Elgin-based luxury bedding brand Ava Innes has been awarded a patent for a cashmere-filled duvet fabric.
For business owner Joan Johnston, the innovation was a long time coming after spending nearly three years of trials and testing to come up with the perfect product, all mainly done while working from her kitchen table.
Starting up her own business in September 2019, Ms Johnston knew she wanted to focus on sustainability and something she could add value too from her own experience in the textiles industry, where she had worked with international luxury brands such as Burberry, Dunhill and Ralph Lauren.
The hard work paid off with a patent being awarded last week for her unique duvets using raw material which tends to be discarded in the production of luxury cashmere products such as jumpers and scarves.
All about sustainability
Cashmere guard hair is long-haired fibre from the cashmere goat, which has been largely overlooked by the global textile cashmere industry, Ms Johnston believes.
She said: “The fleece is brushed off annually because of its value but, of that, only 30% is used in traditional weaving, from the underbelly which is the soft cashmere we all know.
“When I was looking at developing a sustainable product I was looking at the cashmere industry and what way I could use some of the byproducts and waste.
“Nobody was doing anything with the cashmere guard hair which is the long straight fibre that surrounds the curly cashmere.
“It’s too straight to knit or weave with so traditional industry effectively hadn’t done anything with it.
“So I came up with this idea because I thought it was crazy to do nothing with this beautiful fibre. It made perfect sense to use it in some sort of bedding product.”
Scottish wool helps with construction
To get the project started, Ms Johnston, who previously worked at Johnstons of Elgin, bought a tonne of the fibre from Afghanistan – enough to make 600 duvets.
Processed at a factory in Yorkshire, it is blended with Scottish wool which holds it together.
Mum-of-two Ms Johnston said: “I had to invest in the cashmere guard hair early and it took time to clean it and treat it.
“It’s really exciting because it took a long time to develop, but also to get the patent shows that nobody else has done this before and it’s new.
“I started this around sustainability but actually what it has done is created a great sleeping product. People sleep better under it.
It’s really exciting because it took a long time to develop but also to get the patent shows that nobody else has done this before and it’s new.”
“Our customers love the product and we are a small business that’s still growing. But our customers are our voice because they tell their friends and family and that’s how we get additional orders.”
Ms Johnston is currently in talks with a number of premium hotels across Scotland with a view to them stocking the cashmere guard hair bedding product.
The Ava Innes product range also includes Scottish wool pillows, cashmere accessories and restful gifts.