Inspiration

Meet the sisters behind online bedware store Foxtrot Home

Having made a big impression with Kiwi fans of cool French linen bedding, the Foxtrot Home sisters have a cosy yarn to share

Sisters Kate Cullwick and Prue Watson live in different parts of the country but that hasn’t stopped them from creating a business together. Their vision from the start was to be able to work from home, together and for themselves. They arrived at linen bedding and created Foxtrot Home, an online store for the purpose of supplying quality bedware to all New Zealanders – even those far from urban areas. Now they’re expanding into blankets using wool from Kate’s sheep, making it truly a paddock-to-bedroom tale.

How did Foxtrot Home get started and what was the vision?
We started not knowing we would be selling linen at first. We knew we wanted to start a business together and were looking at doing something in the home interiors space. The vision was for us to be able to work from home and for ourselves. A lot of shoppers don’t have access to brick-and-mortar stores and we wanted to bring home interiors to all New Zealanders, not just in the main urban areas so an online store made sense. We wanted to source sustainable and ethically made goods – and landed on linen bedding as a wonderful product with huge potential.

What does the range consist of?
It’s mainly in the bedroom. We’re still focused on our French linen bedding, which includes sheets, duvets, pillowcases, quilts and sleepwear including pyjamas for men and women, as well as robes. We also sell cushion covers as we had a huge demand for them.

What are your individual roles?
Prue’s in charge of operations and based at the main Auckland warehouse. Kate is based at her home and covers admin, customer services and all the social media. We both share all the business decisions and talk every day about future projects while running the day-to -day. We also have awesome staff to help us.

How does it work with one sister in Auckland and one in Hawke’s Bay?
Surprisingly well. We communicate all day long via Messenger and several FaceTime calls. It’s great to have an excuse to fly to see each other a couple of times a year, too. Our roles are pretty well defined so there’s no need to work together geographically. Modern technology serves us well here.

Kate, you live on the farm. How many sheep do you have?
Nine thousand sheep including breeding ewes and lambs. Our breeding ewes are all Romney, which are crossed with Romney rams to produce Romney lambs. Older ewes and hoggets (young ewes) are mated with Suftex rams resulting in a composite lamb.

You’ve recently added blankets to your range. What was the motivation for this?
We’d been wanting to add throws to our range for at least a couple of years, but despite intensive searching overseas, we couldn’t find the style we wanted and we couldn’t be certain of the provenance of the items. All our products must be made ethically and produced sustainably. We were nearly booked to visit South American weavers in the Andes, who produce ethically made throws, when we stumbled across some New Zealand people who could make throws from the wool we produce every year on our farm.

How many sheep does it take to make one blanket?
When a lamb is first shorn, we average approximately 800g fleece per lamb. Our throws weigh approximately 2.4kg, which equals three lambs per throw.

What is unique about your blankets?
We’re proud to be making our throws and blankets from New Zealand strong wool and supporting an industry that has long been undervalued. Wool is a natural product with amazing benefits; it is hypoallergenic, insulating, warm, breathable and fire retardant and of course, is sustainable. Our blankets are larger in size, thicker and more substantial than many other wool blankets made here. They’re knitted, not woven and this makes a huge difference to the handle. Not only that, we are excited to be bringing contemporary designs and colours to New Zealand strong wool. Massive plus, start to finish, they are made in Aotearoa.

Tell us about the designs for your blankets?
We’ve started simple and classic and have gone for a chunky stripe at each end of the throw with six contemporary colours, including a navy blue, beige, ginger honey and a beautiful liqueur brown. We’re also making mini blankets for prams. They are finished in a blanket stitch as a nod to the Kiwi-made blankets of yesteryear. Later in the year we plan to add larger blankets and these will have new designs.

What is the process from paddock to bed for each blanket?
Our lambs are born in August and September, weaned in November, and then shorn in December and January. The fleece wool is sent to local processors for scouring, which removes the grease from the wool. It is then spun into yarn and dyed in Wellington before being transported to Auckland to be knitted into blankets and throws by our awesome team there. They are kept for dispatch in Waipukurau, just down the road from the lambs that helped make them.

The blankets are sustainable. What exactly does this mean?
Sustainability can definitely be a relative term and it’s bandied about a lot at present. We call our blankets sustainable because the wool is grown naturally year-in, year-out with minimum impact on the environment. The blankets are also completely biodegradable at the end of their lifespan. Is each blanket single origin and is this a selling point? Yes. And yes, it is a selling point. To actually witness the lambs born, raised and shorn, then have our products processed and made in New Zealand is a thrill. This year we have begun processing more wool from our home in Gisborne (parents’ farm), and from two of Kate and Jeremy’s neighbours who share a similar farming vision.

What’s your idea of the perfectly dressed bed?
Kate: Farm life requires us to be practical, but the perfect bed for me is white – not farmer-friendly. I’m loving powder blue and oat at the moment. We have linen sheets and a linen duvet, of course, with a wool inner. In summer we use a sage-green quilt and grey striped sheets – I love this to tie in with the pillows so these colours will match. In winter we’ll be using a throw for the first time.
Prue: A perfectly dressed bed is the centrepiece of a room that is all about calm and rest. In summer I use a linen quilt, sheets and pillowcases and, in winter, I swap the quilt for a duvet. I know I have my bed dressed perfectly when my bedroom feels calm and welcoming. My favourite at the moment is the powder blue, a natural stripe and crisp, brilliant white.

Where are the blankets available from?
As with our linen, they will only be available online at foxtrothome.co.nz for the foreseeable future.

Words by: Fiona Hawtin. Photography by: Florence Charvin.

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