Each week, we shine the spotlight on the best small brands that we think are worth bragging about. We love our UK high street but there are so many fantastic independent brands making clothing, accessories, homeware and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homewares, accessories and food, we’ve got you covered with the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week we’re talking to Emma Hill, founder of sustainable fashion brand Damson Madder.
How was Damson Madder born?
The idea came from buying sustainable clothing, I felt that there were very few brands that offered unique and exciting designs. So I thought why can’t we design clothes that are cool and interesting while being durable?
We started working with different recycled and organic fabrics and experimenting with natural dyes. Some of our favorite colors during our first tries included damson (plum) and madder (flower) and thus the name was born. We launched in April 2020…a week after lockdown. It was tough, but we were very lucky to have such an incredible response to the first collection and it was great to know that what we were doing touched so many people.
The element of durability is the most important factor for us; our recycled polyester is made from plastic bottles from coasts and landfills and cotton is recycled from textile waste. We don’t claim to be perfect, but we are transparent with our materials and processes. Our clothes are built to last with sturdier fabrics because the most sustainable way to live is to buy less, right? We therefore ensure that quality is also in the foreground.
What three words sum up Damson Madder?
Durability, innovation and style.
Who is Damson Madder for?
Damson Madder is for anyone who loves timeless fashion and clothes that are made to last and want to make conscious decisions to help improve the planet.
Tell us about your design and manufacturing process?
We start with vintage shopping; myself and my team love vintage clothing and find it extremely inspiring. We love the idea of bringing a new lens to a piece of history, of reviving something that can live through a new interpretation. There are so many amazing vintage stores across Europe; our last trip to copenhagen provided huge inspiration for next year’s collections.
But not just fashion, it’s important to also look at homewares, tablecloths, wallpaper, art and vintage textiles. We then source sustainable fabrics from state-of-the-art fabric mills that innovate and provide the best practices of sustainable and circular solutions, such as turning plastic waste found in our oceans into yarn.
What is a typical day for you?
I get up every day at 6 a.m. and have breakfast with my two little ones and drop them off at daycare before going to the office. I listen to a podcast on the way – right now I’m taking advantage of “The Good Life Project” for my daily dose of inspiration. Then I sit down with my team to plan the day. Every day is different, from researching new materials and product innovation, to liaising with factories, social and communication strategy and meetings with buyers to present the latest collections. Evenings involve creative play with the kids and if I have any energy left after putting them to bed, I try to unwind with a light TV.
Some days it feels like a real struggle and feels like we’re getting nowhere, but when it all falls into place, it’s comforting to know that we may have helped make a little difference in the world. .
What’s the best thing about running your own business? And the most difficult?
The best thing about running your own business is being able to make a living while having a positive impact on the world. I enjoy being creative with product development and working with innovative apparel technologies. I love not having to fit into the mold of the big retailers and being able to chart our own sustainable course, constantly evolving and improving.
The worst thing about running a business is always wishing you could do more, but having to make the most of the resources of a small business.
Best moment so far?
Our checkerboard ensemble, which we sold out within days, last season’s floral dress sale after it was featured on This morning and most recently the online launch of the SS22 swimwear range – so many styles sold out in a week. Being in a room full of people I look up to and following wearing our sold-out organic cotton fruit set – from Lianne La Havas to Jasmine Helmsley – was a real moment of reflection and gratitude for how far we’ve come.
Finally, the ability to be able to assign a tangible figure to recycled and used plastic bottles per unit – to provide maximum transparency to our consumer. This season we can say that some pieces use up to 25 bottles which is amazing and every season I want to improve that.
Which product is your current favourite?
I’m a big fan of this season’s best-selling organic cotton and linen fruit print set; inspired by a vintage tea towel, it’s so remarkable and eye-catching, I wore it all summer and got so many compliments.
Something exciting in the pipeline?