What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
I am the founder of Fabric For Freedom ltd a new sustainable womenswear brand that was created to offer people an alternative.
This expanding world has given rise to the world of fast fashion, where companies are mass-producing their pieces in order to offer low prices and keep up with ever-changing trends. Poorly made with low price tags, these sorts of brands are contributing to massive amounts of waste within the fashion industry. In response we are making efforts to promote sustainable fashion with eco-conscious practices. Designed for longevity - our ethos is to be responsible, honest and modern.
Fabric For Freedom is a low impact, charity based organisation, designed with nature in mind. With our bold shapes, trend led designs and being constantly surrounded by creativity in the bustling city of London, we have incorporated travel, fashion, lifestyle and art into each collection.
Our fabrics consist of organic and recycled materials, including ends of rolls. Products are all ethically produced in the U.K, where we guarantee fair wages and good working conditions.
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
I always wanted to be a fashion buyer and worked my whole life to achieve it. Being a northerner, I wasn’t open to the same opportunities as others in regards to fashion experience, because everything is in London which meant I had to work twice as hard. I sofa surfed in London to get work experience and did everything I could to get noticed in the industry.
I owe my career to my first job outside of university the company pushed and promoted me. The management saw my skills and made the most of them. So many young girls in fashion get discouraged and unfairly treated – I went through that, but I also came out the other side and showed my potential, determined not to get beaten down. I learned so much in this job role however it was for a fast fashion brand so I witnessed first-hand the issues within the industry.
What do you do when you work your whole life to achieve something and when you get there it is not what you expected nor what you want to be a part of? This was my issue – as a buyer having worked in the industry for nearly 8 years, I saw the exploitation and unfair practices within fashion. As buyer I was contributing to that, hitting margin targets despite the impact it had on people or the environment.
I researched the concept for 5 years then went out on my own, used the experience learned from industry and applied it to my business.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
Have the best work ethic – positivity, being hard working & passionate trumps all qualifications.
Empowered to lead, be an encourager, set your sights high.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
Being able to work for myself and be my own boss. From working in fashion I have had my fair share of unfair, manipulative buyers making me feel down now I get to run a company and set its culture.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
In 5 years time I see myself back in my city Leeds, another reason I started this business it to provide young girls the opportunity to work in the fashion industry that otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have had the opportunity or the resources to do so.
I want to be running and growing my company providing jobs up north where I came from. I hope to have grown significantly by then and have a few small bricks and water stores and a large online presence.
Tell us more about a charitable organisation or project you think is great.
Well I mentioned above the A21 Campaign so another one of our partners is International Justice Mission. Another slavery charity that rescues slaves, works with police to jail slave owners and put the slavery trade out of business.
“We know where people are enslaved and we have a plan to rescue them”.
They work across forced labour slavery, sex trafficking, citizenship rights abuse, sexual violence against children and land theft.
What drives you?
People drive me, the idea that I can make a difference and help those with less opportunities, that come from poverty or that have been subject to exploitation within the industry.
If 16 year old Greta Thunberg can be described as starting an international youth movement for climate change with the simple act of sitting outside her parliament building, gaining worldwide attention then this shows anyone can make a difference with what they have, even if it is just a little. Everything starts small.
I want to see a fashion industry that instead of exploiting people we empower them, instead of disrespect we create respect and rather than exclusion we create acceptance.
We believe in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure. We will inspire “fashion that’s fair” empowering and influencing the current industry.
Any final comments?
What does a normal day look like for you?
Busy… as we are a start-up you can imagine that I am here, there and everywhere! That is not to say I don’t love it though.
I am in and around London at different events, popup shops, tradeshows and meetings. I have to do everything I can to generate brand awareness which means networking.
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
I have been really blessed in my career - every time I tried to quit somewhere a new opportunity happened which really showed me that my time there wasn’t done and there were more opportunities that I needed to take on for my future development.
The average time to make your way through the job roles in buying is around 8 years up to Buyer, within 3 years of graduating I was Junior buyer (the one underneath Buyer) - showing that if you are good at what you do, hard working with the right attitude you can do it quickly. After two years I was given my own range to design and it sold out in one week of launch - this range has now gone onto to be one of the brands most profitable ranges worldwide.
Obviously getting the job at Vivienne Westwood has been another massive high - working in designer fashion is great - very different to high street but with the shows, collections it has really shown me a different side to fashion.
I have worked across different departments which is also important you need to ensure you don’t become stagnant in what you do - move around (not too much) but enough that you are expanding your skill set and are able to take on new challenges.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
So many women inspire me!
My main woman is Christine Caine, she founded the A21 Campaign, which rescues, restores and revives victims of human trafficking. The A21 Campaign stared when Christine was on holiday in Greece – she kept seeing missing girl posters everywhere and decided the dig a little deeper.
She found out that there are millions of slaves across the world, it is a $150 billion industry and only 1% of victims are ever rescued. It impacts mainly young girls and they are kidnapped and forced into the industry known as sex trafficking. Forced behind bars to service men often having to service up to 40 people in one day. She decided that she couldn’t accept this and has gone on to create this NGO to find and restore these girls.
It is astonishing to me – how we can live in a modern world and people still be slaves? I have worked a lot in the area of human trafficking because it upsets me so much and then when I found out there was slavery in the fashion industry – within clothing brands supply chains we wear regularly – it drove me to set up Fabric For Freedom.
Change things you cannot accept.
What was your biggest failure?
I am a workaholic and rather than one insistence that I call failure it is more an attitude. I don’t like the idea of dwelling on mistakes as long as you learn from it, it is important to move on.
So I would say that my “failure” is not spending enough time relaxing and socialising. It is so hard for me to switch off and not dive into my work every hour of the day. Sometimes I have missed the importance of spending quality time with those you love without work on my mind. It is so important to get a work life balance and look after yourself which I am finding out the hard way.
What do you like most about yourself?
I like by drive and my passion, although it can make me slightly naïve at times it does however provide me with the determination to carry on. Believe the best is yet to come and I have faith in my capabilities.
I would rather give something a go and fail than never pursue my dreams for the fear of failure and watch someone else do it or live in regret.
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
Instead of accepting things we think we cannot change, change things we cannot accept. It is all about mind set, make the decision to step out, what difference are you going to make in this world?
Lead by example, this world is not perfect and we go through experiences to allow us to better equip others when they’re going through the same thing. Use your negative experiences to bring change to this world. Set an example to people and act like a role model for what change you want to see.
Love conquers all – love everyone despite backgrounds, race, religion, personality and ethics.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?