Virginia Shepherd Tackles Farm-to-Fashion

Gum Tree Farm Designs' showroom is far enough out in horse country Virginia that the dry cleaners down the street also offers mane pulling. President Kennedy had a house near here; it was where Caroline Kennedy's famous pony, Macaroni, lived while her father was in office. Located in downtown Middleburg among brick sidewalks and across the street from an old church, the showroom is a cozy, light-filled shop full of luxury wool goods - baby sweaters, socks, fingerless mittens, all artfully arranged and hand-knit.

Proprietor Franny Kansteiner, 61, designed almost all of the items, and knitted about a third of them herself. The day I visit, she is wearing a dark blue woolen work shirt of her own design, which retails for $475. With silver sneakers, bobbed blond hair and jeans, she looks a little practical for how you might imagine a fashion designer. She looks quite glamorous, though, for how you might imagine a shepherd - which is her other job.

Two miles away is Gum Tree Farm, a hundred acres where she lives and raises the flocks that provide every scrap of wool in her store. She calls herself a designing shepherd, and she labels her corner of the clothing industry "farm to fashion." The term has been around for a few years, but it mostly refers to designers and sellers who know and approve of how sheep are treated. A fashion designer actually raising sheep from birth to death is somewhat less common in America - let alone being "owner, CEO, everything" on the business end, as Kansteiner describes her role.

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Source: Washington Post