It may be new to Moda, but Celtic & Co carries an extensive heritage with its name. Founder Kath Whitworth explains how the brand transforms British by-product sheepskin into a premium goods, and why now is the right time to make its wholesale debut.
Q: What is Celtic & Co all about?
A: I spent a happy childhood growing up in the fresh air and sea spray in North Cornwall, a landscape that still provides the inspiration for Celtic & Co. With determination to create a living in my hometown of Newquay, my husband Nick and I decided to try our hand at making footwear from British sheepskin, for the surfers the area so famously attracts. These sheepskin boots keep toes warm and are machine washable to remove tide marks. Twenty-seven years on, Celtic is still handcrafting boots, slippers and flip flops the traditional way, but we are also now renowned for a range of clothing and soft furnishings in only the finest natural fibres, with understated luxury the hallmark of the brand. The Duchess of Cambridge is among many eminent customers.
Q: What’s the philosophy behind the brand?
A: Celtic & Co is a British brand founded 27 years ago. Our casually stylish range offers our customers naturally luxurious clothing, footwear and accessories made from all-natural fibres, predominantly produced right here in the UK.
Q: Who is the Celtic & Co consumer?
She is aged 30 plus, a woman who cares about how and where her clothing is created, and a woman who wants to invest in key looks each season that will last a lifetime.
Q: What sort of presence have you already established?
Celtic & Co is one of the UK’s largest dedicated retailers of luxury sheepskin products. We currently operate through UK, US, Canadian and Australian websites, mail order and a handful of small boutiques. We sell to over 60 countries and our catalogue now also drops in both the US and Canada. In effect, we chase winter around the globe!
Q: What prompted your decision to exhibit at Moda Footwear?
We wish to expand our home-produced factory capabilities and acquire a wider audience. We’ve only focused on business-to-consumer for many years but now the time is right, and this is THE show to be at if your aim is to push into this realm. We are hoping to meet retailers with a passion for quality footwear that hold the same values as our brand and wish to align themselves with our ethical ethos.
Q: What sets Celtic & Co apart from its competitors?
A: Our collections are predominantly crafted right here in the UK from natural fibres and materials. They are made to last a lifetime, and their price point provides great value too. Our skins are from British sheep - a bi-product of the farming industry – which means that the wool is a lot thicker because of our climate. This makes the product far superior to the thinner skins from China and Australia. Our sheepskin footwear is specially treated so that they can be thrown in the washing machine, bringing them up like new every time. They are also double-stitched making them robust, and they feature a hidden heel support to stop that unsightly slouching sheepskin boots from other brands get. No one likes that look!
Q: What’s key for a/w 18?
Each year we launch new colourways for classic Celtic styles such as the Supersoft Slouch Jumpers and Dresses, and some people collect the whole range. They wait eagerly for their catalogue to arrive to order the new season’s colour. We are always expanding our range of British-made sheepskin outerwear – this year there are more colour variations and styles, and many of the coats and jackets are fully reversible, meaning you get two looks for the price of one.
Q: Where and how is the collection designed?
A: We are inspired by our beautiful Cornish landscape. We keep the tones neutral to complement the natural materials they are made from, with only sometimes throwing in a pop of colour depending on the trend at the time. We create investment pieces to last a lifetime, which are statement yet classic in style. Our knitwear designer is from St Ives, and we work closely together on creating wearable items that both daughters and mothers would suit. We are certainly not throwaway fashion, and relaxed style is key for us.
Q: Can you describe the process of manufacture?
A: Our sheepskin boots, slippers, flip flops and sheepskin accessories are all still handcrafted in our Newquay workshop from 100 per cent British sheepskin. We buy the skins as a waste product from the farmers who would otherwise have to pay for their disposal, and create beautiful footwear from them. It’s recycling at its best!
Q: Why are you so committed to keeping your manufacture in the UK?
A: Not only does it lower your carbon-footprint, the quality is actually better. Some of the mills that we source our yarns from for our knitwear items are hundreds of years old, so are therefore masters of their craft. Having worked with these British mills and suppliers for many years, they have become firm Celtic friends, which makes the whole process a lot easier and smoother.
Q: Does this add value for the end consumer?
A: We believe that customers buy into a brand and not just a product. They love the fact that we are British, and many of our customers from overseas have fond memories of holidays by the sea. When your heart is in the right place and you are open and honest with regards to the ethical sourcing of materials, it instantly means the quality is better. We do not produce in vast quantities, so people can trust that we will provide the highest of quality products they expect from us. They return year on year, and become true dedicated fans of the brand.
Discover Celtic & Co at Moda Footwear on 18-20 February this season.