries House Wool Declaration with HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of The Campaign for Wool?
The Dumfries House Declaration is vital in a world where there are so many that do not understand the benefits of real wool and the processes of wool collection. It simply defines the assets of wool and declares the high standards of wool harvesting as supported by sheep farming countries across the world under “The Five Freedoms of Sheep.”
Can you name some well-known wool delegates?
The Campaign for Wool is a broad church and so the Conference welcomed a healthy mix of textile industry players and wool lovers. It also importantly welcomed some retailers that were not so convinced about real wool that came to find out more. Obviously, the most important delegate was our Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, who announced his ongoing commitment to ‘his’ Campaign – for another five years. This adds immense value to our planning and direction. Livia Firth was also there – founder and creative director of Eco-Age and an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Livia is passionate about sustainability and spoke with genuine knowledge.
It is perhaps her mission to reach out and engage widely that is so different. Her following on social media is huge and this kind of influence is vital to the Campaign as we channel our way forward with the next generation of wool consumers. Another highlight was Sir Paul Smith, cutting edge contemporary designer who gave an extraordinary talk – which focused on looking at things differently to capture attention – Paul has used wool in his suiting for years and is a natural innovator recently introducing the shower-proof suit.
Did you enjoy Wool Week? What were your highlights?
Wool Week is always a whirlwind of activity! We pack so much into a short week and the result is always brilliant. This year the Wool BnB gave us all a moment to be proud of! It was intended to be a truly creative space showcasing a colourful mix of the potential of wool to make a home comfortable, tactile and visually stimulating. The fabulous flooring in the living areas was provided by Alternative Flooring with Liberty Fabrics collection. They provided an artistic base for the rooms, which laid the foundation for layers of textile pattern and bold colours creating an extraordinary feast for the eyes! Add to this all the craft events, retail activity, the student hand-knit awards and the amazing Selvedge wool symposium and with Wool Week you have something very special.
Is Wool Week global?
Wool Week has had many global celebrations over the years – Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, USA, – all have celebrated wool in different ways. It often centres around retail activity and of course…sheep! We have had flocks of sheep in so many unexpected places – my favourite and perhaps most stressful was in Bryant Park, in the centre of Manhattan behind the New York city library – that was – ‘awesome’ – as the Americans like to say!
You travel the world with wool – do the Americans love wool?
The activity in the USA is focused on the flooring sector. Wool carpets and area rugs are usually 100% wool and are considered a luxury purchase in the US. Flooring is often selected by residential interior designers who are used more frequently for the home than in the UK. We have placed a lot of emphasis on education there as the wool knowledge base is less than in the UK. We have spent time creating Continuing Education for designers and architects – something we will roll out in the UK soon too.
It is such a huge country – and it’s really interesting that while New York is all for colour and pattern, the West Coast just want creams and neutrals and in Colorado, it’s chunky wool flooring all the way. It is different and inspiring!
Why do you choose wool?
It may sound corny, but I truly believe in this wonderful natural fibre. It is a very capable, almost magical fibre, in terms of its structure and its performance capabilities.
Wool adds a feeling of warmth and texture – it is versatile, innovative, resilient and recyclable. It is the classic fabric choice for every home, adding comfort, insulation and stylish flair. From throws which add that splash of colour to cosy cushions and carpets, wool can be used in a myriad of ways to wonderful effect.
I also believe in the industry behind it – the farmer with his flock and our spinners, weavers and makers with their vital skills that transform it into so many great products. It is the people and their stories that thrive around the fibre that make it so fascinating.
Wool has history and authenticity and it invites such creativity. I believe my role now and in the future is to ensure that we have a strong demand for wool, to keep those sheep on the hills and that passionate textile production chain working, so the skills continue and there is wool for the next generation.
What’s your Christmas present wool wish list?
This is a seriously loaded question! In addition to an indulgent deep pile Wool Barefoot rug from Alternative Flooring…
I saw an amazing arran knit ‘tam o shanter’ in soft green on a girl on the train yesterday – it was lovely – and that would need to be on my woolly Christmas present list. I suspect it was hand knitted – so next would be to become an instant superstar woolly knitter – which I am not! I also would love some of the stunning Donegal Tweed fabric by Sequana from Tissus d’Helene to re-upholster an old chair I have. A large bag in ‘Benbecula’ design by Anta for all the things I cart about with me! I loved the soft, chunky knit throws by Melanie Porter at the Wool BnB and I also rather fancy a new area rug by AF to sit under my refectory table in my conservatory, to make a real centrepiece and cosy toes too! Finally, a long wool with linen coat has caught my eye in Poetry.
But, if I had to choose only one thing – it would be that Tam O Shanter!