Leeds graduate Hannah Beaumont is on a mission to make organic clothing cool. She talks to Stephanie Smith.
DEsigner Hannah Beaumont says: “Everyone loves a white T-shirt.” How right she is. And if that white T-shirt is beautifully made, using organic, ethically produced, pure, crisp cotton, so much the better.
That was the thinking behind the first clothing collection that Hannah produced, seven years ago, at the age of 23. “Because I felt I was already pigeon-holing with organic products, I wanted to make something that we could sell out to a lot of boutiques,” she says.
The feeling that she should be an “organic” fashion designer grew the more she researched and created the sort of clothes that she wanted to wear, make and sell.
She says: “When I began looking into making the collection, I learned so much about organic clothing and how cotton was grown and the damage it does to our environment.
“People buy far too much and it ends up in a landfill, so I wanted to use this opportunity to create a collection using organic and ethical products. I also wanted to make sure that everyone on my journey was paid and looked after properly. I think it’s important to have an understanding of these things when you have your own brand.”
Now 30, Hannah is part of a growing movement within the British fashion and design world towards thoughtfully produced products. She lives and works in Manchester, where she was born and raised, but she trained in Yorkshire, studying for a degree in Fashion and Textile Marketing at the University in Leeds. We hear much querying these days of the value of degrees, especially when they leave graduates saddled with huge debts, but in Hannah’s case, it gave her a useful grounding in many of the experiences and skills that she really needed to make it in the notoriously difficult business that is fashion.
“It was a really great course,” she says. “Very varied and broad, so we worked with Photoshop, made our own clothes and learned about marketing, which is quite good for someone looking to start their own business and go it alone. It meant I left with a better idea of more aspects of fashion, which I could use when I decided to do something on my own.”
After graduating, Hannah spent a year working for Monsoon as an assistant administrative buyer on jersey wear and knitwear. “It definitely had an impact on how I design my own collections as it taught me about fast fashion, working with vast quantities,” she says.
In the summer of 2008, she set up her own fashion company, Beaumont Organic. “My dad has his own business when I was growing up, so I guess I was inspired by him to set up my own brand,” she says, adding: “Fashion has been in our family for a while, because my grandma had a lot of shops when she was younger, and that definitely inspired me.”
She hoped to step into what she saw as a gap in the UK independent fashion market for organic and ethical products. “I wanted to offer something different, but in a more fashionable way,” she says. “I did some research into it and discovered there was a niche there to be explored.”
The new spring/summer collection is ready – pared-back, high quality, utterly wearable pieces including cotton shirts and shirt dresses, tees and T-shirt dresses, tunics and fine luxury knitwear. It’s a range that works well together, as a capsule collection, or as new summer pieces to introduce to an existing wardrobe. Each piece evokes British summertime.
The brand retails online, although that accounts for only ten per cent of its sales, says Hannah, as most are sold through independent boutiques across the UK, including at Attic Womenswear in Ilkley. It also wholesales to Japan and hope to extend this to other countries in the future.
Hannah says Beaumont Organic’s customers are mainly women aged 30-50. “I think it’s the lady that can afford to shop in these kind of boutiques, looking for good quality, luxury clothing and in some cases specifically for organic products,” she says. “Younger people tend to go more for fast fashion, whereas our customers go for quality.”
Hannah describes her own style as “quite casual”, adding, “I’m just kind of laid-back, quite traditional and classical, with a contemporary edge. I’m not really out there. I wear a lot of my own pieces, which is reflected in my collection.”
She loves Chloe and Marni but looks more to Day Birger and Danish brands. She employs another designer at her studio, and together they brainstorm and create mood boards. The jersey and knitwear is made in Portugal, and the woven pieces are made in the UK. “I sourced these places myself to make sure that all the workers are treated fairly and kept within the ethical standards,” she says.
It seems that Hannah was right about that gap in the market, although there’s no substitute for grafting. She says: “I’ve got a good support network around me with my family, husband and staff, but I think it’s mainly about hard work and perseverance.”
• Visit www.beaumontorganic.com. Stocked at Attic in Ilkley.