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What does it take to be a… Recycle Retailer? by The Best You

Turtle Doves is a British design and manufacturing company, specialising in using post-consumer textile waste to create beautiful new garments and accessories. The Best You chats with founder Kate Holbrook


| How did you get into recycle retailing?

Twenty-five years ago, I was working for a clothing manufacturer and although I worked on the administrative side, I learnt to sew in the evenings as it was a really inspiring and creative place.

I’ve always loved reusing material rather than using new.

Then, seven years ago, while I was out walking my dogs, they ran into me and broke my leg quite badly, which required surgery and metalwork in my leg. It took a long time to recover and while I was at home one day I saw a pair of fingerless gloves in a magazine that I loved, but they cost £80 – I would never buy anything that expensive, but I thought I would make my own and did so from a recycled jumper from a charity shop. Subsequently I made 80 pairs and did an event where they sold out, and I realised I could make a business from this.

| What’s the concept behind Turtle Doves?

My husband, Graham, named the company, as Turtle Doves is cockney rhyming slang for gloves! For a while I worked by myself, but then we took on a machinist and it grew from there. We specialise in making quality, stylish and practical accessories from pre-owned fabrics.

| How do you gather all the cashmere for your products?

We used to buy jumpers from charity shops, then wash, cut-up and rework the fabric, but we had no control over the supply of material. Graham did some reverse logistics and we identified a good supply of post-consumer waste to enable us to source the cashmere that we needed. This has given us the ability to develop the company, and we now supply 200 shops in the UK. We buy about 60-80 kilos per week, and around 300 jumpers allows us to create 500 pairs of gloves.

| How would you describe your products?

Luxurious! People are attracted to our gloves by the way they look and feel – cashmere is such a tactile material. There’s also the appeal of buying an ethical product, as we are reusing a material that has been quite impactful on the environment to create initially.

Recycled material keeps the cost down which enables people to buy a luxurious product for less.”

| You have an A-list celebrity clientele – how did that come about and what’s the nicest thing that’s been said about your products?

The business has grown organically, and we’ve had celebrities buy from us from a stall. We had a delightful email from Dame Judi Dench who said she loves our products. Turtle Doves is growing and we now sell in France, Germany, Italy, Australia and America. It seems incredible to think it all started with one pair of gloves for me!

To find out more, visit turtle-doves.co.uk

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