Elizabeth Evans on Isobel Davies
All cheekbones and eyelashes, Isobel Davies has that just-fell-out-of-bed glamour so typical of French film stars and anyone who dated a Rolling Stone in the 1960s. She has an unassuming air, a quiet elegance, and a slight whiff of intrigue, but don’t be fooled. Beneath that unstructured mystique lies a fierce passion for animals that’s driven Isobel, directly against the odds, to launch three successful businesses, all shaped by her concern for the nonhuman world.
A pioneering ethical entrepreneur, she now runs two vegetarian brands and an award-winning fashion label. Chances are you’re not a cow, a sheep, or a hen, but if you’re a politically-motivated vegan, you’d be fully forgiven for praising the day she was born.
On paper, Isobel’s ideas resemble pipe dreams but her strong, essentially punk ethic has steadily seen her carve out a reality for her expanding vision. In 1994, initially looking to promote a meat-free lifestyle, she launched Farmaround, the first organic veggie box delivery scheme in the UK, and quite possibly the world.
Thirteen years later she took things a step further when she found a viable way to save farm animals from the food chain with the establishment of Izzy Lane, a luxury wool-based fashion line. Inspired to revive the ailing UK textiles industry by stopping British fleece from being tossed into the furnace or shipped off to China, she set about rescuing rare breed Wensleydales and Shetlands, and had the wool processed and made up to her own designs locally. Izzy Lane is now a thriving label that has won the RSPCA Good Business Award, collaborated with Top Shop and staged a catwalk for the Queen.
Most recently, Davies realised a plan to keep cows and hens away from the slaughterhouse when she got together with controversial UK columnist Liz Jones last year to set up Good Food Nation, the first milk and egg brand which supports its animals for the duration of their natural lifespan.
To say Isobel relishes a challenge would be an understatement. Her ventures rest on a delicate balancing act of razor sharp business acumen, and wild risk-taking, all beaten together with confidence and belief.
She’s upset the British Wool Marketing Board with talk of an animal welfare standard for wool, her partnership with the provocative Jones has attracted bitchy press attacks, and her inauguration of a cruelty-free dairy line has upset certain factions of the farming community. She moves in worlds that drive her to tears, but instead of getting overwhelmed and stuck, she responds with even bigger visions.
These days Isobel splits her time between muddy fields and trips to the metropolis, having left London to be with her beloved sheep on her farm in Richmond, North Yorkshire. Her passion for animals is unfaltering, pushing her through potential difficulties so fast she doesn’t seem to notice they’re there. She calls herself a rebel. In terms of a 21st century entrepreneur, her cause makes her nothing less than revolutionary.