Beulah - Fashion with Feeling
Combining ethical business principals with desirable clothing is something the fashion industry has been attempting, largely unsuccessfully, for some time now, which is what makes the success of London based label Beulah so inspiring. Started just three years ago by two friends after a life-changing visit to the Delhi slums, Beulah supports women who have escaped sex trafficking in India by providing a sustainable livelihood for them manufacturing their garments.
But it’s not just the ethics behind the clothes that are appealing to women, Beulah’s feminine and elegant aesthetic makes it accessible to women of all ages, and has won the label some high profile customers, including the Duchess of Cambridge and Hollywood actress Jessica Alba.
With the entire collection now available to buy online for the first time at http://www.beulahlondon.com, we sat down with the founders, Natasha Rufus-Isaacs and Lavinia Brennan, to find out more about Beulah.
Please can you tell us a little bit about how and why you started Beulah?
With a love for fashion and a heart for social justice, we started up Beulah. Beulah is a British, luxury brand producing silk evening and occasion wear. After a trip to India where we spent two months working with women who had been sex trafficked, we wanted to employ these women and give them an alternative, sustainable livelihood, and thus Beulah was born. Currently the women are involved in sewing a few of the garments, our long-term aim is to involve them in the whole production, as well as through embroidery on our SS'13 collection.
There seems to be a growing focus on ‘ethical fashion’ at the moment, why do you think that is?
I think we are all guilty of pointless purchases that don't make it beyond one or two outings. People are deciding quality is more important than quality; to purchase an item of clothing that won't end up lining the bins, but can be passed down to future generations. An estimated two tons of clothing is dumped in landfills every years, rivers are being destroyed due to toxic dyes used on clothes, and only too often the under-age workers exposed, who are often locked inside and horrifically under paid and exploited. People are making a stand against it, encouraged perhaps by many role models standing against it as well as significant press exposing the issues, therefore people are being forced to think about the effects of their purchase.
Do you think it’s important for people to be more aware of where/how their clothes are produced and for retailers to make the production process more transparent to consumers?
Yes i believe people should be aware of how their clothes are produced, and retailers should make it more transparent to consumers. At Beulah, we are introducing a bar code whereby someone can download an app, and trace which person has made your item, and what impact it has had on their life. It is very powerful (and necessary) for the consumer to able to hear about the one story, and be able to measure the impact of their purchase. Of course, as a small brand, it is much easier to manage our supply chain, and much more complex for a huge highstreet brand with thousands of garments made per day. It is a step that we are making, however, and we want to encourage other brands to follow suit.
Your clothes have a very elegant and feminine feel to them – do you design with a particular type of woman in mind?
Our customer is sophisticated, and glamorous. She has an ethical conscience, as well as a desire to look and feel beautiful inside and out.
How important are fashion trends in influencing your collections each season, or do you prefer to follow your own aesthetic?
Fashion trends are important and do influence our collections, but we do follow our own aesthetic, that sets our brand apart from others.
You already have some high profile women wearing your clothes, how important is this to the marketing of the label?
As with any label, it's very important to the marketing of the label. We've been hugely blessed with quite a few high profile women wearing our clothes. It definitely helps with our brand awareness and of course with sales.
If you could pick one famous woman to dress in Beulah who would it be and why?
Rachel Weisz - especially after her recent role in an anti-trafficking film. She's British, beautiful and has a heart for social issues.
Please could you pick two key pieces from your current collection and tell us more about them?
The poppy dress from our SS'12 collection has a bold and unique print, and fast becoming one Beulah's signature styles with billowing sleeves. The silhouette is very slimming, and definitely one of my favourites from the collection. The blue heart shibani scarf, as seen on Jessica Alba recently, is also another key piece for this season. Not only does it raise money and awareness for the UN blue heart campaign, which fights human trafficking, it also is a beautiful accessory and an essential one for every day.
You design a lot of occasion wear – what would be your top tips for dressing to impress at an important event?
Keep it simple and chic. With print dresses especially, less is more, team the dress with sky high nude heels, and a fuss free fascinator.
What are the future plans for Beulah?
To become a global fashion empire, to be stocked in department stores internationally. Once we have a profitable business, eventually to employ thousands of women who have been trafficked, as well as those who are high at risk of trafficking. To make a big impact, but one step at a time.