Philippa Thackeray, founder of eco fashion brand Paper London

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Philippa Thackeray, founder of Paper London

Q&A with founder of eco-friendly fashion brand Paper London

22 May 2024 • Written by Hannah Rankine

One of the exhibitors at Ocean Talks 2024 is Paper London, an environmentally conscious fashion brand that produces contemporary, yet classic, pieces from eco-friendly materials. Now a British Fashion Council Contemporary Award recipient two seasons in a row, the brand has garnered a loyal following with numerous high-profile names, such as Margot Robbie, Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few. Ahead of the event, founder Philippa Thackeray tells BOAT about what makes the brand unique.

What is Paper London and where did you get the idea from?

Paper London is a contemporary fashion brand known for its bold and vibrant designs, inspired by modern art, architecture and travel. The idea for Paper London came from a love of travel and the desire to create what we describe as destinationwear. The name PAPER symbolises a blank canvas, much like a piece of paper, on which one can express themselves - just as wearing clothes is a form of self-expression. Drawing colour inspiration from our surroundings and the clean lines and geometric shapes of modern design, our aim is to create pieces that are both striking and environmentally conscious. We believe that life is about the journey, and our goal is to create pieces that help you make lifelong memories.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered in sourcing and using these materials?

One of the primary challenges we face in sourcing sustainable materials is the limited availability and higher cost compared to conventional fabrics, especially when the customer demands a competitive price. Ensuring the reliability and ethical practices of our suppliers requires rigorous vetting and ongoing monitoring, which, as a small team, can be a challenge. In order to maintain the high quality and durability of our products while using eco-friendly materials, we have to take on additional research to make sure the fabric stands up to customer expectations.

We are lucky to find amazing suppliers to work with that enable us to expand our network and gain exposure to more sustainable options. The best options for the environment are often the hardest to find, in my experience! We also work with natural dyes but, again, sourcing natural dyes that provide vibrant, long-lasting colors can be difficult, but we are committed to finding the best options! It just takes time and commitment.

What does end-of-life look like for your products?

At Paper London, we design our products with their entire lifecycle in mind. Using natural fibres, like cotton and linen, ensures that our garments can decompose naturally, reducing their impact on the environment. We encourage our customers to participate in our PAPER RELOVE rental platform, where they can rent clothes or donate their old garments in exchange for a voucher for their next purchase.

It was when we launched this rental platform that we realised there was no real secondary market for swimwear. Currently, we incentivise customers to return their swimsuits in exchange for vouchers, so we can find alternative uses for them. This initiative led us to collaborate with Nottingham Trent University to see how we could recycle or treat our old swimwear and repurpose it into something new.

Traditionally, elastane is not recyclable – the recycling process breaks down its ability to be reused. However, thanks to the work of Nottingham Trent University, we have found an innovative process that enhances the engineering properties of the materials and allows them to be effectively redyed, something typically impossible with recycled swimwear. Furthermore, the process gives the fibres special antibacterial properties. We are currently looking to take this project into phase two of its lifecycle and commercialise the process so that we can develop a new range of swimwear. I am thrilled to announce we have recently won a grant from Innovate UK to support the work we are doing.

Tell us about your tree planting scheme. How do you go about fulfilling this?

Our tree planting scheme is a crucial part of our commitment to environmental stewardship. For every purchase made, we plant five trees in collaboration with reforestation partners Verdn. This initiative helps offset our carbon footprint and contributes to global reforestation efforts. We carefully select planting locations that are in need of ecological restoration and also selected mangrove trees in particular as they benefit both the land and water ecosystems to work hard. Verdn cleverly has a tracking dashboard so each customer can see the impact of the purchase and the stage of the journey their trees are on.

Which collection will you be exhibiting at Ocean Talks?

For our Spring Summer collection, we are thrilled to introduce Sunlit Escapes, which we are exhibiting. This collection is divided into smaller capsules, each perfect to pack in your suitcase for either a week or weekend in the sun. Inspired by various stunning destinations, we'll leave you to guess which capsule draws inspiration from where. The collection features organic cotton, linens and a new sustainable fabric, Solotex, which is perfect for travel as it doesn’t crease and is so lightweight it travels like a breeze.

Read More/Everything you need to know about Ocean Talks 2024

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