Jumpers in May (and four of the best sustainable knitwear brands)

— by Alyson Walsh

Photo: Neil Mackenzie Matthews


Ne’er cast a clout till May is out; as my mum always says. And now we’re spending more time socialising outdoors, this proverb has ne’er felt more pertinent. After the frostiest April on record, jumpers and cardigans are not being packed away and moth-proofed just yet. Over the long weekend, I helped my friend to erect a gazebo in her garden, it’s been blowing a gale ever since so I hope it hasn’t relocated to to the south coast like the rest of London. No matter how much I’d like to spring into spring the unpredictable weather combined with open-air living means it pays to be prepared. And the gazebo certainly helped keep the heat in, or maybe that was a wine-induced menopausal flush…

While this outfit may give the impression that I lost the style plot at some point during the pandemic, the half-dressed up, half- locked-down combination is intentional. I’ve been experimenting more as we slowly return to normal life, playing around with new combinations and giving old clothes a good airing – and enjoying the process. Having held onto these ancient Adidas track pants for decades waiting for the return of retro sportswear – I’m pleased to announce that thanks to designer Grace Wales-Bonner’s recent collaboration with the three-stripe company, that time is now. Add a lovely Vreeland Red jumper from Navygrey (a very generous gift), a pair of chain detail loafers and a pussy bow blouse (loafers are Russell & Bromley, blouse from LK Bennett; borrowed for a recent Telegraph shoot & returned) for a fine blend of sporty and posh. Mmm…hang on a minute, let’s call this mash-up Sport Couture, instead.

If you’re thinking of buying a new cardi or jumper for summer in the unpredictable northern hemisphere, here are four small, sustainable brands to look out for:


The V Neck by Navygrey


After working as a TV researcher for David Frost, unable to find a simple crew neck sweater to suit her needs, Rachel Carvell-Spedding turned her investigative skills to knitwear. Inspired by her mum’s classic navy, round-neck jumper and grandpa’s beige cardigan, she wanted to create simple, timeless designs to transcend generations. ‘If we were cold as children, my mum would tell my sister and me to “put a jumper on”,’ says the founder, a fellow northerner, who was born in Southport and grew up in Formby, ‘ and if we were already wearing one, she’s tell us “to put another jumper on.”‘ The beautiful Navygrey knit I’m wearing in the photo is called The Traditional. ‘Good jumpers, made better’  now there’s a slogan you can’t argue with.


Made in north London using cashmere yarn from Loro Piana in Italy and realised by a French designer, there’s a lovely European flavour to this luxury knitwear brand. Aethel is named after co-founder Tim Ewington’s grandmother who was born in 1900 and worked in a clothes shop. Co-founder Jenny Milligan has the environmental credentials, she worked for the Department For Energy and Climate Change and was part of the UK negotiating team for international conferences. Explaining the cost of producing each garment, the website states, ‘ Luxury brands mark up eight times, or more. We mark up two to two and a half times. Although our products are still expensive, we believe they’re good value for money.’ Aethel means ‘noble’ and ‘honourable’ in Anglo Saxon.

Sheep Inc

This company talks about being carbon negative rather than neutral. The fashion industry is not doing enough and so Sheep Inc’s aim is to offset more carbon dioxide than they produce. Working with the most sustainable farmers, using renewable energy and funding biodiversity projects such as the on-going protection of the Amazon Rainforest, all feed into this plan. To encourage customers to become more considerate consumers, each jumper has a tag with a unique serial number, when scanned into a smart phone this reveals the manufacturing process, the carbon footprint, the name of the sheep and how it’s getting on. More information HERE.


Agnes merino cropped crew neck from & Daughter

& Daughter

Buffy Reid is the ‘& Daughter,’ a former fashion PR who together with her father established this family-run knitwear label in 2013. The combination of over-50 years experience in the knitwear industry (Columbus her dad spent his entire career in the business ) together with style credentials and slow batch production resulted in a collection of beautiful knitwear handmade in Scotland and Ireland. Last year, & Daughter diversified to include a selection of cool summer dresses in woven organic cotton, and this year linen knitwear has been added to the mix.

Available from Net Sustain at Net-a-Porter and & Daughter.


More Sport Couture, here…


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  Ne’er cast a clout till May is out; as my mum always says. And now we’re spending more time socialising outdoors, this proverb has ne’er felt more pertinent.