Art Editor Heather McSwan interviews local designers Gloria Dawson and Pippa Blundell who have successfully created, developed, and marketed their new environmentally sustainable businesses during lockdown.
The autumn months see us swapping swimwear for sweatshirts and flip flops for fleeces. This year, however, there will be one staple in everyone’s winter wardrobe – face masks.
Fashion technology graduate and freelance seamstress Gloria Dawson discusses her journey which began in March when she was volunteering with the charity For the Love of Scrubs, making scrubs for NHS workers. Gloria then began receiving requests for face masks from close friends and family members and, with her own home studio now set up, she had an opportunity to develop her own brand.
The face mask collection is made from fabric which Gloria has gathered over the years: “It is all lovingly hoarded! My sister had a black and white gingham top which didn’t fit her, so she asked me to make masks from it and once I put it on Instagram, people began requesting the same design.” This provides buyers with a range of fun, fashionable designs, from florals to strawberries, while also recycling fabric which would otherwise remain unused: “If I have a small piece leftover, I will use it for a limited selection.” Gloria makes masks for children and enjoys the challenge of commissions, having recently made a set of bespoke masks for Common Ground cafe in Anniesland.
Masks are ultimately for protection against the current health crisis. Recently, social media blew up with certain fast-fashion brands selling masks made from fishnet material, failing to fulfil their purpose of coverage. Gloria’s designs, on the other hand, are drafted with two layers of neatly sewn 100% cotton fabric, to make them as comfortable as possible and to give customers the option to add their own filter for additional confidence in being fully protected.
As lockdown began to ease, and masks became mandatory in many public places, Gloria experienced a surge in demand, making 100 masks in the first week of July alone, explaining: “I initially assumed I would resume freelance work after the summer, but now we know that masks are going to be worn for the foreseeable future.” By making batches in advance, through effective organisation and preparation, she has kept her production line going in a cycle, keeping her on top of demand and making flexible working possible. This will allow Gloria to move with demand, and possibly expand the business with her new customer base.
From earrings to beanie hats and bralets, Pippa Blundell, a voice studies student at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and self-taught crocheter recalls her experience of lockdown. It started with her learning the basics of crochet, and she is now running her own business: Fungidelic Crochet.
Crochet has always been something Pippa wanted to pursue, however, due to the demanding nature of her studies, she had little time. Initially, learning through watching Youtube tutorials, Pippa soon began creating her own complex and intricate designs based around her fascination with the organic world: “Lockdown gave me the time to learn at a much faster rate, culminating what is probably a year worth of work into a five-month period.” Now making waistcoats for autumn and winter, this shows that she is adapting her collection to match the seasons, ensuring she stays in vogue and in demand.
Business began to take off after she made mushroom earrings and uploaded a photo of these to Instagram. She explains: “Uploading my creations led to a butterfly effect of requests, prompting me to create a business Instagram which has also allowed me to network and gain support from the wider crochet community.” With all garments made to order, with a wide range of colour palette options, Pippa manages her time by assigning days for designing, packaging, handling customer requests and providing order updates. As a one-woman powerhouse, her system of organisation and time management is key to ensuring that she maintains this high level of creativity and customer service when she returns to university.
As a supporter of small businesses herself, using 100% vegan wool and yarn which she sources from local shops, Pippa found that working on a donation-only basis (as she had been) became unsustainable long term as the demand for her garments increased and said: “Pricing my products was an uncomfortable process, but I would advise new, growing businesses not to undersell themselves when doing this.” Competing with fast-fashion brands, it’s important to remember the creativity and attention to detail that goes into each of Pippa’s garments is what makes them unique. Gloria and Pippa have both demonstrated their ability to discover and optimise opportunity within the challenges of lockdown and as a result, have designed and produced products which are marketable and in demand. This is inspiring. It is important that we, the consumers, continue to encourage and support these local, independent businesses throughout their ongoing journeys. It will be exciting to see what is in store next for Gloria Dawson and Pippa Blundell.
Support, follow, and shop Gloria’s face mask collection:
Support, follow, and shop Pippa’s crochet collection: