Nordic Wool Factory: Woven in wool – slow fashion from the Faroe Islands
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Sophie Valentin
Wanting to honour centuries-old traditions, Anja and Francesco Mazuhn set up the Nordic Wool Factory to restore appreciation for what they believe is one of the world’s best renewable materials, Faroese sheep’s wool. The company’s products are sold via showrooms in Germany and Denmark as well as an online shop that ships worldwide.
The Faroe Islands, comprise 18 rocky islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. There is an old local saying here: “Ull er Føroya gull”, which means ‘wool is the Faroe Islands’ gold’. However, somewhere along the way, wool lost its value within the Faroese community. That is until Nordic Wool Factory came and saw the beauty of the material, which, due to a sheep population of 70,000, is abundant on the Faroe Islands.
Nordic Wool Factory’s story began ten years ago in Berlin, where the Mazuhns lived at the time. One evening, the couple watched a documentary about the Faroe Islands, and were instantly struck by the islands’ beauty.
“We were deeply impacted by the rugged island beauty we saw. We saw a place where life was happening at nature’s pace, and there were more sheep than people. It sounded perfect, and we felt we needed to get there immediately,” Francesco says. Three days later, the couple were on a plane, and three months later, they bought a house on the island of Eysturoy, in the tiny village of Elduvík, where Francesco and Anja joined 13 villagers. “There’s no bus, no stress, no shop, no meetings,” he laughs.
Slow fashion made to last
The couple’s new life began, and, according to Francesco, it now involves a lot of sheep. “The Faroese sheep are small, shaggy, smart and surprisingly tough,” he says. Each summer, the village community drives the sheep down from the mountains into the valley and shears the animals, using traditional shearing scissors. “But to our surprise, after the shearing, the lanolin-rich wool used to be thrown away or burned because it was thought to be worthless. That’s until we arrived,” he adds.
Fast-forward ten years, and Nordic Wool Factory is up and running. Anja and Francesco took the time to carefully consider every aspect of their business, and set up a fair and sustainable production chain. Immersing themselves into the world of wool, Anja and Francesco needed to find fellow campaigners, manufacturers, gain knowledge about traditional wool methods and find suitable machines and a committed investor.
In a world of fast fashion and clothing waste becoming increasingly common, Nordic Wool Factory has wanted to do the opposite: produce durable, timelessly beautiful and high-quality products without compromising on their values on sustainability. All of Nordic Wool Factory’s products are manufactured locally, and hand-sewn by skilled tailors. “We wanted to create products that would be high-quality and would stand the test of time.”
Wool is the ultimate sustainable raw material: it’s renewable and 100 percent biodegradable. “Our clothes are windproof and water-repellent, making them ideal for outdoor experiences and adventures,” Francesco says.
Now, Nordic Wool Factory has showrooms in Klintum, Germany and Denmark as well as an online shop that ships worldwide. The company has launched their first fashion collection, which includes garments and home textiles. The collection is unique: it is made entirely from Faroese sheep’s wool. For the first time ever, the special Faroese wool has not just been processed into knitting yarn, but also into high-quality cloth.
A lot of love for the sheep
The Faroe Islands’ sheep are not bred for their wool or the meat industry. They simply live on the island, and have done so for more than 1 200 years. They roam on the islands freely, and they are perfectly equipped to withstand the harsh weather conditions all year round. “The relationship between the islanders and the sheep is one characterised by respect. The shearing is done with patience and calmness,” Francesco explains.
The company has achieved exactly what it set out to do: restoring wool as a valuable, versatile, sustainable raw material. “We share our profits with the community. Not only are our garments functional and ‘urban-chic’, the Nordic Wool Factory is also a circular business, which directly benefits this remote island community,” Francesco says.
“I believe that, sometimes in life, you have to jump – and if you are lucky, you’ll end up somewhere fantastic. And perhaps you might end up in the middle of a lifelong journey, which includes a lot of sheep and the founding of a company,” he concludes.
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