We asked our contributors: How far have textiles taken them?

On bitterly-cold January mornings the need for performance fibres is as clear as the blue sky. Cashmere, Vicuna, Alpaca and Goose Down – all words we associate with luxury and indulgence. I would, however, argue that they are not a luxury but a practical necessity. In this issue we explore the fibres native to extreme locations where wild weather is the norm. Here our designers are looking to nature and science for the answer to lightweight warmth.


We journey as far afield as the Mongolian steppes with Tengari and Norlha founded on the Tibetan plateau, Denis Colomb cashmere from Nepal, June Cashmere from Kyrgyzstan as well as Thibault Van Der Straete’s Andean alpaca. Each niche fibre has unique qualities; cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep’s wool and does not pill or wrinkle. Alpaca is three times warmer than sheep’s wool – and with no lanolin, less itchy but also water-repellent. We explore fibres that wick moisture away from the body; hollow fibres that insulate; and fibres that come in a myriad of different natural shades alleviating the need for dyes. What is important about these fibres is their variety – best explored through the fingers – each one a perfect match for a specific function.These are fibres to cherish, particularly when 85% of all clothing is made from cotton.


Predominantly enjoyed in their natural state, we see an exception in the collection of Moncler, who combine goose down and fur with traditional Tyrolian embroidery. In the darkest days of winter, we long for colour and light. Some of our favourite designers have injected florals into their winter collections. These dramatic dark florals have a jewel-like intensity and a romance not seen in their summer sisters. Originating in Scandinavia with the work of Josef Frank whose exhibition Patterns-Furniture-Painting can be seen at the Fashion and Textile Museum, they are the ideal way to brighten up a dark day.

Polly Leonard, Founder


I have been documenting the cultures of the native peoples of northern Siberia since 1992. Siberia is vast and this quest has involved travelling thousands of miles by plane, helicopter, tank, boat, reindeer sledge and dog teams. Although the design of northern Siberia’s native clothing varies depending on culture and region, but they use many of the same materials, particularly reindeer skin. I am impressed by the work that goes into making these clothes. They are not only beautiful, but supremely functional in the coldest of Siberian winters.

I travelled overland from Kathmandu to Lhasa when I was twenty and still remember a small carpet patterned with light blue and white squares that I had every intention of buying. The overland road back to Nepal washed out and while stranded in Lhasa I over-stayed my Tibetan visa. Not good. All my spare spending money went to a rather unscrupulous travel agent and, eventually, a flight out – but without that carpet tucked under my arm. I’ve long since hunted for a surrogate to no avail.

Textiles are an unparalleled way to explore cultures and meet craftspeople around the world.Traditional textiles have taken me to spectacular studios and hot and dusty workshops off the beaten path in Bali, Yogyakarta, Laos, Cambodia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and recently to the White Earth Nation in Northern Minnesota. I’m in awe of the spinners, weavers, dyers and designers who work hard to preserve their crafts while facing harsh competition from mass-produced textiles. Following the textile trail is always a humbling and enriching experience.