“I remember my dad separating clumps of wool and telling me to look at these crimps, to see the fineness of the fibre,” says Valerie Smith, founder of Yuglet. “When I was older I saw it under a microscope and saw what it can do. We’re now finally talking about the technical properties of wool.”
Valerie has built on her roots in the textiles industry to forge a decades-long career, designing fabrics in mills across the UK for some of the world’s most prestigious fashion brands. Wool has almost always been a part of her life. With time to reminisce during the early stages of the pandemic, she was finally inspired to launch a bold new venture that would bring together her knowledge and passion.
“I realised that life is short, so I wanted to get back to what I really love doing,” she explains. “And I kept remembering these little black and white Shetland sheep that you just couldn’t round up. I started doodling and came up with Yuglet.”
The brand takes its name from this local breed, whose wool has been worn for centuries because it is so effective at regulating temperature. Although the high performance of the fibre has been demonstrated throughout history, Yuglet will take its cues from modern styling to create a contemporary, unique outerwear collection that also protects the wearer from the elements.
Valerie is now launching a crowdfunding campaign to take the first run of Yuglet garments into production – and potentially into a low-waste, make-to-order manufacturing model, if the campaign reaches its stretch goal. It has been shortlisted for the Creative Scotland Crowdmatch competition, giving Valerie the opportunity to win match funding for the project.
Encouragement has come from the brand’s growing Instagram following including climbers, mountaineers and Arctic explorers, who have both persuaded Valerie to take the plunge with her brand and offered useful insights into the product.
“I’ve had mountaineers explaining the difference in the type of cold they experience in the Alps and the Cairngorms,” she explains. “We know that shepherds in Scotland used to wear cloaks called mauds made from local wool, which kept the warmth in even when damp – it’s the perfect material for this environment.”
Wool may have the performance qualities needed for high-quality outerwear, but for Valerie it is also a more sustainable choice for environmentally conscious outdoor adventurers.
Most outerwear products rely on at least some proportion of synthetic materials, whereas wool is an all-natural, biodegradable alternative. With Yuglet, she hopes to make an impact on both the industry and consumers’ understanding of the environmental impact of their purchases.
“Let’s stop wearing plastic clothes that shed microfibres every time they’re washed!” Valerie says. “Small companies like ours can have a really meaningful impact if our message is clear.”