Olivia Rose by Emma Ostcliffe.
For the past few years designer Nicola Woods of Beautiful Soul has been exploring the potential of a design driven ethical fashion business. Since her appearance in my book, Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, I’ve watched her label grow and flourish into a beautiful Ready to Wear line. Her latest collection, Olivia Rose, features beautiful, wearable dresses and trench coats in a strong but pretty colour palette of navy, red, fuschia, dove grey and turquoise. There’s an unmistakable 70s influence but these are timeless pieces to treasure. I talked to Nicola about the inspiration for Olivia Rose, and the best ways to grow a sustainable fashion label.
Beautiful Soul AW 2012 by Madeleine Lithvall.
With your new collection you really seem to have hit your stride. What do you think epitomises the Beautiful Soul brand in 2012?
Thank you so much. Constructive feedback inspires me, be it positive or negative, it hascertainly helped me to evolve as a designer. The Olivia Rose A/W 2012 collection features timeless silhouettes brought to life through exclusive prints, adding a twist of English charm. The collection offers a mixture of classic and contemporary shapes to offer the Beautiful Soul woman a choice of stylish, feminine pieces to suit her mood of the moment, giving her an alternative, more ethical choice that does not compromise luxury.
You have named the new A/W 2012 collection for your two grandmothers: Olivia Rose. Why did you feel drawn to them for inspiration this season, and how did their lives affect the way you designed?
The relationship I have with my family is incredibly special. I lost my last remaining grandparent (my grandfather) last year and I wanted to translate the positive impact that they had on my life and the stories they shared with me. I drew inspiration from the love letters my Grandmothers (Olivia and Rose) each wrote in code to their sweethearts (my Grandfathers) whilst separated during the war and as a sign of remembrance, the unique Beautiful Soul London print this season, features the poppy which was a favourite flower of both of my grandmothers and a symbol of the British Legion campaign which all of my grandparents supported.
Olivia Rose A/W 2012 by Jane Young.
The poppy flower is your key print signature in Olivia Rose – how have you taught yourself to create prints? Has it been a relatively easy process once you know what you want?
I approach design with a very open mind and the best person to translate the ideas in my head is me, so I am learning quickly! It adds to the challenge and Beautiful Soul London’s unique signature. I am a firm believer of ‘giving it a go!’ and jumping in at the deep end!… hard work always pays off!
Beautiful Soul A/W 2012 by Natasha Knight.
You recently discovered the most amazing British lace makers, based in Nottingham – how has your sourcing ofmaterials for the collection helped other small British businesses?
Beautiful Soul’s ethos includes supporting the regeneration of UK manufacturing and textile production. Sadly one of our British lace suppliers in Nottingham made the decision last year to close their family owned business after 60 years in business. I visited the supplier in Nottingham and discovered a warehouse stacked full of the most amazing British lace produced over the years. I knew I had to help in some way and I put a campaign together to help clear the stock. I am still actively engaged in the campaign and have spread the word to everybody who will listen! Joining forces, we can make a difference.
Olivia Rose British Lace A/W 2012 by Jane Young..
You have recently managed to grow your business with the help of some key sponsors – how hard has it been to get to this point, and do you have any advice for others in a similar position, who might be wondering where they can find help to growtheir label in a sustainable way?
Firstly, a big thank you to our sponsors: HL & HL Antiquities, Hyperion Technologies, Creative Dynamic Print, AVCWeeeco and ESS Recycling for believing in me and supporting the growth of Beautiful Soul. I started Beautiful Soul after I graduated (2008) with very little experience of the fashion industry and without a plan of action. I confess: I was not prepared. I spent the best part of 2011 developing Beautiful Soul from a business perspective andunderstanding the brand. I have learnt to re-evaluate my priorities, balancing the business and creative responsibilities, building a firm foundation and more importantly, a sustainable future for the brand. Developing Beautiful Soul’s first Business Plan was a daunting task. I considered stepping away for a season. I persevered and managed to do both. I continue to knock on doors and slowly they are beginning to open. Perseverance is key and I can now see a bright flicker of light, at what once seemed a verylong tunnel. This is part of the brand building process and I am learning about every aspect of the company. When I have the funding in place to have my dream team, I will delegate theduties!
You still produce your beautiful bespoke Kimono Collection: why is it so important to you to keep this aspect of Beautiful Soul alive, and where do you think it willhead in the future?
Beautiful Soul came to life sitting under a cherry blossom tree, in the heart of Tokyo. It was life changing moment…and Beautiful Soul’s Kimono Collection was built on this premise. The Kimono Collection is Beautiful Soul‘s bespoke collection for men and women, and is now available to buy all year round. We can accommodate small wholesale orders regardless of the season. One of the world’s most fashion-focused museums, London’s V&A, has stocked Beautiful Soul’s Kimono Collection since the labels launch and we are actively seeking international stockists. Watch this space!
Beautiful Soul by Charlie Rallings.
Finally, any wishes for 2012? Where would you like to be at the end of this year?
Olivia Rose A/W 2012 is our third RTW collection. Our library of sustainable fabrics is ever-expanding and it’s my second season of designing my own unique prints. I am building relationships with international buyers and receiving valuable feedback, which helps me to grow. The response at Paris Fashion Week was very positive and we will be stocked globally from September 2012. Our dream stockists are watching us!
Beautiful Soul by Charlie Rallings.
A luxury fashion brand requires an incubation period in which to flourish and the next 12 months is a crucial time for growth. I will learn what I need to learn and move forward. My objective is to secure further investment (and retain ownership) and build on and develop a strong brand, identifiable to its target market and the wider consumer fashion arena. We will seek a private placement once the brands recognition has developed. I have my head around this process and it adds to the challenge. I am currently working on my first collaboration and hope to have my first solo event during London Fashion Week in September 2012. I will of course return to Paris in September and also hope to explore New York. I am also hoping to dress a number of Beautiful Soul‘s muses and secure orders with our dream stockists. My long term objective is for Beautiful Soul to form part of the British Fashion Elite, whilst maintaining my strong commitment to transparency.
To learn more about the top ethical fashion designers working today check out my book, Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration.
- Beautiful Soul collaborates with ACOFI illustrator Faye West for A/W 2011: Painting by Numbers
- Explore the world of Beautiful Soul
- Hetty Rose: how to create beautiful shoes from old kimonos
- Beautiful Soul: meet Nicola Woods, ethical fashion designer extraordinaire
- Beautiful Soul, Basharatyan V, Neobotanic Fashion and Vita Gottlieb: London Fashion Week A/W 2013 Presentation Review