The Mill

Blue Owl Workshop is excited to welcome our newest brand, Howlin'. Hailing from Belgium, Howlin' specializes in knitwear with a lot of personality. Influenced equally by house music and your grandpa's sweater collection, Howlin' could only be from Belgium. Wool (and thus, knitwear) are actually inextricable from the country. Howlin', for all its unique qualities, has come from a long history of Belgian knitwear and textile manufacturing. And by long, we mean several millennia. For those who are interested, here's a history of Belgium's relationship with wool. 

Before we get to wool we must start with where it comes from... sheep! Much of Belgium's northwestern territory--what came to be known at Flanders--is close to (or below) sea-level. This means much of that land is covered in marshes or otherwise moist soil and grass, perfect grazing areas for sheep. As such, the sheep population prospered there, rivaled in Europe by only the British Isles. Unsurprisingly, humans also found the flat and fertile land of Flanders appealing, and settlements throughout the region flourished into the Middle Ages. 

As we approach the 13th century Flanders had become hugely powerful and populated. So populated, that many cities (such as Howlin's home, Antwerp) had forced out their native sheep populations. As such, they needed to import wool from Scotland and Ireland. You could consider this the beginning of a relationship still seen in Howlin'; they make much of their collections in the British Isles, along with Belgium. In fact, the brand's name derives from Scottish slang for "Smelly." Howlin's parent company Morrison (started by the founder's parents), is also a Scottish name, and manufactured knitwear in Scotland until 2007. 

Flemish textile production, particularly wool, managed to flourish throughout the tumultuous 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Rapid industrialization in Europe only increased Belgian wool production, and the advent of forces such as colonialism saw the textile in every corner of the globe.  

Much of this changed following the Cold War, however. The bulk of European manufacturing moved to Asia, and very little of any kind remained in Belgium. Yet textile production, particularly of woolen knitwear, never entirely ceased. Howlin' is evidence of this; the brand was founded by two brothers who were raised in the knitwear business, and have injected it with a youthful flair that better matches Belgium's colorful present. Thick cableknit sweaters in celeste and pink, terrycloth towel polos, and product names such as "Fons" and "Mr. Wacky" set Howlin' apart from its ancestors. However, the region's past rests in every fiber and stitch, all the way back to those happy sheep.