With Christmas just around the corner, we’ve decided to introduce an ethical fashion brand & social enterprise for those who are looking to shop more consciously and give back during this time of the year…
Birdsong is an ethical fashion brand that offers clothing and accessories made by women in charities across London. They consider themselves a social enterprise where the number one priority is the wellbeing of their makers.
I sat down with Susanna, the Co-founder of Birdsong to find out more about their brand and their work with women’s charities in London.
What is the story behind Birdsong?
Our founder, Sophie started Birdsong seven years ago. When she was working with charities in London, she noticed that all of their funding was getting cut, and that women in these charities were making products and selling them in markets.
So, they started a marketplace to bring revenue to the charities by marketing and selling these products in a more attractive way. But the problem was that all the products were quite different, or there would only be one of each. That’s when they hired me to launch their mainline collection, and we’ve been doing that for five years now.
You work with a lot of women based in London to make your garments. Could you tell us more about the community aspect of Birdsong & what it’s like working with so many women?
We work with 4-5 groups in East London who are within a half an hour bus ride from our office in Dalston. We’ve been working with the same groups for a prolonged amount of time, so we’ve really been able to build a good relationship with them which benefits both, them and us as a brand. They’re not like factories we use you know, we have more of a familiar relationship with them which is really great. It works for our scale at the moment as we only release two collections a year and work made-to-order.
Sustainability seems to be a core part of Birdsong. What is the main challenge you face as the founder of a sustainable fashion business?
We see sustainability holistically, it’s not just the fabric and the physical materials, it’s also about how we treat people. We pay our makers more than London living wage. We try to make it so that they earn the same as us in the HQ and that there isn’t much hierarchy.
So, I would say price is our biggest challenge. For example, if a dress takes 5 hours to make, that’s £75 on just the production, and then it’s the sustainable fabric on top of that. So, we have to try to convince our customers that what they are paying for is worth it, because there is a big price difference compared to the high-street. But we think it’s worth every penny.
As 2021 is coming to an end, what is the most important lesson you have learned this year about running a sustainable fashion business?
I guess it’s that we can’t rest on our laurels. Before lockdown, we were on a steady trajectory. When lockdown happened, we actually sold so many things and it was a successful year for us. But 2021, has been strangely more difficult than lockdown. Maybe people are focusing on other things like going out and spending money elsewhere. Although in our sustainable fashion bubble, everyone is talking about sustainability, I don’t think the opinions of the greater public have really changed. So, it’s just been really hard to grow and reach new people. So, we’ve had to learn to stay nimble and not be complacent while remaining true to our mission.
If you had to pick one item from your range to gift someone for Christmas, what would it be?
Our Midnight Patchwork Day Jacket. It’s like a little cover-up that you can wear as outerwear or as a top without anything underneath. It’s really versatile and great for any weather.
What will you be wearing on New Year? Anything from your range?
Our new jewellery pieces are designed so you can stack all of the charms, and you can put them on our chains or earrings. So, I’ll probably be wearing the maximum amount of charm combinations.
Written By: Darya Badiei | Fashion Content Editor