For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Ismay from Boy Wonder, a design-led kids fashion brand for parents who value creative, unique style for their kids. Sustainably made and featuring quirky, hand-drawn prints on organic cotton.
Tell me about yourself and the work that you do.
I am fashion designer mum with a passion for the environment. I started out in menswear but ended up in childrenswear and specialised in print and graphics. I saw the huge gap in the market for fun, bright stereotype free boys clothing when my son was born and I struggled to find things I liked. Boy Wonder is a design-led kids fashion brand featuring hand-drawn prints on organic cotton ethically made in Britain
How or why did you get started?
Boy wonder was created out of the desire to clothe my son in design-led fashion that is kind to people and planet. As a baby my son had eczema which I discovered could be irritated by harsh chemicals in clothing. This led me to investigate more about the toxic side of the fashion industry while setting up the business and becoming a convert to sustainable and ethical fashion.
What is your favourite thing about the work that you do, or are doing for this project?
I love creating something and seeing it develop from an initial sketch to finished product. It’s also wonderful when people tell me how much they love what I do! The satisfaction of seeing kids wearing the garments and how great they look in them is also very enjoyable.
How has working sustainably impacted your non-business life?
I was bought up in a very eco aware family, but researching different areas of sustainable, ethical and green issues over the last 4 years has taught me a lot that has carried over into my personal life. Even though I had studied and worked in the Fashion industry for many years I wasn’t aware of how damaging it was. I now only buy second hand clothing with the odd ethical/sustainable new item and only when I need them. I try to keep my clothes in use for much longer and repair or adapt them. Working sustainably has also made others around me become more aware as I have taken them on my journey.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of having set up the business all on my own without a business or life partner. I am a widowed parent so it has been a real struggle at times without someone else to encourage and support me. I have done everything myself form drafting the patterns to designing the logo. I was also very proud to have raised capital through a crowdfund campaign last year which through pre-orders and donations financed my first production run.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to be able to develop the business’s circularity further by adding a take back and resale option on the web shop and looking into using recycled materials. I intend to do research on developing circular clothing initiatives within communities.
Can you recommend any other makers or businesses that work in an ethical or sustainable way?
There are so many amazing businesses and makers in the ethical and sustainable field. I have worked with Sian Conway of Ethical Hour who is amazing. I love what Monty & Co are doing as another British-made kids brand and Mini Rodini, Veja and Stella McCartney as a bigger brands are doing amazing things too. Y.O.U. Underwear, Socko and Kind soaps are very inspiring too.
Have you got a particular cause or issue that you would like to raise awareness of?
Fashion revolution highlight many of the issues that I have blogged about and that mean a lot to me. They run a week of campaigning in April to inform and lobby about garment workers’ rights and safety which is very powerful. The #payup campaign run by remake is also an important one which is putting pressure on big fashion brands to pay for the orders they cancelled at the start of the pandemic.
What is the most challenging thing about the work that you do, or are doing for this project?
The most challenging part of my work was finding the right suppliers, printers and manufacturers to work with as I make in Britain. Sustainable sourcing was difficult but better products are now starting to come on the market. It was very hard finding stakeholders who believed in what I was doing and are not entrenched in the traditional model of working.