Behind the Brand - Q&A with Navygrey

We were delighted to catch up with Navygrey's founder Rachel Carvell-Spedding all about the brand, whose knitwear is designed to last a lifetime.

The brand begun because you couldn’t find anything as good as a favourite knit of your Mother’s. What was it that was so special about your favourite knit that was hard to find?

It was a feeling. The warmth. The comfort. Like you’ve come back home and everything’s going to be alright. Yes it was navy but it was more than that – it just felt right – every time I pulled it on..

I’ve spent years trying to find a jumper that felt that good. I couldn’t. Not new. Not vintage. Not anywhere. So I decided to create one.

Rachel in her studio.

How did search lead to you launching Navygrey?

I wanted to recreate this feeling – that sensation you feel when you pull on your favourite jumper. A jumper that could be smart and relaxed. Classic, timeless and pragmatically elegant.

But more than that, the jumpers had to be traceable – from sheep to sweater. For years wool received quite a bad rep that it wasn’t soft enough and that and that it was somehow inferior to cashmere.

But with the devastation caused by the desertification of Mongolia due to the overpopulation of goats to fuel the cashmere trade, wool is a much more sustainable and technically brilliant fibre – antibacterial, biodegradable, antimicrobial to name but a few.

Wool feels so good – a sweet spot where softness meets edge. You can get 4-5 jumpers from one sheep, whereas you need at least 3 goats to make one cashmere jumper.

Navygrey therefore had to be about making things that make you feel good and look good.

Natural, traceable, increasingly regenerative and crafted by the best people. And so Navygrey was born.

Tell us a bit about your production process.

We start with three principles – the fibre, the purpose and the woman. 100% natural and traceable wools – that’s a given. And we only work with a handful of different fibres to ensure that we understand everything about the people involved in the creation of that fibre.

As a team we question ourselves all the time - can it be even better, more local, more regenerative. We work with a huge amount of British wool now – that’s wool sourced from farms in the north of England – and have created a hyper-local supply chain from fibre to finished sweater which we believe is paramount to our quest to creating better jumpers.

We only work with a handful of factories – three here in the UK and two in Portugal. We know these factories incredibly well and their attention to detail and quality is second to none.

We have just started to introduce organic cotton into our range as well – again this has to be certified and we need to know and understand the source.

Then it’s the purpose – everything we create has to have a real place in your wardrobe. We’re not designing and creating things for the sake of it. We’re on an eternal quest for those pieces that you’ll turn to year after year. Trusty companions that bring joy. We look through old family photographs and archive imagery – taking inspiration from those pieces that we just wished we had in our wardrobes today.

And then of course, above all there is the Navygrey woman – our customer. Confident, resilient – forging her own path. She is focused. A problem solver. Pragmatic, practical and highly motivated. Craving effortless, she does not dwell, she gets on with it. And the clothes she wears have to fit in with her life.

Once we’ve worked through these three core pillars, then the design and the making can really begin.

Why is sustainability important to you as a brand?

It’s a non-negotiation. Just like integrity, sustainability needs to become a given in any business. But if we’re honest about the state of the climate, we have to go further than sustainability. We have to regenerate. For Navygrey that means investing in things for the long term. Building long term relationships with farmers and suppliers so that we can improve things every month, every year. There are no quick wins.

As a brand, we are currently committed to growing organically, to do things at a pace that feels right and ultimately put back more than what we take. Because we are fully aware that when you create products like ours, you take from the environment. But we want to ensure that we build a business that creates value for our customer and nature.

The environmental credentials of the traceable wools we work with make it the best possible fibres out there. 100% natural. 100% biodegradable. 100% renewable. Keeping an entirely British supply chain, from sheep to shop, often all within 250 miles, means we can reduce our carbon footprint as a business and show that British wool has huge value.

We have also just become B Corp certified. But that’s not a destination. That’s just the beginning.

There is work to be done to be better, every, single day.

What is your top tip for keeping your knitwear in good condition?

At Navygrey, we encourage you to wash your knitwear less. So much so, we decided to start a club. A Wash Less, Air More Club. We believe the longer you leave your knitwear without washing it, the more beautiful it will be. By airing your knitwear, giving it a chance to breathe and relax, you'll keep it fresh.

Wool is clever. It’s naturally breathable, resistant to odours and dirt. And wool doesn't really like water. What’s more, by washing less, you’ll save time. We always want more of that. But, even more importantly, you’ll save lots of water. And that helps to save the planet.

What are your hopes and dreams for Navygrey this year?

To keep working with great farmers and suppliers and to keep making excellent jumpers for our customers to love. Ultimately that’s what brings us the most joy. 

We’ve just introduced a new organic cotton and wool blend into our range so we’re seeing how customers are finding that.

We have also just become B Corp certified which is wonderful, but as I said that’s not a destination. It’s just the beginning.

We’re hoping to do some more face-to-face pop ups so we can see our customers in person and we have some potential wonderful collaborations coming up too… We also have a long term plan around supporting the wool industry’s work around educating young people about natural fibres in clothing and the importance of this over synthetic ones.