Fashion Delivered has just taken up residence in Tunbridge Wells, their new office on the old High Street is home to a creative team dedicated to producing ethical fashion collections. We meet the founder, Paula, to discuss her business venture, how we can all buy sustainable fashion and the best place in town to buy a cup of coffee…
What’s your connection to Tunbridge Wells?
We moved to Tunbridge Wells in August of last year. My husband is originally from Kent and after 15 years or so in London, we still wanted to be close to the city for work but also have the beautiful surroundings of TW to raise our family. We also have some family locally, who we love spending time with and have really helped us settle in smoothly.
Tell us a little bit more about you:
My mother taught me to sew when I was 11 years old, instilling a sense of perseverance and pride in any task, which is something that has stuck with me right through my career to date. I’ve always been quite creative, as a student scouring vintage markets at weekends for old fabrics I could make things out of, to deconstructing and recreating old garments into new. I’m mummy to two little rascals, Lorcán and Molly, aged 5 and 4, who keep us all highly entertained and are my daily inspiration.
You’ve recently launched your agency; Fashion Delivered, what’s it all about?
Fashion Delivered is a boutique agency helping independent designers and brands create the most beautiful, commercial and ethical collections for their markets. We work across all categories from Children’s to Women’s to swimwear. We have built up a great network of mills and factories over the years and pride ourselves on being able to offer bespoke and flexible solutions depending on the needs of our clients.
What inspired you to create Fashion Delivered?
Many things! Not to get too technical, but getting clothes that fit properly is really hard - especially in the area of fast fashion, online businesses have exploded in the last few years but many of them buy from wholesalers across the globe and then launch them to a market they were not designed for. There is also a lot of overproduction and if brand owners don’t take the time to work on creating the right fit for their customers or choose the most appropriate fabrics for their ranges, they will have a massive returns rate. Well fitting clothes create brand loyalty!
There is a massive gap between what goes into the design process and what we see presented on the high st - My husband Tom and I started Fashion Delivered to try and ensure brands were delivering a competitive offer to what was currently out there - whether through price, sustainability, transparency or quality of product.
What’s your brand ethos?
No matter the challenge, we will always find a solution - we offer a broad range of services at Fashion Delivered and are always happy to speak to designers, brands or students on ways we can potentially help them succeed. Transparency is really key to us so we only work with specific, ethically and socially compliant factories. We are also implementing blockchain to our supply chain so that we can be 100% transparent in each stage of the development and production process for our clients.
What’s the key to sustainability and do you have any tips on how we can all be conscious of it when purchasing our clothing?
‘Sustainability’ is probably the most used word of 2019, which is a good thing because we are all so much more aware of the issues now! The main thing for me, is overconsumption - if you don’t need it, don’t buy it! It doesn’t matter how cheap it is - someone else could be suffering because of it, either through low wages or bonded labour.
Challenge brands who say they are sustainable and ask them how? (A lot of them have a much better marketing department than compliance team). Try to buy natural fibres where possible, cottons, linens, wool etc which are all biodegradable - polyester is one of the main fabrics available due to its low cost rate and versatility, but it never breaks down - it ends up in landfill (in fact £140m of clothing goes to landfill every year).
Washing and caring for your clothes is also really important - don’t over wash - particularly clothes made of polyesters - they shed microfibres in the washing machine (hundreds of thousands of tiny plastic fibres) that end up in our oceans and in the intestines of our wildlife. If you have a lot of polyester clothing, you can help this by putting them in a special bag (guppy bag) that will trap the fibres and can be disposed of safely and separately.
Would you recommend any other local sustainable brands?
It’s the smaller, independent brands that are really leading the change now, such as Neaco, who make on trend swim shorts out of recycled plastic bottles or Birdsong, who use 100% organic cotton in their t-shirts, and have an ongoing partnership with Traid, to recycle appropriate fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfill. Further afield, brands such as Everlane, Reformation and Adidas are leading the turnaround in big company transformation to ethical and sustainable processes.
Where do you shop for your clothing?
Hmmm, tricky one - I don’t buy a lot of clothes, but I buy those that I know will last a long time or that can be transformed into something else when I get bored of it. For example a silk dress that I had since my graduation (in 2003) I recently dyed to a different colour and put trim around the neckline and sleeves to make it look different. It has been worn to death but theres still a few years left in it! When I do buy, I generally buy natural fibres, (with the exception of tights in the winter and some gym gear) I find them much more comfortable and they keep their look and shape for longer. I love brands like Sandro or Maje, for something a bit special, or Next/M&S is good for basics, and particularly childrenswear, as their factories are stringently monitored.
How would you make changes to our local and wider community with your brand?
I’d like to encourage a better interaction between the creative sector in the area. There are lots of creatives in TW and it would be great to be able to share/promote events that might be of interest to the general community! I’m hoping to start running sewing classes out of the office later this year, where people could come a create something new from a pattern or even recycle something from their current wardrobe.
What’s does an average work day look like to you?
Luckily, I ‘m a morning person, as I’m generally joyfully awakened by one or both of my offspring at around 6:30am - we have a fairly straightforward routine of school run and getting into the office around 8:30am. Everyday is different, I like to have an hour or so to go through any urgent emails, then I could be preparing a design pack for a new brand, going through technical packs or samples for one of our clients or attending meetings in London. We are very detail driven, which is time consuming, but much more efficient in the long run - in terms of fit specifications for garments, or colours for print artworks on a collection of dresses, these details need to be right first time or else it can be a very costly and length process. My husband picks the kids up from school while I stay on at the office, I normally get home around 5:30 and we all have dinner together. This allows us a couple of hours to play with the kids and have a settled bedtime routine, which in our house - is imperative! We both tend to have bit more work to catch up on once the kids are in bed but we try and wind down by watching some TV together at the end of the day…Our work week is fairly tightly run, but our weekends are purely family.
What do you do when you are not running your business?
I love live music - I find it really inspirational, from singer songwriter nights to full on gigs. I also love to travel and have a long bucket list of places to go which I’m gradually working through!
What’s your favourite things to do at the weekend?
I love getting some proper uninterrupted time with the kids - we try and do a family swim somewhere and maybe pop somewhere child friendly for lunch (we are a family who love to eat and drink!) - at some point over the weekend, there are likely to be board games and quite possibly a picnic on the living room floor. Building tents are big in our house, as are discos in the kitchen. The options are endless.
What’s on the horizon for your brand?
We are in the process of launching an in-house brand called ‘Sleepy Wilson’ which is a clothing/lifestyle brand intended to help you get the best nights’ sleep you can. Having suffered from severe sleep deprivation for the last 5 years, we have learned the importance of how we go to sleep and how long for, both individually and for your children. We have created a range of traditionally designed, ethically produced nightwear for kids and adults, all from natural fibres with added technologies such as moisture control, temperature control and properties to aid eczema and dermatitis sufferers. We will be launching later this year. Our team is also growing so its an exciting time for us!
Tell us five things you love about Tunbridge Wells?
1. There are so many amazing restaurants in TW! I love Bills, if we have the kids with us, but The Ivy is definitely the go to for somewhere special.
2. Bedgebury Pinetum - rain or shine, this place is spectacular!
3. Coffee upon arrival in the office is pretty important - my favourite is from The Pantiles Cafe, Craig, the owner is always friendly and smiling - and makes a great coffee!
4. Dunorlan Park - I love to watch the world go by near the lake.
5. The people - everyone has been so friendly and welcoming to us since we arrived, from the staff at the childrens’ school, to the estate agent that found us our home, to the people working in and around our office - we are very lucky to have met so many nice folk!
When you’re not in Tunbridge Wells, where are you?
Normally at one of our factory locations, we work mainly with ateliers in Italy and Portugal so I’m frequently over there checking on development and production. Further afield it could be anywhere from Istanbul to Shanghai, but those are trips I try to keep to a minimum.