Shepherdess ‘sheep to chic’ – with designs on grandfather’s jacket

As both sheep farmer and fashion designer, Alison O’Neill is a tweed-wearing, catwalking example of creative diversification within the farming community.

“I’ve brought the sheep to chic and sustainable fashion right here so we can see it,” she said, after presenting her countrywear brand Shepherdess for the first time yesterday at the Kuoni Fashion Pavilion.

Alison O'Neill the 'barefoot shepherdess' with some of her  Rough Fell ewes  on her farm at Shacklabank Farm near Sedbergh .

Alison O'Neill the 'barefoot shepherdess' with some of her Rough Fell ewes on her farm at Shacklabank Farm near Sedbergh .

Ms O’Neill, whose farm is in the Howgill Fells, has called her latest collection “Wool is My Bread” and the tweed used comes from Yorkshire sheep, much of it from her own flock of 200 Swaledale, Rough Fell and Herdwicks.

It’s the culmination of five years of inspiration and hard graft. Well-known for her love of tweed and her creative talents, Ms O’Neill realised her wool could be put to stylish use, and designed her first tweed jacket based on one that her grandfather had given her when she was 16.

With wool spun and woven in Yorkshire, the range has expanded to include more jackets, coats, skirts and waistcoats, plus accessories. She is a pioneer of a return to ‘slow fashion’, pointing out that the wool-to-weave journey alone takes a year.

“It’s the first fashion show I’ve ever done and I’m proud, emotional and delighted,” she said. “I can’t believe how beautiful it is.”