Five Questions with Birdsong’s Sophie Slater
From refugee seamstresses to octogenerian knitters, Birdsong is the ethical fashion label that supports women and women's charities.
Birdsong are a London-based, female-run ethical label that bring together talented women, charities and fashion. Working with various groups, they commission brands to create everything from clothing to knitwear and jewellery.
1. How would you sum up Birdsong?
With a mantra of ‘no sweatshop, no Photoshop’, Birdsong is an emerging fashion brand for people who expect more from their wardrobe. We want to revolutionise the way we shop, by sourcing our products from a variety of women’s organisations hit by funding cuts.
From refugee seamstresses to octogenarian knitters, our brand brings together women with wildly different backgrounds. Combining the skills of women’s groups with the talent of young contemporary designers, we bring Birdsong to life using unedited, street-cast models, who are often activists and friends.
2. What have you learnt from running a business?
There’s a saying from the North East where I grew up that I used to hate, but now I feel is more relevant than ever, ‘shy bairns get nowt’. It basically means if you don’t ask you don’t get. You have to share yourself, put your business out there and be prepared to talk about it all the time if you want people to find out about it. Luckily, we love Birdsong so much that that’s all we want to talk about anyway, but I really had to crack through that shyness barrier first.
Running a business has taught me to trust my own instincts more, and that being kind and friendly really does make things nicer and smoother in the long run. I stopped being daunted by “networking” when I realised it was basically about being lovely to and interested in everyone you meet and making great professional pals. With Birdsong, I think we’re affirming that you don’t have to conform to compete, and that you can run a business without compromising the values you hold dear, which is a great feeling.
3. Who is the Birdsong customer?
The Birdsong customer is whip smart, critically engaged and culturally aware. She’s typically between 25 and 35, and loves looking great but not at any cost. She typically works in the cultural or third sector, and is savvy enough to see through brands that say they’re about making her feel good, but whose ways of marketing and unrealistic beauty standards are to the contrary. She doesn’t always shop ethically, but knows that now she has a great option if she wants to, without having to sacrifice on quality, cool factor or style.
4. Which piece is your favourite from the current collection?
The emoji avocado boob print t-shirts! They’re made by a group of migrant mothers in Tower Hamlets. When we first approached them, the women were hand painting Christmas cards. We got LFW designer Clio Peppiatt in to do a Pinterest trend research session with them, which worked amazingly well. Now they churn out bestselling designs all the time, and though they originally thought avocado boob t-shirts a hilarious and ridiculous idea, they’ve fully taken to it. The colours and shading are gorgeous, and I get compliments on mine every time I wear it. They’re on gorgeous soft organic cotton tees with the perfect shape too.
5. What are you imagining for Birdsong next year?
Hitting our funding target on Crowdcube will enable us to work with far more women’s groups across the country, and to produce bigger and better collections with them that our customers will love. We’re really excited to grow and reach more customers next year, with more clothes and accessories to offer. We’ve been speaking to two charities in particular in the North East, who do fantastic work supporting women through mental ill health, domestic and sexual abuse. They’re uncertain about they’re future once they lose their EU funding, but we’re determined to get them making some bestselling designs. We also have a few really exciting designer partnerships in the pipeline, will be launching out first, full own brand collection, and hiring a new member of the team. We’re also going to work on making the Birdsong customer experience the best it can possibly be, and hopefully having a few pop-up shops in the works too. Hitting the target would put us in a great position to be able to do all of this.
You can invest in Birdsong until 24 September.
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