Jumper season is here, and if you’re thinking about investing in some new knitwear this winter, Yan Tan is the just-launched label you need on your radar. The brainchild of Jules Von Hep – celebrity tanner and the man behind cult tanning brand Isle of Paradise – Yan Tan focuses on sustainable knitwear made in the UK. The brand name is a play on Yan Tan Tethera, the traditional Northern English sheep-counting system used by shepherds; Yan is one, Tan is two, Tethera is three. It’s also a counting system used for counting knitting stitches.
If you’re reading this wondering how Jules made the jump from tanning to knitwear, so were we, and the story behind Yan Tan is what makes this new brand so interesting. After discovering that farmers in the UK were burning their wool because the lack of demand from our market had driven prices so low, Jules was horrified. Born in 1980s Yorkshire, farming is in his family and the situation struck a nerve on a deeply personal level. Covid-19 was a huge blow to the already declining wool industry, with prices plummeting by almost half, leaving farmers in a position where the wool itself was worth less than the costs of transporting it to a depot. Meanwhile, we continue to import wool from as far away as Australia and Peru. In a post on Yan Tan’s Instagram, Jules explains how the pandemic forced him to reflect on his upbringing and embrace a slower pace of life after years in the fast lane: “the pandemic taught me just to slow down a bit, and that our environment and Mother Nature needs to be more of a priority in my life”. And so, in a bid to help both the ailing wool industry and the fast fashion problem, Yan Tan was born.
Spun, designed and manufactured in England, Yan Tan’s designs use wool sourced from accredited sheep farmers in the UK, who must meet the government’s strict animal welfare standards. Each knit is made using nothing but 100% British wool, making it completely biodegradable, whereas a lot of high street knitwear is mixed with man-made fibres. As Yan Tan’s website explains, the products go from farm to wardrobe then – if you choose – back to the earth.
With prices starting at £150, a Yan Tan knit is undoubtedly a wardrobe investment, but the beauty of a well-made, quality knit is that (if looked after) it will last you a lifetime. And if buying one helps to improve demand for British wool and in turn help the UK wool economy – and the planet – well, we’d say that’s priceless.