When it comes to starting a business and ensuring a sustainable future, collaboration and community are key ingredients.
Ali Taylor-Mapletoft established Age of Reason Studios in 2010. Ali saw a need for fun, beautiful silk scarves made ethically with an emphasis on quality and sustainability. The name ‘Age of Reason’ reflected the brand’s anti-sweatshop ethos, after the 18th century enlightenment when ideas about human equality, early feminism and the abolition of slavery began to thrive. Since then Age of Reason has launched 12 collections with pieces stocked in a variety of locations, including Liberty London, Galeries Lafayette Beijing and 69b Boutique.
Age of Reason’s most recent collaboration was with The Meringue Girls, with proceeds going to WomanKind Worldwide. Inspired by the GRLPWR Movement, two t’shirt designs were created; “You Can Sit With Us” and “Girl With The Power”, celebrating inclusion and the power and peace we aspire to as women.
Ali took a moment to speak with Positive Luxury about the brand and its surrounding community…
How has Age of Reason evolved since 2010?
Age of Reason has evolved quite organically from a luxury scarf label with an anti sweat-shop ethos to an ethical brand covering scarves, cushions and womenswear. It’s always been my intention to gradually add lines to the brand with ethics and sustainability as a priority. I’m very careful not to veer to far off course and add too much too quickly. Slow development tends to be more sustainable than fast growth because you can take time to source materials that do the least harm. For example our shaped cushions are made traditionally in Yorkshire, and filled with pure British Orkney wool from a sustainable mill on North Ronaldsay. The rare breed sheep on the island are extremely hardy and mainly eat seaweed on the beach!
Age of Reason pieces use an array of emotive colours. How do you create such evocative colours and what impact do these colours have on the wearer?
I learned a lot from style consultant Leesa Whisker who’s a friend of mine. I think it’s always best to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. In order to learn, it’s sometimes important to feel like the most ignorant person in the room. It was Leesa who taught me the practical aspects of colour, and how we can all use colour to lift our features. I now try to design my collections so that there’s a colour in there to suit a broad range of people with different skin tones, hair colours and styles. An important part of sustainability in fashion is producing versatile things that people will wear again and again with confidence. Unworn and discarded clothing is an environmental waste we can’t afford – so ensuring we create useful pieces is critical.
How crucial do you feel the role of community is for a brand?
It’s everything! There’s a lot of talk on social media about believing in yourself, but the real challenge is believing in other people. It takes trust and hard work to build a community, but without one a brand can’t thrive. You need to give and take in equal measure. Age of Reason isn’t about me. It’s about the community of people who make it possible- from customers to shops and suppliers. Even competitors are very important. Without people a brand is nothing, because people create culture, and that’s more enduring than product alone.
You recently collaborated with The Meringue Girls. How did this come about?
I’ve been an admirer of The Meringue Girls from afar for a while after discovering their amazing meringues at London Fashion Week. I was inspired by their fearless feminine brand, which is clearly built around a very engaged community. They’ve led me to discover an entire community of women supporting women, which is tremendously inspiring. It’s now possible for small communities and brands to exist across a global network. We’ve never had that situation before in the history of the world! I think we should celebrate the good things that the Internet brings in that respect.
What is the main thing you would like to see improve in the fashion industry?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing because the fashion industry has so many aspects to it. It’s an incredibly old fashion industry in many ways, and it’s struggling to keep up with tech and information industries who embrace new ways of thinking quickly. In my opinion, the much-needed change would be more honest information. By that I mean transparency about provenance, and better information across the board in retail. I’ve not bought things a few times online because the website doesn’t say where it was made. If we all knew where our clothes were made, and by who, that would be a fantastic start towards eradicating exploitation and harmful practice. I hope that in 10 years time it will be normal to want ethically made, sustainable clothing- in the same way, that it’s normal to want organic food now.
What is your favourite Age of Reason piece?
I can’t pinpoint one piece only, but I’m very excited about the Iris bomber jacket. It’s made in England and sewn at The Pin House Yorkshire- a new studio headed by our long-time seamstress Nicola Carr. It’s beautifully made to such a high standard, that everyone who buys one falls in love completely.
On November 24th, Age of Reason will be hosting an exclusive panel discussion for members at Shoreditch House with 69b Boutique’s Tahlia Hays, GRLPWR Co-Founder Kirsti Hadley and Mother Pukka’s founder Anna Whitehouse. The panel will be looking at what it takes to start an ethical brand and demonstrating this in real terms, from suppliers to stockists on a day-to-day basis, with purpose, products and people at the heart of it all.
Find out more about Age of Reason Studios as a brand to trust here