As a brand we are constantly inspired by and in awe of the wonderful women in our community, the women who support us, the women who model for us, the women who wear our swimwear. So we decided to capture these wonderful women on film camera and share some of their stories with you. We hope you fall in love with them all as much as we did 🌊
You work in fashion and design - tell us about your brand and what inspires you
My brand was born out of a life long desire to design and make beautiful bespoke pieces for special occasions from up-cycled/recycled and vintage fabric and jewels. I’ve always believed things can have more than one purpose and both my grandmothers believed strongly in make do and mend having lived through a war where most things were in short supply. As I grew into my teens what I wore became important to me, driven by one of my grandmother’s chic French style, she began to take me around charity shops which back then had the most amazing real vintage and antique clothing and jewellery. I had no desire to dress like anyone else or follow fashion, I was shy being very tall but used my style to give me confidence, making my own clothes and refashioning charity shop pieces meant they fitted so much better. I was spotted by a photographer who encouraged me to join a model agency where I continued to learn about how clothes were designed and made and began to understand how closed and incestuous the fashion industry was!
I took a course in art and design in my 30’s, my final piece being a wedding dress for Queen Elizabeth I, completely designed and made from recycled/up-cycled fabric, curtain material and jewels down to the last pearl and the metal cage for her headpiece and skirt. From here Romeo & Joolz was born with a mission to work only by re-fashioning existing pieces both old and new and using handmade techniques: embroidery/crochet/knitting and designing bespoke special.
We love that you talk a lot about slow fashion and sustainable fashion - tells us more about why they matter to you so much
Both of these issues have been close to my heart for many years with my refashioning as a teenager and devoted charity/vintage shop visits, just they didn’t come with a trendy name. The Fashion Industry is one of the most toxic, polluting, wasteful and unethical industries almost all of us have engaged with. For many years the industry has churned out mass produced, environmentally poisonous clothing made in conditions that are unacceptable for the workers both around their pay and environment. The aim being to give it to the consumer as cheap as possible and allow the mass market to be able to buy runway fashion on the high street without thinking of the impact on our planet or its workers.
When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, it killed 1,138 people and injured many more in 2013, Fashion Revolution was born to bring global awareness of the conditions of these workers and to start to make a systemic change. Unfortunately, this industry is extremely slow to make changes and it continues to lack transparency, with continued exploitation of the people working for the supply chain in conditions equivalent to slavery. Designers, brands and retailers (online and high-street) are still not taking enough responsibility for the pay and working conditions of these people. The production of many textiles and items of clothing leaves an environmental impact which not only affects the local water sources and land but also the health of its workers, surrounding animals and ultimately our planet earth. I have supported Fashion Revolution events over the years especially around Make Do and Mend, they’re now a global charity changing the minds of designers, producers, sellers and even Government, alongside other really pro-active fashion charities like Fashion For Good, Ecoage, Fabric For Freedom, Fashion Round Table, Make Fashion Circular and individuals such as Orsola de Castro, Livia Firth, Stella McCartney and Tamara Cinick.
Why do you think community and supporting each other in fashion is so important?
The fashion industry is dominated by the big brands who have over the years pushed the independent designers and producers into the shadows and beyond. But today we are in a new era with the advent and rise of slow and sustainable fashion the little voice of the sole trader or bespoke designer is beginning to be heard and listened to. To continue this needed and positive progress we need to support one another, collaborate and pull together, many voices singing from the same song sheet with more noise we can create bigger waves.
The fashion buying public push the trends by their purchase power and if we can inform and educate them as a strong passionate community of independent brands then they will force the bigger brands to stop messing around and green washing and take the serious issues of pollution that the fashion industry has created from design right threw to textile disposal and make some real changes FAST!!!
We loved shooting with you - why did you want to be part of our shoot and community?
I felt so privileged that you actually asked me to model for your brand, I’ve followed you guys from early on in your journey so jumped at the chance to support Stay Wild Swim and meet such awesome Queens. The fab Beth at Plastic Freedom posted about you on Instagram back at the beginning of 2019 and I loved your designs along with the idea you were repurposing ocean plastic it hit all my boxes. Because of my love for swimming and the oceans alongside a strong passion for up-cycling/recycling your brand is close to my heart. So when you kindly asked me to be part of your shoot, community and campaign I never gave it a second thought especially as you embrace all and every shape of women allowing us Queens to feel special and attractive despite what they have overcome. I had breast cancer nearly 10 years ago in my mid 40’s where I had a mastectomy and full lymph node clearance under my arm leaving a long horrid scar. I was told I would probably not be able to have a reconstruction which meant I had to live with the reminder of cancer every morning when getting dressed. I am very lucky and have an amazing husband who has never shown he is less attracted to me since but it still made me feel deformed, so to be asked to model swimwear was a really big confidence boost, thank you.
At Stay Wild we are passionate about the planet and creating a more sustainable way of doing things. Can you describe what the planet and sustainability means to you?
As you have probably gathered having been a passionate environmentalist since I was a youngster and now have grown up children, I owe it to them and future generations to be even more conscious and protective about our planet and its animal kingdom by living a sustainable lifestyle. We’ve been given the opportunity to be carers of this planet, in the last century we’ve put our material and consumer needs first with horrific consequences and this needs to change FAST! We have no PLAN B and we only have one planet Earth with its incredible oceans. Being an active swimmer from a young age and having been brought up by the coast our oceans hold a passionate place in my heart. They’ve been abused for decades and used as a dumping ground for so much our waste, its heart breaking, so you guys at Stay Wild Swim are amazing and I wish you every success in your plight to make a difference.
What was your favourite Stay Wild piece and why?
My favourite piece is the Odyssey One Piece I loved both colours and got to wear it on the shoot. It felt amazing, soft, comfortable and very flattering allowing room for me to sew in a water resistant pad for my mastectomy scar.
What’s next for you?
Interesting question, I’m at a crossroads my designing and creating career has taken a back seat, I’m still working on projects but not under any pressure to build a business. I’m excited about all the positive changes happening in Fashion and for the first time feeling a shift towards a cleaner, more sustainable and ethical industry which I want to be part of but am unsure where I would be best placed. I think 2020 is a year where I need to explore these different areas possibly in education with the younger generation, appealing to them before their young minds are absorbed with consumerism.