A new Future Fashion Factory partner from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire is breathing life into the textile industry with a new range of recycled woollen yarns and fabrics.
Industry veteran John Parkinson’s new venture, iinouiio, arrives more than 200 years after mill owner Benjamin Law transformed discarded rags into new cloth and initiated textile’s first ‘circular economy’.
Though Law veiled his methods of shredding old clothes into new fibres (‘shoddy’), the results saw Batley, until then a small Yorkshire market town, energised into a thriving industrial textile hub.
“My life has been consumed by recycling textiles,” John enthuses, “and we are determined to preserve and improve upon this craft’s impressive heritage and the legacy of my own family’s ‘shoddy’ business.”
John spent most of his career in the textile industry, initially as a rag grinding machine operator before graduating to mill foreman in his dad’s company.
In 1990, he started Evergreen, a pioneering concern employing the highest eco-friendly values and recycling polyester fibre (made from plastic bottles) and denim. Based in Batley Carr, he sold to Tesco, Debenhams, Esprit, Mitsubishi, WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as well as many small-scale designers and artisans.
A massive fire destroyed everything in 1995 and forced him to retrain as a teacher.
Twenty five years on, John has carved out a new production route and formed iinouiio, itself a recycled business and the only one of its kind in the world.
“It was like an itch that wouldn’t go away so I’m returning to my greatest passion,” he explains.
“Experts warned me that, as the local manufacturing infrastructure was so depleted, it wouldn’t be possible to make textiles from recycled wool like I did in the 90s. They were very nearly right because it hasn’t been easy.”
To get started, John sorted 1.5 tons of rags by hand, removing all the buttons, zips and fasteners to be used in other creative ways. He arranged what remained into eight shades to form a new range of recycled wool craft materials for knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, felting, cloth and home furnishings and craft kits.
“It’s an amazing process and doing this work still feels like being part of a magic show surrounded by all these other textile wizards,” he adds. “It’s amazing to see throwaway knitwear changed into yarn and made ready to start another life.”
“We’re manufacturing bespoke products for designers and artisans at specialist wholesale price points and, when possible, we’ll be attending exhibitions and craft workshops around the country to emphasise the environmental benefits our goods bring,” says John.
“We support the re-use of products and a slowing of consumerism in favour of better planet husbandry.”
John sees shoddy production as an important part of the movement away from the ‘fast fashion’ throwaway culture and, through iinouiio, he strives to be inquisitive and collaborative.
While John describes himself as being “dedicated to traditional techniques”, he is also keen to explore new technologies to help support shoddy production and develop his manufacturing capacity.
“My whole philosophy is grounded in discovery and a desire to ‘do things better,” he explains.