Nostalgia is a sensation we’ve all experienced before whether it’s wandering down a street you used to live on or hearing a song on the radio that takes you back to a certain time and place. That flashback feeling that gets you reminiscing on your past is so stirring and is often the reason so many of us squirrel away childhood toys and photographs. Like magic, nostalgia has the power to whisk us far away and evoke emotions in us we’d forgotten we had.
In East London’s Hackney, there is a young creative who is combining the magic of nostalgia with her own style of ethical clothing. Cheltenham born Emma White felt inspired after working with ethical clothing brand Goodon’ and decided two years ago to take a chance on her own dream and started up her business called Duvet Days. Emma has perfected a winning combination of unique and fun to wear clothing by up-cycling second hand duvets and the outcome is oh so dreamy.
Hey Emma, so how did you end up in London?
So I went to university in Bournemouth and then I came straight to London in 2010 for an internship in with Goodone, an ethical fashion label. It’s a recycled sustainable label. So I had the internship with them, then after a couple of weeks I was offered a job as a studio manager and worked there for a few years.
What pays the bills?
Duvet Days is quite new, so until I’m earning the big bucks I do a bit of nannying and freelance seams dressing. I also do a little bit of waitressing.
Is there anywhere in particular that inspires your creativity?
I suppose just here where I live actually (Hackney Wick London). There are so many different creative people around.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style…? I would like to think I’m growing up a bit but really I’m just a kids T.V presenter. I have grown up a bit but generally that’s my style. When I was working at Goodone I was like that. I remember interviewing interns, this girl came in and she was wearing leather trousers and this really cool silky shirt and she looked really like ‘fashion’. And then there was me in baggy trousers and a Mickey Mouse jumper with a side pony tail.
Is your personal style reflected in the clothing you make for Duvet Days?
Yeah I think so. The trousers I make are all quite comfortable and flattering, that’s what I like to wear. I can’t wear things that don’t fit me right or that aren’t comfortable. Obviously all of the prints I use aren’t my cup of tea but I can’t just buy duvets that I like, I have to buy things other people will like too. So the shapes are all my style but not necessarily the fabrics.
So tell me how your brand Duvet Days started? Where did the concept emerge from?
So it started when I worked at Good One and I was going to go to Lovebox (music festival) and my boss had this pile of recycled clothes. There was this bit of fabric that I had been eyeing up the whole time I was working there, it was old Puma fabric with a mental print on it and I loved it! Finally my boss gave in and said I could have it. So I made myself a pair of baggy trousers and a matching crop top out of that and wore it to Love Box. Everyone was saying they loved my outfit so I realised I wanted to do it again recycling something and I thought, what can I use that’s big enough to make trousers out of. I couldn’t use old clothes because it’s all tiny and so I had the idea of using second hand duvet covers.
How has the journey been developing your own business?
It’s been good. It is really hard work. I started about two years ago when I finished at Goodone. Nin (Emma’s Boss from Goodone) was moving to Spain to get married, so it was time to go. Then I was nannying and doing loads of other things and didn’t know what I wanted to do. It’s so hard to find a job in fashion let alone a job in ethical fashion. It was really hard but Nin encouraged me. She said you should do this full time, just go for it and that was when I started Duvet Days.
You talk a lot about ‘ethical fashion’, can you explain what that means and why it’s so important to you?
So the way my company is ‘ethical’ is that we recycle all the duvet covers and either I’m sewing it or my seamstress is sewing it and she paid above a living London wage so there is no one being ripped off. I also don’t use any dyes that are harmful to the environment. I personally haven’t bought anything from a high street shop in about six years, generally everything I buy is either from an ethical fashion label or a charity shop. Well I mean, I do buy my underwear new from Marks and Spencer’s. I think the reality really hit me when I started making clothes and you realise how much work goes into them, like if someone is being paid one pound for a pair of jeans, it’s not right. If was to make a pair of jean it would take me all day because it’s so fiddly and I would want to be paid properly for it. So when Primark are selling jeans for four pounds, I just can’t believe it. I also like when I buy stuff at a charity shop and you find it in your size and you like it then it’s like fate, it’s for you.
How did you learn about running your own business, I can imagine that would be quite daunting.
Well I’ve done the Princes Trust course so that helped me learn how to write a business plan and all that stuff. I also had a loan from them that’s been incredibly helpful and I now have a business mentor with them. Her name’s Alison and I see her once a month and she gives me advice.
How do you spread the word about Duvet Days?
I could do with help with PR but mostly social media. I sold with ‘Sassy World’ (Online vintage, sustainable clothing site) She has a blog. I send bloggers outfits to get the word out. Facebook and Instagram mostly.
When you make an outfit do you always source the duvet covers?
People send me there own as well and then I make them but I also buy a lot too. I have boxes and boxes at home, I need to stop now actually I have so many it’s a bit silly.
Do you sell your outfits at markets?
I’m slowing down on markets at the moment, but I have done a lot of them. I don’t drive so I find that by the time I get there and get my stuff there, sometimes they aren’t busy enough to make it worthwhile. So I’m trying to focus online more now. I am doing Glastonbury and Wilderness this year though.
Have you done that before?
I did Wilderness last year but never Glastonbury so that’s really exciting. Wilderness there is a lot of kids there too so I’ll bring all my kids stuff.
What is your favourite outfit you’ve made?
Well I’m about to make a really good one now for one of my interns. I have interns on and off from Universities, so this girl graduated from Camberwell and I’m making her a really good outfit with 80’s print. She’s going to have a little halter neck and baggy trousers. I also made matching outfits for Lily Allen and her kids, they were really good.
Have you got any tips for creatives who want to turn their passion into a business?
If you’re creative like me the business side can be quite hard so try and get some help, people like the Prince’s Trust are really good. If you don’t want to get the loan you can go there and get help with the other stuff. For people who are creative the business stuff can be really daunting, I still find it hard so I think that’s a really good one.
Any dreams for the future of Duvet Days?
I have been looking into doing a pop up shop at Boxpark, I would love to do that and was planning on doing it this year but with Glastonbury and Wilderness now so just didn’t feel like the right time. I also would love to do a project with illustrators and get plain duvet covers but get them from hotels and places where they can’t use them anymore and then work with illustrators, screen print onto the duvets and do one off outfits. Then we could do a little exhibition with it at the end.
If you fancy getting your hands on a custom made, one of a kind Duvet Days outfit you can find out more at Emma’s website.
Written by Emma Grimmond