September 15, 2022
The Earth is our shareholder. It is such a simple idea. So true. So obvious.
We have always admired Patagonia, but never more so than today. They have been pioneering a planet and people first business since 1973. Yvon Chouinard, the rock climber / surfer / founder, has just announced something extraordinary in terms of the wider business landscape but completely in line with his entire career.
Rather than sell the company or list the company on the stock market the Chouinard family are transferring their ownership of the company (valued at about $3 billion) to a group of trusts and not-for-profits that will maintain the company's independence and more importantly guarantee that all of its profits are used to fight climate change, and in Yvon's words, 'to save our home planet'.
Elvis & I have been discussing this all morning. Yvon never behaved like a billionaire, yes, he owned the company, but he didn't live like a king, the value stayed in the company, the company he no longer owns. Elvis said - isn't this what we are doing? Have always done? And the answer is kind of, well yes...
The walls of our straw bale workshop... before the lime render.
Most of you who will read this know that we have always donated 50% of our profits to our charity partners, mainly the Firefighters Charity and Barefoot College. But what about the other 50%? Well, here you go, the other half of the story.
1. Savings. We have always wanted to stay independent, to not require shareholders or debt or anything that could diminish our environmental or social goals. So we saved up to give us a buffer in order to maintain this kind of independence.
2. Re-investment. We started with just one material, decommissioned fire-hose, but now we rescue more than 10 materials and do all kinds of pioneering R&D work. We are constantly taking on new material challenges.
Tea sack transformed into packaging; we have more planned for these too!
3. Fighting Climate Change. For many years we have been trying to work out how we could actually be a net regenerative business. How could we provide net benefits to society and the environment? How could we actively foster biodiversity and fight climate change?
Our answer was regenerative agriculture. We moved to New Barns Farm in December 2020 and started planning. We planted a regenerative agriculture vineyard and the rest of the site is really taking shape. This is a long-term project, being regenerative from Day 1 is labour intensive and expensive and we won't have returns for years. Elvis & Kresse is investing in this. If we are right this farm will not only help us to sequester carbon (tree planting, building soil health) but we have designed it to be a hub, a place where we can share everything we are learning about renewable energy, sustainable construction, rainwater harvesting, wetlands, sewage treatment, compost, compost tea, cover cropping, agroforestry, beneficial insects, and the unbelievably complicated world beneath our feet, in our soil. We are only managing one small farm, but if our experiment works and we share all our data, maybe we can help to convince other farmers and landowners and consumers of farmed goods (so yes, everyone who eats food), that there is a regenerative way to live with the land.
Sheep grazing in our vineyard, they are our only fertiliser.
We aren't Patagonia, we are much much smaller than they are, but guess what, we operate in exactly the same way. I am so glad that Yvon's news has made so many headlines; it will certainly make life easier for us and all of the other founders and entrepreneurs out there who have devoted their lives to 'saving our home planet'.
The final pond in our wetland system... waste water becomes bathing water.
PS: If you don't know the Patagonia story or brand then please - dive in.
May 19, 2022
We have mostly been planting trees at New Barns Farm, but we have also been dealing with long dead trees. What is our plan? We are strategically stacking wood to create wildlife habitats. Smaller branches that would blow away are chipped for our compost. But the stumps? We are transforming these into bee hotels by drilling holes, or rooms for the bees to colonise.
Here is our quiet boutique hotel, tucked away between an Apple Tree and a Rose Bush in a secluded spot on the farm.
But this one is our show stopping 7 Star sail shaped epic, offering a view of the vineyard and wetland and boasting all kinds of amenities.
They will offer different but unique experiences for guests we hope will stay forever.
April 21, 2022
Today we are proud to announce that we are one of 226 organisations nationally to be recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise. We have been specifically recognised for our excellence in Sustainable Development.
An amazing honour and another reason to go to Buckingham Palace to celebrate with some of the most sustainable businesses in the UK including some great friends, COOK and Birdsong.
Just before leaving for Buckingham Palace, dress from eBay (DVF, already worn several times) and more importantly, standing in front of our amazing Discovery Apple tree at the farm.
April 13, 2022
We are proud to announce that we have re-certified as a B-Corp. One of the best aspects of this community is that a company has to re-affirm its membership every three years, and is mandated to improve its performance.
We were one of the founding UK B Corps and then recertified in 2019 so this was our third assessment. We are very proud to announce that having made significant improvements in our production of renewable energy and treatment of wastewater that we have received an overall score of 147.6 which puts us in the top 25% of all global B Corps. The average UK B Corp score is 91.9.
February 15, 2022
This is an exciting time to join our team at our amazing new workshop, just outside Faversham in Kent. We can't wait to meet someone who shares our ambitions and really wants to make their mark.
You will be responsible for managing all digital marketing channels and developing further growth opportunities, working closely with and reporting to the CEO and Co-Founder of the business. The role is mixed and ideal for an experienced “all rounder". You will have your fingers in many pies, but that will not scare you. You thrive on change and the success of the wider team working with you. You are a proactive individual with a hands-on approach, but you will also be capable of managing a few agencies, while inspiring current and future colleagues.
We have a current social media focus with channels such as Facebook and Instagram, which have a strong following of 28k and 25k respectively. There is room to further improve both, along with Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok.
The business uses affiliate marketing too, specifically Rakuten. This has strong foundations, but can be further improved and grown with other channels, such as Awin. There are also many marketplaces and platforms that the company utilises; experience in managing a multitude of partners in this field is beneficial.
Google Adwords knowledge is required and use of Analytics is important. This channel will need to be grown and continually adjusted as the company evolves. There is scope to grow into Bing advertising and YouTube marketing.
The main Elvis & Kresse website is your focus so e-commerce management will be required, ideally using Shopify. This will include SEO best practice, product updating when required, suggestions on product page best practice etc., with the hope of improving these moving forward.
Our customers are our community. Content management and production are vital. You will need to be able to generate ideas and run with them - from start to finish. We have a strong database and experience with email marketing is essential.
Communication with our stakeholders is important too as you will have to be able to translate workshop life into a digital experience for our community. This is a mission driven business, while your focus is on growing our positive impacts you will have to be analytically minded and understand the importance of KPI’s.
You will join Elvis & Kresse, an organisation at one of the most exciting times as it branches out from luxury fashion into regenerative agriculture (we will be growing grapes and making wine on-site). This role is based just outside Faversham, Kent, UK and is available immediately for the right candidate.
Please email your CV etc., to email@example.com
February 09, 2022
A group of world class Farmers was asked to review Clarkson's Farm... and as a real newcomer to the world of agriculture, so were we!
Thank you to Live Frankly for the opportunity. For those of you that don't know Live Frankly, it is a genuinely good lifestyle guide that breaks down thorny sustainability issues, features pioneering businesses, and delivers the thoughtful honest truth. We are proud to be a part of their directory.
Our views are below but if you want to read the full piece, here it is!
When I first heard about Clarkson’s Farm, I have to admit, I didn’t think I would be a fan. But I am always happy to be wrong, and in this case I was.
Is the show perfect? No. Is Clarkson a regenerative hero? No. But, is he a man in transition that could take his audience along for the ride? Absolutely.
What I like best about Clarkson’s Farm is that he very clearly shows how incredibly difficult the profession is.
Elvis and I started our own farming adventure in December 2020. We bought a small 17 acre farm outside of Faversham in order to pursue regenerative agriculture. We watched the Biggest Little Farm, we watched Kiss the Ground, we got in touch with everyone we knew who knew anyone doing this kind of farming and we started researching… hard.
It has been a lot like going back to university. Except this time, instead of studying Politics (useless), we are getting to grips with soil health, microbiology, weather patterns, holistic planned grazing, permaculture… We have never been so physically drained while so simultaneously intellectually jazzed. We have found some incredible mentors and a deep well of support from our community and new neighbours.
As a society we seem to feel entitled to cheap food; the result is that farmers are overworked and underpaid and the land suffers. Diddly Squat made almost no money in Clarkson’s first year at the helm, and he took no salary.
The transparency of the show is great. Day after day the natural world is bringing Clarkson round to its way of working – it’s slow, complex, unpredictable and yet perfect.
He is bearing witness to climate change and his eco efforts – rewilding, wetlands, wildflowers, insect corridors – are all fantastic initiatives that frankly, we need Clarkson’s seven million Twitter followers to love, too.
We have sheep and are planting 11,668 vines in the spring. Hopefully, we’ll be making wine by 2025. We are planning to go beyond organic and biodynamic and have a soil-first approach. But, this is experimental and risky, as there are few precedents.
The main reality of farming, one that Clarkson also presents incredibly well, is that it unfolds very slowly. You have to watch everything as closely as possible and there are no certainties. No matter what the industrial chemical and seed companies may promise, there are no absolute inputs, and no absolute outcomes.
The best we ever hope to be is a symbiotic partner for nature. This partnership is already messy and erratic but also achingly beautiful and endlessly interesting.
And, maybe I am being too optimistic, but I think Clarkson is heading in the same direction…
January 25, 2022
We are very lucky to be a part of a community of businesses (B-Corporations) that are doing their utmost to ensure that they work with nature and for society. What is amazing about this community is that each business is finding its own path. There are some common themes - living wages, vertically integrated supply chains, carbon tracking, repairs, renewables - and certainly a lot of companies have a specific tree strategy.
One tree planted per sale? Ten trees? Whole forests to account/offset for the pesky fossil fuels you haven't managed to eliminate from your transport or manufacturing? If you are looking for organisations to plant with we can recommend Tree Sisters and Trees for Life.
Our strategy has just started, with our own planting at the farm. This means Elvis & Kresse are taking full responsibility for the planting and stewardship of the 4000+ trees and bushes that we aim to plant by the end of February 2022. We are planting a diverse range of native species including varieties of Cobnut, Cherry, Cherry Plum, Plum, Apple, Pear, Mulberry, Sea Buckthorn, Dogwood, Birch, Medlar, Juniper, Rose, Cistus, Arbutus, Pine, Holly, Oak, Elder and many, many more. We aren't linking these to purchases. We aren't using them as an offset. We are just doing it. Right now we feel that this is one of the best investments we can make in our valley, for our farm and for the future.
This weekend we had some incredible helpers - in just over 3 hours we planted 165 trees. Each root was dipped in our own compost tea, and planted with our own compost. We have used off-cuts of our very own decommissioned fire-hose to protect the trees from rabbits. What an absolutely amazing day!
December 29, 2021
In the weeks before Christmas we had a lovely message from a local artist, Patrick Morales-Lee.
I had recently met his wife, founder of the Warrior Women Network. She is a force of nature that had been lovely enough to include me as a guest on her podcast and also a speaker at an incredible event in London earlier this year where we talked about new political systems, social entrepreneurship and how mass collaboration is required to solve global challenges.
Patrick wondered if it would be possible to make a trade, one of his prints for a special piece of ours for a Christmas/Birthday present for Karla.
Now, this particular request came at precisely the right time. We are about to completely change the landscape at the farm with 11,668 vines, the associated trellising, completing our workshop, renovating and restoring the other buildings and planting thousands of trees. We really wanted to capture the farm as we found it and despite having a lot of drone images there were none which managed to contain the whole site. One of the corners of a field was always missing, or one of the buildings, or the slope... We knew that an artist's rendering could help; angles can easily be defeated by skill and imagination!
We are now very proud to unveil the 'before' illustration. It is just fantastic, and something we will always treasure.
Keep checking in, it won't be too long before we have the next instalment for you. Patrick has agreed to produce an 'after' illustration when everything is complete and in bloom.
December 21, 2021
We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope that you will be able to spend it with the ones you love. This has been a year of highs and lows for everyone which makes the holiday period, where we can connect and reflect, even if only virtually, that much more important.
As always we will be closing the workshop for a winter break. This year it is from the 24th of December 2021 until we are back in on the 4th of January 2022. We will continue to take all orders safely during this time, but won't be sending anything out until after the New Year.
We can't thank you enough for your continued support and we are really looking forward to hosting different events at our new site in 2022. More to follow on this!
Meanwhile, if you want to see what we have been up to this year... please have a read over at the blog I wrote titled "December In Our Unconventional Workshop" just earlier this month. I can't believe we have been at our new HQ - New Barns Farm - for over a year now and see you all again in 2022!
December 10, 2021
Although no one could ever accuse us of being conventional, sometimes we even surprise ourselves. Lets just say that the last few weeks have been amazing.
In a normal December Elvis & Kresse generally don't make anything new, we are busily packing up and sending out Christmas orders. Of course we continue to make our beautiful pieces and packaging from decommissioned printing blankets, failed military-grade parachute silk panels, and tea sacking; we have several hundred tea sacks arriving from our friends at Clipper Tea tomorrow in fact! But this year is different, this year our Research and Development has continued at pace.
On the 4th of December we had our first anniversary as farmers. It was on this day in 2020 that we became the custodians of this incredible hillside farm in Kent. And a year later we were marvelling at the progress we've made but also the work that is still to be done.
The Most Beautiful Sewage Treatment System in the World at our new farm
After 8 very slow months planning permission for our new eco-workshop came through, we broke ground almost immediately, but it will take months to finish. Apparently we are building the largest straw bale structure in Europe? It will also be solar powered and air source heated. Digging a foundation has certainly caused a mess in the farmyard, but we also did a lot of digging in the top of one of our fields, where we have sited the most beautiful sewage treatment system in the world. It is a nature based solution, requiring gravity, a centrifuge, some tiger worms and a series of stunning swales (long ponds) which deploy a hugely biodiverse planting, and crucially the roots of these plants, to treat all of our own waste water. Just a few months in and it is already a hotspot for birds, small mammals, and insects. We also built and turned, and turned, and turned the blackest treacly compost I have ever seen. Our compost is made entirely from local organic wastes, so never think the circular economy has to be an urban thing! The ingredients for our treacle are organic cow manure (this was a tough one to source!), spent grains from Mad Cat Brewery, wood chip from Invicta Tree Care and food waste from our favourite local farm shop, Macknade Fine Foods.
Elvis & David building the compost - adding organic orange peel from Macknade.
By this time next year we will have our workshop complete, our vines (we will be planting 11,668 vines in April!) in the ground, and we will have had our first summer of market gardening. What an adventure ahead!
So, back to the last two weeks and the two things we have been working on. Both of these make our souls sing and certainly tell the tale of our two big Covid adventures, the Farm and the Solar Forge.
On the left you will see a vial of our freshly brewed compost tea. The reason we needed the compost in the first place was to wake up our very neglected, lifeless, soil. This farm has thin topsoil (according to local legend one of the previous owners sold it off via a turf cutting enterprise); it was also super-compacted, full of weeds and contained only 3% organic carbon. A healthy soil can contain up to 50% organic carbon! Our precious compost, the one we spent eons turning and lovingly feeding, has been designed to produce a cornucopia of microorganisms. When we brew it in giant 2kg tea bags and drench our farm soil with the water (i.e compost tea), this is how we awaken the soil and bring it back to health. Before we drench our land with this compost tea we checked... David, our newly hired co-farmer and vineyard manager, put this precious tea under the microscope to make sure it was teeming with healthy, balanced, life. We are very happy to report that our brew is a roaring cauldron of life! Exactly what our soil needs.
On the right, next to the vial of compost tea, is a lump of 100% rescued, melted, and cast aluminium. I think it looks a little like a rooster, perched on a ball (yes, a little like the Tottenham Hotspur crest). I love it. This week I cast this myself, it is my first rescued aluminium piece from our solar powered aluminium forge. The forge works, but as you can see, my casting needs improvement! Here is a picture of me with our beautiful forge which is still in the lab at Queen Mary University, but it will soon be on its way home to our farm and new Head Quarters...
For these two new products you could say we were 50% successful. The tea is ready to go, but the rescued aluminium casting is still a work in progress.
Wow, what can I say. We love December!
November 25, 2021
We have been doing some research into this: there are certainly some in-depth articles, online debates, academic research and books which look into the idea of the statement piece at length and they offer various definitions including:
We also know from the amazing exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Bags: Inside Out, that Statement Pieces have been around for a very long time. One of the earliest examples in the exhibition is a ‘burse’, a pouch used to carry Elizabeth I’s Great Seal of England; its detailed embroidery designed to convey her personal power as a monarch. Imagine how this feels for us, that our Weekend Bag is in the same exhibition and now part of the V&A’s permanent collection!
Over the years we have been gathering lovely stories from the people who carry our bags, wear our belts or rely on our wallets and purses. Our pieces might be gifts, considered purchases, ways to propose (at least twice now!), and also conversation starters. What we tend to hear, again and again, is that people love what our pieces say about them.
You may have noticed that our branding is pretty subtle, there are no big logos. So we think that our pieces might whisper rather than shout, but this is what we think they are saying:
- That you care for resources; that you would rather help to rescue and reuse materials than opt for something new.
- That you care about makers; that you understand how much time and skill it takes to make a high quality piece and that you are really happy to support a company which pays real Living Wages as a minimum.
- That you want something unique. No two fire-hoses have had the same life, or bear the same scars or are precisely the same shade of red.
- That you want to give back; that sharing is a fundamentally awesome thing to do. The best day of our year is the day we make our annual donations to our charity partners. I can promise you that the joy of giving outweighs any other high we have had as a company.
- That you love the fire service; 50% of our profits from the Fire-hose Collection is donated to the Fire Fighters Charity and fund (among many other things) exercise therapy sessions, hydrotherapy sessions, physio sessions, psychological support sessions, family counselling, food boxes, and a help line.
- That you make slow, considered purchases. You would celebrate our focus on utility, durability, classic design and refusal to produce seasonal collections. You want to know we are here to repair your piece over time and make your belt shorter or longer as required. Your bag is not just for Christmas, it is a long-term commitment.
- That you think women will make amazing solar engineers; 50% of the profits from our rescued leather (Fire & Hide Collection) go to Barefoot College, an incredible charity that tackles almost every single Sustainable Development Goal by design. It educates and empowers women, tackles poverty and ensures a renewable energy future for their communities.
- That you can spot the difference between a business who is making a small proportion of their goods in an innovative way, let's say ‘consciously’, while making the bulk of their goods unconsciously. Intent is important, it is wonderful that some companies are on a genuine transition, but it is always better to invest in action.
Is this your image? We found it on eco_alyn’s insta… Love it!
- That you appreciate ingenuity. Transforming fire-hoses into a usable textile, developing an entirely novel multi-stage process. Creating a circular system for leather scrap to ensure that our pieces can be deconstructed and reconstructed through time. And now, with Queen Mary University, we are designing an open-source, safe, and inexpensive solar forge to rescue littered aluminium!
- That you are a story-teller. We met someone who has proudly been carrying our first ever purse. We only made 200 of these, and they were all sold around 9 years ago. She was so proud to still be using it as an ice-breaker and telling the story of rescued hoses, ingenious design and donations. Almost ten years of narrative makes this a timeless source of statements!
- That you just love red.
We aren’t saying that statement pieces shouldn’t also be bold, stylish, beautiful and well made, but we should also demand that what we wear reflects our values and vision for the future. At a time where it very much matters that everyone does everything they can for the planet and people, your clothing and accessories need to work just as hard.
September 30, 2021
New Barns Farm is an Elvis & Kresse initiative and our new HQ, currently managed and operated by the on-site team. The ideal candidate will be able to take the lead on the farm but will have lots of help from the existing team. This is an amazing opportunity to help to grow a new venture literally from the ground up. Please email salary expectations and a CV to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regenerative Farmer Needed