We talk to Alison Baker, founder and designer of British knitwear brand Ally Bee, on starting her own line, sourcing and manufacturing in the UK, and how she makes her life more positive.
What are you working on at the moment?
Ally Bee Autumn Winter 2016 production is my main focus – including overseeing commission-spinning of yarns. Ally Bee is also taking its first steps into wovens – I have commissioned a weaver in the Scottish Borders to take on a small wovens project for Ally Bee. I am also exploring a possible collaboration in new chemical-free dyeing processes using a variety of British wool. Outside of Ally Bee, but still focusing on promoting environmental concerns, I am helping organise the inaugural Barnes Film Festival, a green film festival in south-west London showcasing new and classic environmental films, including the screening of the fashion documentary, The True Cost.
What prompted you to start your own line, with Ally Bee?
I discovered a distinct lack of high-end British-made sweaters made from superior British-grown yarns. I had heard claims British alpaca was a high quality yarn but it was nearly impossible to find anyone producing premium collections in this environmentally low-impact, locally-sourced fibre. I was determined to find out how to make this happen, and the quest to do so quickly became an obsession in sourcing local materials, luxury knitwear design and production.
You source and manufacture entirely within the UK, why is this important to you?
Apart from the advantages of geography and language, there is a treasure of skills in the knitwear sector right here in the UK. And, there is a wonderful source of natural fibre in Great Britain overlooked by most knitwear designers. I can trace the conditions under which the animals are reared, I can trace how the fibre is processed, I can request a specific yarn specification. If I was buying my yarn from a stock service, these aspects become very difficult to achieve. By sourcing locally, I can be in touch with the provenance, and the process, and this is increasingly attractive to the boutique luxury consumer.
How do you think the fashion industry can influence consumer demand for more responsible business practices to go hand in hand with immaculate products?
Consumer demand for immaculate, sustainably produced products is growing, but there is not enough sustainable product range to fill this gap. So it makes smart business sense for luxury and premium brands to produce collections where style, aesthetics and sustainable production go hand in hand. Luxury consumers who aspire to a healthy lifestyle find fast fashion is increasingly incongruous with their aspirations. Players in the fashion industry who ignore this and do not take sustainability seriously are missing a massive market opportunity.
What’s the best lesson you’ve been taught?
Be very careful which expert advise you choose to take, especially any advice you pay for. The best advice is that which is offered for free!
What steps do you take to make your life more positive?
Walk. Slow down. Get involved. Since launching a brand dedicated to taking a gentler approach to fashion production, I’ve also changed my personal shopping massively to cut out that which is unnecessary, wasteful and of questionable origins. It feels better when you slow down, buy less, and take more consideration in what you buy – from fashion, to food, to transport.
One word that describes you: Optimistic
Find out more about why Ally Bee is a #brandtotrust in their dedicated brand page