By Scott Wright
IT is a natural fibre more commonly associated with expensive jumpers, gloves and scarves.
Now cashmere is being held up as the key to a good night’s sleep...and it’s all thanks to the humble goat.
Luxury bedding based on the natural fibre, and designed by a veteran of the Scottish textiles industry, is beginning to find favour as people seek higher-quality rest in an increasingly stressful world.
It is also winning over consumers who prize environmental sustainability, which the brand declares lies “at the heart” of everything it does.
Joan Johnston, a former creative director of luxury brand Johnstons of Elgin, launched the company, Ava Innes, less than six months before the pandemic took hold in 2022, initially online.
Unlike the cashmere that is used for traditional knitting and weaving, Ava Innes makes its bedding from a by-product brushed from goats that is considered too straight to be spun and, as such, unsuitable for clothing.
With this “guard hair” rich in keratin, and known for its temperature-regulating qualities, Ms Johnston spotted an opportunity to make a sustainable fabric from the material.
Her duvets and pillows help people sleep better, as the fibre adjusts to the temperature of the body.
The products also make use of what would otherwise be unused natural cashmere, as only 30 per cent of fibre brushed from goats is utilised for knitting and weaving.
Until now, the by-product has mainly been used as a source of lanolin for shampoo.
After initially building its reputation through “word-of-mouth”, Elgin-based Ava Innes has more recently been working with luxury and boutique hotels, which have reported positive results from trials.
Now Ms Johnston, who in 20 years in the textiles industry has worked with brands such as Burberry and Ralph Lauren, is seeking investment to help the company grow sales at home and across the Atlantic.
Talks with potential investors, including Mint Ventures and an unnamed Global Scot based in the US, have begun, with the company hoping to raise £150,000.
Ms Johnston told The Herald: “The aim of this first-stage investment is to support our growth plans within the hospitality sector and our international reach.”
The company’s current stock of guard hair was imported by boat from Afghanistan, however more recently, amid the ongoing political upheaval there, it has begun to import from Mongolia and China.
The pillows it makes are based on Cheviot wool sourced in the Scottish Borders.
As well as helping people to sleep better, Ms Johnston emphasised the sustainable nature of the products. She highlighted the example of the company’s pillows, explaining that the whole manufacturing process takes place within a 200-mile radius, between Yorkshire and the Borders.
“All duvets and pillows are made in Yorkshire in a traditional mill,” Ms Johnston said.
“It has never been more crucial to choose and develop highly sustainable products that support our growing circular economy.
“Customers are placing increasing importance upon ensuring the brands they choose align with their personal ethics and net-zero ambitions, and business owners have a responsibility to meet these needs.
“Investors have a great opportunity to demonstrate their own eco-credentials by supporting a business that places sustainability at the heart of everything we do, from our core bedding products to our packaging and commitment to exploring further sustainable best practices for our business.”
Ms Johnston added: “Scotland has a long history of ground-breaking innovation, and I’m proud to follow in those footsteps.
“We are ready to embrace the next stage of our evolution and look forward to helping customers around the world get a better night’s sleep.”