Gemma Shepherd, the mind and hands behind her eponymous label, Shepherd England, never really expected to fall into the world of knitting. "I wasn’t very good at hand-knitting," she says, noting that, in fact, "it was hilarious how bad I was." But with an art school background in graphic design and photography, she's long been interested in capturing and creating new patterns.
That's why she launched her U.K.-based label in 2005; since then, it's garnered a small following for a vibrant and simple, but striking, collection of lambswool knit scarves and buttery leather-and-wool gloves. If anything, all of her eye-catching, handmade products — whether the zigzag called "Flash," or one called "Empire," which pays homage to New York's iconic building — show zero hint of any knitting shortcomings. Below, she explains her late-in-life knitting education, the value of heirlooms in a woman's life, and more.
Where did the idea to start your own knitwear company come from?
I left art school where I did graphic design, and I specialized in photography so I carried on doing that for a couple of years but it wasn’t really moving anywhere for me. One day, I felt I wanted to try something different. I wanted to start making things again, because I really loved being in the dark room and going through that kind of process. I thought: You know what? I’m going to teach myself how to use a knitting machine. And it just started from there.
What specifically about knitting were you attracted to?
Aside from the actual knitting process is the actual designing, the making of these really nice graphic patterns, which was most intriguing to me and that’s kind of how it began. Through a friend, I got introduced to Sid Bryan. He’s one of the Sibling crew. At the time, he was doing stuff for McQueen and he needed an assistant for a few weeks before Fashion Week, so I got to do that. Certainly I was on the sharp end of the wedge. He taught me some really cool stuff, and then Shepherd England was born.
Tell us about your production technique, how are your products made?
I’ve got a studio at my mum’s farm. When my dad died we had to sell the animals, but another guy farms all the land. So it’s still got that really rural, lovely kind of feel about it with the animals. It’s in Kent, south of London. We converted one of the small barns into a studio for me, so I work from there. It’s all really homespun. Hopefully it doesn’t look too homespun, but that’s what it is at the moment. We’re tiny but slowly branching out. I’m getting more and more recognized; it’s exciting.
What’s the balance between functionality and a statement piece?
They have to be functional, otherwise there’s no point. I don’t make stuff that’s so out there that only a couple of people want to wear it. I want everyone to be able to wear it. You know, my mum is 74 and she loves wearing them. That’s really cool, and then some hipster wears them as well. That’s important to me. I want something interesting.
All your products are made of 100 percent Geelong wool. What separates it from other wools?
Geelong is in Australia. It’s this very fine merino lambswool, and it’s so incredibly soft; it’s really versatile, it holds color really beautifully. You can have it quite thick and chunky and it’s still just as soft and beautiful as if it was super-super-fine cashmere weight.
They sound like heirloom pieces.
God, that would be amazing. They're the kind of thing I want people to keep forever. Actually, I’m hoping to move into homewares, because I want that kind of thing where you pick a piece to keep in your home. As opposed to a fashion piece — which, whether you like it or not, always has a sense that you can chuck it away at the end of the season — I want things that you can keep hold of.
For U.S. consumers, the scarves and gloves are available on her website.BEGIN SLIDESHOW
Most Viewed Stories
Brad Pitt Fights Back Against Angelina Jolie and Her Plot to ‘Destroy’ Him
Looks Like Kate Middleton Is Enjoying the View in Canada
Trump Campaign Manager Accidentally Refers to His ‘Abuse’ of Women on Live TV
Megyn Kelly Roasts Trump’s Campaign Manager for Claiming He Doesn’t Make Sexist Comments
What It’s Like to Be a Female Reporter Covering Donald Trump
Finally Someone Called Donald Trump a Giant Baby and It Was Michelle Obama
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
The Best Part of Being a Royal Is Getting to Pet Bunnies
Prince Married to Commoner Still Too Good to Tweet
Democratic Women Senators Are Very Concerned About Donald Trump’s Weight
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.