Twenty years of Lowie – How did I start and why did Lowie become sustainable?
This month we’re marking 20 years since I started my business; sustainable womenswear brand Lowie. I’ve weathered financial storms and a global pandemic, been so poor I couldn’t afford to go out for a coffee, seen fast fashion consumerism grow out of control but also great leaps towards more thoughtful production in the mainstream.
From an early age I knew I would create my own business. At 12 years old I had a market stall selling upcycled clothing, big thanks to my parents for driving me there at 6am on a Saturday. By 16 I was designing and sewing clothes I’d dreamed of but couldn’t find in the shops and sold them to my local boutiques.
Starting my own business without financial backup didn’t daunt me; it was just an extension of the student-ish lifestyle I’d become accustomed to in my twenties. Whilst working for a youth marketing agency on Brick Lane, my employer asked me to do a business plan, set up and run a new fashion brand for him, all of this at the low pay one would expect as a fashion graduate. Impressed with my skills, he asked me why I didn’t have my own business, planting the seed for a swift exit.
The following week I was in Turkey, feeling like Indiana Jones, chasing leads down ancient alleyways, looking for hand knitters. Eventually I found Ken, a former Wing Commander of the British Airforce with an OBE for services during the Falkland War. Already in his late 60’s and half retired, Ken was my knight in shining armour, business mentor and quality controller during those first few years. Firstly, helping me import traditional Turkish socks – my first ever product – and then facilitating my own handknitted designs that I sold into Top Shop and House of Fraser.
I grew up in Tasmania, Australia’s wilderness island state where conversations around the maintenance of the beautiful landscapes and sustainability were part of my heritage. I am often interviewed and asked ‘when did you decide to be a sustainable brand’ and my answer is that I didn’t decide, I just ‘am’, it’s in my DNA. For me there is no other option, not just because of the planet’s demise but because I couldn’t stomach another way to do it.
Over the years we’ve worked with numerous manufacturers, opened and closed shops, moved studios too many times and now, post-pandemic, we’ve settled nicely into our handsome South London boutique and studio. Together with my wonderful designers and retail staff, we sit conjuring up the next 20 years.
Thank you to all those who’ve supported Lowie over the years.