Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

Today you should definitely pick up a copy of The Guardian, or head to the site to read Melanie's article all about how Made in Britain fashion is getting back in its groove, with everyone from ASOS to  Mulberry getting in on the action. During our research, I spoke to Frieda Gormley who along with her husband Javvy is the mastermind behind House of Hackney. If you haven't seen their stuff before, then be prepared to fall in love with their eccentrically British, fabulously printed aesthetic which plays out on everything from eiderdowns to lampshades to pyjamas and dresses.
Javvy M Royle and Frieda Gormley, creators of House of Hackney
This isn't just about looking like a brilliant blend of traditional English with a fresh twist; one of Freida and Javvy's founding principles is that everything should be Made in Britain. "When we started House of Hackney, the idea was so British that it was of paramount importance for us to manufacture in Britain" Frieda told me last week, "we spent six months driving around the UK, visiting factories and artisans". If that's not dedication to the cause, I don't know what is. It's not like Frieda and Javvy came at their business without any understanding of what they were letting themselves in for. Prior to setting up House of Hackney, Frieda was a buyer at Topshop where she worked on a project to create a collection of tailoring with Manchester factory, Coopers and Stollbrand so she knew all about the benefits and challenges which come with working with UK factories. She says one of their biggest problems is that they just can't do volume, which is perhaps why the recent Made in Britain revival has, on the whole, been one of niche, artisan products. Javvy had worked as a designer which means they had a dream team set-up for their business from the very beginning.

A room of Dalston Rose
A lovely summer dress in Dalston Candy 
There was never any intention to do fashion, despite that being their background. It was all about filling the gap they saw in interiors for a brand which wasn't minimal and bland, as had been the general trend for so long. When they began in 2010, the print revival in fashion coincided with what they were wanting to see in interiors. And so they created Dalston Rose which has a hint of the Toile de Jouy about it, with its blue and white colourway but with a more freehand English rose pattern. Then there's Hackney Empire, a collage of curious animals including badgers, bird and koalas. House of Hackney works with Stead McAlpin, a printers in Cumbria where the number of employees has risen from 45 to 150 in the past three years. Their look makes me think perhaps of Oscar Wilde's drawing room? Or an imagined version of Marie Antoinette's English country home?

A Hackney Empire boudoir
Wear the print: Hackney Empire bomber and joggers 
It wasn't long before the call to do fashion came, from none other than Opening Ceremony. "We launched early in 2011 and a month later they were asking us to do clothes" Frieda says, somewhat knowingly. There must have been some awareness, having come from the fashion industry, that what they were doing would attract attention from those quarters. In some ways, it reminds of the Laura Ashley story, a cool young couple making a modern version of something with heritage appeal and quickly branching out from fabrics to fashion. Frieda and Javvy work with the "inspiring" Jenny Holloway to produce their fashion collection, which will hit ASOS next week and is already stocked at Lane Crawford and Liberty. Barney's have also shown an interest. Holloway believes in fair conditions and a happy workforce. What Frieda loves most is that "everyone who works there is like us and their salary is going back into our community" which is a good way to sum up why Made in Britain makes so much sense.

A couple of years later and House of Hackney is going from strength to strength. We can go to them for anything from a big furniture or interior design commision to a pretty scarf or tea cup. What's more, Frieda and Javvy are more dedicated than ever to doing their bit for bringing manufacturing back to the UK. As Frieda puts it, "Javvy and I are really passionate about British manufacturing. We want to go beyond House of Hackney. Our medium term plan is to help factories get better at those bigger volumes and also to perhaps open our own factory. From a social point of view, we want to inspire people".

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