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Saving Fair Isle Knitwear Tradition by Mati Ventrillon


Mati is the founder of Mati Ventrillon, a knitwear brand based in Fair Isle, in Scotland.

Fair Isle the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom.


Mati is the founder of Mati Ventrillon, a knitwear brand based in Fair Isle, in Scotland. Fair Isle the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. You have probably seen many Fair Isle inspired sweaters every winter, but not many of them have actually been made in Fair Isle, because, it’s not only remote, but it’s also a tiny, tiny island with not so many inhabitants.

Mati Ventrillon came under the spotlight in 2015 when her brand was exposed to massive exposure in the fashion and luxury sector. If you haven’t heard of her name, you can do a quick search on Google and you will be amazed by this incredible story. 

But I don’t want to focus on this part of her journey. Instead, today I want to share with you the heartfelt stories of Mati, of her business, and of the knitwear tradition in Fair Isle. 

When I first encountered her brand, I felt that it was speaking directly from her heart. It’s intriguing and difficult for me to explain, but it’s something I felt deeply. 

And my first impression was right: I’ve found out that Mati Ventrillon is a business venture founded on love and passion, and on grit and resilience. 

In this first part of our conversation, Mati will share with us the story of Fair Isle and how knitwear is an embodiment of the island tradition and history, and how it has saved the community on several occasions.

She will also explain why she decided to launch her own brand in 2011, in order to preserve the tradition. 

This is really an amazing story we love to hear at Mindful Business Founder and I am absolutely thrilled to share it with you today. 

mati ventrillon fair isle


  • Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the UK (03:22) 
  • Today, a crofting community of 54 permanent inhabitants (07:27) 
  • Mati first encounter with Fair Isle and application process to move there (12:14)
  • Discovery of Fair Isle knitting and of its role throughout history (17:00) 
  • Research and launch of the brand after the dissolution of the knitting cooperative  (28:21) 
  • Bringing Fair Isle knitwear on-line and development of the bespoke service  (34:33) 
  • The Walpole Group “Crafted UK” Mentoring programme (36:06)
  • Development of FAIR ISLE ARTISANS to pass on the Fair Isle knitting skills (37:10) 
  • The growth of the business is limited by the space available on the island (39:47)


Today’s episode is the 2nd part of my conversation with Mati Ventrillon who has joined us from Fair Isle, in Scotland. When she first visited the island, she felt that she really belonged there and decided to move there.

But you cannot just decide to move to Fair Isle: you need to submit an application and build a project. As Mati explained: there’s plenty of work there but no one is recruiting there. So you have to be entrepreneurial and create your own job, and also to find a way to serve the community of the island.

So she built a project and moved the whole family from London to Fair Isle, and fell in love with the knitwear tradition. And in 2011, in order to preserve and to continue the knitwear tradition in Fair Isle, she launched her brand, Mati Ventrillon.

In the previous episode, we delved into Fair Isle, into its history and the knitwear tradition. And if you haven’t listened to it yet, you can still go ahead with this one and come back to the other one later.

Now in this part of our conversation, we will continue on our exploration of the incredible journey of an international fashion business owner in the tiny and remote island of Fair Isle.

Mati will share with us some of the lessons learned when she launched the MV collection. A collection inspired by museum pieces that Mati has modernized and made more affordable. If you are a knitwear designer, this part is a must-listen as Mati will walk us through the details of the making of this collection.

We will also discuss the mainstream fashion system, and why Mati has chosen to develop her business on the fringe of this system.

But my favorite part is when Mati shares with much generosity and benevolence, some insightful pieces of advice for starting and growing a meaningful business.

So if you want to find out more about developing a knitwear collection inspired by history and tradition, growing a meaningful fashion business that works for you and designing a life and a business on your own terms, join me for this conversation with Mati Ventrillon


  • The MV collection stemmed from a dream of bringing machines to Fair Isle to trigger the development of other businesses in the island (3:43)  
  • The cost breakdown of a hand-knitted jumper (7:10)
  • The MV collection was inspired by museum pieces and how the “Hooded Jumper” was born (9:33)
  • The colorwork and innovation in the “Crew Neck Jumper” (12:40)  
  • The MV collection is a celebration of the very early Fair Isle knitting design, yet industrially manufactured (15:16)
  • Challenges with the 2018 MV collection (17:42)
  • Learnings from the MV collection (19:25)
  • It’s very difficult to put your passions and your beliefs into words, creating a business or a brand. How to transmit the message?  (21:47)  
  • Why the mainstream fashion system doesn’t work for Mati (22:45)  
  • Why is it more important for Mati to produce pieces that are made to last (25:55)
  • The new design ideas need to be a celebration of the island and of its traditions, it has to be more profound than a simple change of color (a computer can do it!) (26:50)
  • Mati thinks that we are entering a period where like-minded individuals and communities are more important. Connecting with people will probably be the answer to grow the business (27:45)  
  • Advice for building a meaningful brand: make sure that you know perfectly what is it that you’re standing for? And then to grow from there and to keep that connection as you grow and as you diversify (31:07)
  • Book coming out in September “KNITTING FROM FAIR ISLE” (33:34)  


Buy Mati’s book “KNITTING FROM FAIR ISLE” by Mati Ventrillon

Mentioned in this episode   National Trust for Scotland  and Walpole Crafted