Stephanie McIntosh - Fou Furnishings
Fou Furnishings specialize in supplying luxurious organic bed linen and towel collections.
The entire Fou Furnishings collection is made from 100% organic cotton in the finest quality yarn and fabrics, certified by the Soil Association. Founder Stephanie McIntosh tells us a little more about her Glasgow-based business.
How did things get started?
I started Fou Furnishings in 2009, with the goal of providing fine linens sourced in ethically and environmentally-sound ways. I’d spent decades working in textiles from the retail angle – buying and sourcing textiles for big high-street chains – and as a consultant. But the travel got too much, and over the years I’d seen some of the really shocking practices that can be involved in the textiles industry, from labour issues to the chemicals and toxins textiles can be drenched in.
I got to thinking that there had to be a better way. While I was taking a year to do an MSc, I decided to start Fou, my own company. We aim to sell a really good product made in a really good way, so everyone benefits – from cotton grower to consumer.
Since then, I’ve discovered that running this business really is my vocation. I take it personally and I care about every element of what we do. Having a business that is ethically run is really important to me, and I wouldn’t run it any other way – even though it could be more profitable. This really matters to me, and if it’s not done right, I won’t do it at all.”
Why was being organic important to you?
Organic textiles are grown and processed without chemicals. Every single part of chain is certified to very high standards, and we’re independently and annually audited. From growing the cotton through to processing and dying the textile is organic; and even the cutting, making and trimming of our products are certified. The level of effort involved in our supply chain is astounding, and the quality of our end product is impeccable as a result.
Organic cotton isn’t coated in Teflon to make it ‘easy iron’, or dyed with toxic chemicals that can pollute the water table. It’s produced in a way that’s good for the environment and for the people involved too.
From the consumer perspective: the cotton fibres are long and smooth, the finished fabric is more breathable, meaning it feels great. Our linens are hard-wearing and durable, as well as being soft and smooth. The price is reasonable too – fair pricing for a fair product.
Running this business really is my vocation. I take it personally and I care about every element of what we do. Having a business that is ethically run is really important to me, and I wouldn’t run it any other way.Stephanie McIntosh
What role does the Soil Association play for you?
Producing textiles to the highest quality and ethical standards is critical to our brand. As a result, certification from the Soil Association and the Global Organic Textile Standard was important, across every stage of production for all our products. Being certified helps us clearly communicate why our products are of such great quality, and the ethos behind it.
Over and above that, the Soil Association has played a role in helping us make connections, forge vital links and build our business. There’s lots that we can and need to do together to raise awareness about organic textiles and grow the market, too.”
Plans for the future
Things have changed so much since I started out back in 2009. In the early days, if I got one order a week in, I was cock-a-hoop; things are pretty different now! There’s lots of room to grow, though, and the time is right for it. We need to build our profile - and the profile of organic textiles in general – with consumers and businesses, so we can build across both sectors. There’s so much scope in the Scottish tourism industry, for example.
The key is knowing that preaching about organic and ethics isn’t enough to drive sales. People want to feel good about what they buy, but that’s not enough on its own; the quality has to be there too.
Everything we sell is luxury. At the moment, people but organic food, but not necessarily textiles. So the trick is going to be widening the demographic that think about organic textiles; we’ve got yoga retreats, boutique and luxury hotels in our sights, for starters. Lots to be getting on with!”