Wool is a fascinating material: It repels dirt and moisture, regulates the temperature, and keeps us comfortably warm even when it's frosty outside. Marco from Nordwolle has already shared some intriguing tidbits about wool and its special characteristics in this interview. Today we meet up with yet another wool expert.
Nina and Tabea breathe new life into discarded woolen sweaters in their Berlin manufactory by using them to make clothing for children and adults. That means that every item produced under their ForSchur label is a warm and cozy one-of-a-kind.
We asked co-founder Nina a few questions – about herself, about her business, and about our mutual favorite winter material.
Tell us something about you and ForSchur. Have you always been into clothes? How did you come up with the idea of upcycling wool clothing?
Tabea and I founded ForSchur together four years ago. We came upon the idea when we were on parental leave. Like many parents, we started sewing our babies’ clothes ourselves. As new moms, the time we managed to carve out for sewing was particularly precious, which raised our ambitions and expectations for the final result; in other words, the finished piece of clothing had to be something really special. On top of that, we really loved woolen apparel for our kids. Wool is just perfect for little ones, but I will go into that in more detail later.
So we started looking for high-quality 100% wool fabric by the yard in attractive colors. But five years ago, that wasn’t so easy to come by. Sewing was very much in vogue, but the selection in the fabric stores tended to lean more towards brightly patterned jersey fabrics. We randomly happened to find a large woolen sweater made from 100% Merino wool in a second-hand shop. It was marvelously soft, not at all scratchy, and it was the perfect size for making baby clothes.
So we got busy – and were more than pleased with the result. Besides the impressive quality and texture of the newly created piece of clothing, we also found the origin of the material very compelling: A sweater that has minor flaws or is outdated or is simply no longer needed by its former owner gets an upgrade and is made into a completely new garment. This reduces the burden on the textile cycle while simultaneously eliminating the need to generate new resources in order to produce new articles of clothing.
On top of that, from that point on, our children got to wear clothing made of wool that didn’t look like all the other clothes offered by other wool manufacturers. Because even in that respect, the market was still fairly transparent at the time.
What motivates you?
I have always dreamed of being able to make a living from my own ideas and creativity, and Tabea has never been able to picture herself working in an ordinary nine-to-five job either. What we were looking for was a job with a sense of purpose and something that ideally didn’t even feel like work. We spotted real potential in our upcycling concept, and sat down together to develop a business plan based on our aim of implementing an innovative idea in a sustainable way and creating good jobs over the long term.
Why wool? What makes it such a special material for you?
Wool is the perfect material for every circumstance. You’d be hard pressed to find a material that can be utilized so flexibly – it’s a true high-tech fiber. The fibers are inherently dirt repellent and self-cleaning. A lot of the time, it’s enough to simply air it out overnight. And you can often remove heavier soiling just by brushing it out. Ultimately, it means you only need a few items of clothing, which saves space, money, and resources. Besides that, wool also regulates body temperature. Newborns in particular, because they often have a hard time maintaining their body temperature right after birth, really benefit from this feature.
Is there anything you would definitely never do with wool? If so, what?
We would never throw wool away :-D Besides that, we’re not big fans of combining wool and cotton. We often come across children’s clothing made of wool with cuffs and/or lining made of cotton. But cotton attracts moisture and then becomes wet and cold.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are currently working on our new boiled wool collection. In recent years, we’ve used condensed sweaters for our boiled wool products. Unfortunately, we could never get enough of those, which meant that we couldn’t even begin to meet the high demand. Over the summer we worked on a new opportunity together with a spinning mill and a knitting mill: They collect the woolen spinning mill waste for us that is generated during yarn production.
These production remnants are spun into new, very coarse yarn, which is then knitted and fulled. Sometimes we also have the yarn dyed. This allowed us to produce our boiled wool trousers in high quantities and in our current favorite colors this year while still ensuring sustainability. The boiled wool is absolutely fantastic, a little thicker than usual, incredibly robust, and 100% recycled.
Picture a cold winter day with the kids – maybe there’s even snow. How do you dress your kids and yourself to protect everyone from the cold?
Winter and wool, our specialty! Wool is great for layering. We recommend a jacket and trousers made from boiled wool for the outer layer. Boiled wool is windproof and water repellent. You can also treat it with a product containing lanolin to provide even better protection against moisture. Underneath, you can add some snuggly layers. Like a pair of Merino wool trousers and a wool shirt with a cashmere sweater on top. If your child still feels chilly, you can always slip another slipover vest over the sweater. With a pair of wooly Wildlings on your feet and our cashmere hooded scarf or the scarf together with our new boiled wool visor cap, you’re all set for winter.
Thank you so much for the interview, dear Nina! We’re looking forward to a snug and cozy winter.
Anna, Ran and the Wildlings
Cover image: ForSchur founders Tabea (left) and Nina (right) in front of their store in Berlin (Image: ForSchur)