Lotti founded Second Cashmere in 2020. Even before I became aware of the sustainable fashion movement, secondhand clothing had already played a big part in my life. Whether it was the fun of rummaging through charity and junk shops with my mum, or the Christmas-like joy I got from hand-me-downs, I’ve always been drawn to its creativity. So much so, not only did I centre my Bachelor’s dissertation on the evolution of charity retail in the 2008 Recession, the first job I got in London after my degree was as an Assistant Manager at a charity shop.
Years later, Lucy Siegle’s Is Fashion Wearing out the World? introduced me to the sustainability issues in the cashmere industry and how overconsumption of mass-produced ‘cheap’ cashmere was destroying grasslands in Mongolia and China. It was something about this new found information that I found fascinating and something really clicked. I wanted to find out more. So, naturally, when I realised that the master’s degree I had chosen to apply for, which focused on sustainable fashion, landed me right in the heart of Scotland’s cashmere country, it was like it was all meant to be.
Throughout my master’s year, I got to know the cashmere industry, meeting business leaders, change-makers, scientists, amongst others, finally ending up in Mongolia for two weeks to find out as much as I could about the industry and how it all worked and, to be honest, I was hooked.
Because I’ve always loved secondhand, I often thought that beautiful quality, economic secondhand cashmere could pose as a brilliant alternative to the cheap, overly consumed cashmere that was impacting the natural world - find out more about this. Secondhand fashion has been lorded as a sustainable alternative to fast fashion and while it might not address the actual behaviour of overconsumption, it’s important to understand that not only is secondhand clothing better for the environment because it doesn’t pull on virgin resources, it’s also not all tired old tights and smelly t-shirts - secondhand is beautiful, elegant and brilliantly creative.
Having travelled to Mongolia (which produces cashmere from goat to coat), I’ve been able to catch a glimpse of every stage of the cashmere supply chain. From herding to cashmere processing, yarn and clothing production – there’s so much that goes into it! Not only does it take around four goats one year to produce enough cashmere for just one jumper, but it also requires a significant level of skill, time and resources to transform it from goat hair (read What is Cashmere?) to knitwear. This is why cashmere in budget fashion just doesn’t work (find out more about why here) and why I wanted to create Second Cashmere to raise awareness while fighting the good fight when it comes to secondhand and waste as a resource.
From my time spent working in charity shops, I was familiar with textile recycling and I knew this was where I wanted to start sourcing cashmere. I wanted to find cashmere that was right on the cusp of being recycled and to find pieces that weren’t ready for the shredder. Since then, we’ve gone on to source, mend and restore over 150 kilos of cashmere garments, which for a shaky start during a pandemic is just fine by me!