Designed in Cornwall and traditionally made in the British Isles, Atlantic Blankets are consciously crafted and inspired by the coast.
Words by Hannah Tapping
A luxurious blanket is an investment for life and with many of us now used to outdoor dining and socialising, the blanket has come of age. Whether to add to the social fabric of your home or as a wearable blanket to envelop you in warmth and comfort against the elements, blankets blur the lines between form and function. Atlantic Blankets’ collection of wool, cotton and fleece blankets are woven with respect for, and inspired by, the environment. Director Gemma Teague was a full-time marketer however, as with many full-time professional working women, the arrival of a young family changed perspectives and priorities: “I was working running my own marketing business but not really enjoying it. I’m a great believer in fate and when my great aunt, who was very much a businesswoman whose whole life was career focused, left me a small amount of money, I knew that I needed to use it for something that would resonate with who she was, and make her proud.”
Top Left by Megan Hemsworth: Gemma and Alistair
Top Right by Megan Hemsworth: Seakind Dots, Recycled Cotton
Bottom Left by Lee Searle: Grey Swell, Recycled Cotton
Bottom Right by Lee Searle
So, with a small pot of money and a late-night Twitter scroll that revealed the Atlantic Blanket Company was for sale, the seed was sown for Gemma: “It might sound silly, but when I was younger, I used to play shops and loved the idea of selling things. Even when I was running my own marketing business, my office was opposite the post office and I would look on in envy at people taking in bags of parcels for products they had sold online.” With Gemma’s partner Alistair having a background in spatial design and interior architecture, a blanket company felt like a good fit: “Before I knew it, we had bought the company. Although, in reality it was really just the name we took and, even then we made it on our own, shortening it to Atlantic Blankets.”
While there was an existing supply chain, Gemma was keen to work on new partnerships: “When we took on the business originally, we were very much a reseller of blankets, whereas we’ve now built up the business so that we’re working directly with the mills and makers and the partnerships we have with them allow us to create all our own designs and to have products made specifically for us.” The company grew organically, as did Gemma’s young family, and the time came where she felt able to focus on building the online presence and product range. “Alistair came on board with the business full time in 2017, which had always been our dream. He had always been the one with the ‘safe’ job as we had babies and a mortgage to pay but then he got made redundant and he was very much like “it’s happening, we have to do this” and actually, when I look back, I’m just so grateful he was made redundant.”
Gemma and Alistair work well as a team, both designing the blankets and complementing each other perfectly. Due to Alistair’s background, his designs are very much structural, with lots of straight lines and stripes and a palette of neutral greys, whereas Gemma’s designs are more fluid and incorporate wider colour spectrums. Gemma decided very early on that they wanted the blankets to be British-made, reflecting Britain’s weaving heritage. They first chose a family-run mill for its excellent and consistent quality and the second when they were looking to add a collection of sustainable blankets made from recycled yarns to the brand. They have now worked with their two main suppliers for over five years building up strong relationships and a tested supply chain.
Top Left by Lee Searle | Top Right by Remy Whiting
Middle by Megan Hemsworth
Bottom by Megan Hemsworth
Collections were initially theme based, but next year’s will see a big focus on limited editions designed on customer feedback and trend, as well as reflecting the company’s inherent connection to the ocean, as Gemma explains: “There’s an element that has been inspired by the ocean and the coastline in everything we do. The overriding thing in all of our products is that there has to be a connection to the sea, and a conscious effort to protect it. A massive part of what we’re trying to work on at the moment is the sustainability aspect of the business, really delving into our carbon footprint as well as supporting charities and community projects.”
All cotton blankets are made using 100% recycled cotton while wool in its very nature is extremely durable and highly sustainable. Consequently, animal welfare is also a priority with organic and recycled, non-mulesed wool only being sourced from certified farms in the UK (or New Zealand, if we’ve had a particularly harsh winter). “In an ideal world, we’d use nothing but natural fibres. In reality, recycled wool and cotton contain a small amount of viscose and acrylic; it’s key to the integrity of the materials, helping maintain form and durability,” adds Gemma. “So, in our blankets, the synthetic blend comes from recycled t-shirts. Our ambition, though, is to use marine waste instead. The technology exists but, unfortunately right now, it’s not easily sourced in the UK. The moment it is, we’ll incorporate it into our production and take another small step toward the long-term stability of our oceans.”
While foreign imports might cost less than an Atlantic Blanket, these often poorly-made products are produced through unethical practice and toxic processes. Gemma believes that throw-away fashion and the negative impact of consumerism has caused priceless skills and mills to be threatened, which is why Atlantic Blankets stands firm on its stance. The result is slowly woven, beautiful and durable blankets built to last.
As well as selling online and supplying boutique shops across Cornwall, the wider UK and the States, Atlantic Blankets has shops in Perrranporth and St Ives. The Perranporth shop can be found on the walkway to the beach and while quite small is beautifully designed, showcasing the full range on floor to ceiling shelves, creating a kaleidoscope of colour. Two chance meetings with Ron Johns, owner of the St Ives and Falmouth Bookseller and avid buyer of Atlantic Blankets, persuaded Gemma that they should also have a retail presence in St Ives. Again, fate came into play, and a fallen-through sale saw Atlantic Blankets seize the moment and open in Market Place in a tranquil space that beautifully showcases the blankets. “We often find that visitors will buy a blanket in our St Ives shop, fall in love with it so much during their stay that they stop off in Perranporth on their way home to buy another!”
Gemma has Cornwall and the sea in her soul, growing up in Truro: “It’s odd but I don’t remember the sea being an important part of my life when I was growing up, I think I just took it for granted. It wasn’t until I moved away and then went travelling that I suddenly realised how beautiful Cornwall is. I remember surfing for the first time in Byron Bay in Australia, and just thinking, why have I never done this at home before? The sea has become much more important to me and is how I balance work and life. Surfing is a massive powerful part of my life and I have a really close friendship group, who all share the same love for the sea; it’s where we connect, have fun and catch up for a giggle. I do get stressed but if I go and look at the sea, I can feel instantly calmer.”
It was for moments of calm and thoughts of wellbeing that led Gemma to launching their Hug in Box during lockdown, which has since become a key seller and includes the blanket of your choice, and a locally made candle and bar of chocolate: “During COVID times, we were sending a lot of blankets with heart-breaking messages, either condolences or very much just wanting to give a hug to someone. When you can’t physically be with someone, a blanket offers an alternative embrace of comfort and protection. It made me think that although a blanket is a really simple piece of fabric, it actually holds a far deeper meaning.”
Living and working by the ocean, Gemma and Alistair have witnessed first-hand the destruction caused by human industry. Not happy with sitting back and letting this happen, their ambition was for a timeless collection of lifetime-lasting blankets that help in part to protect the ocean but would also encourage others to nurture their connection with it.