I was recently sent a lovely organic cotton dress by Earth Kind Originals. I really loved the dress and the ethos of the brand and its connections with Cornwall, a place that holds many happy memories for me. I was lucky enough to catch up with Helen Davies, the founder of EKO and find out a little more about the story behind the brand.
Why did you decide to set up Earth Kind Originals and what do you hope to achieve?
I set up EKO after wanting to relocate back to the Cornwall where I grew up, from London where I had established my fashion career. I completed a BA/Honours in fashion design at Surrey Institute of Art and Design and then worked in the commercial fashion industry in London. It was great experience. I frequently traveled to factories in Europe and China, I attended seasonal inspirational buying trips to Paris and worked my way up through the design teams. My last full time role was at JoJo Maman Bebe, where I was in charge of their large maternity collection, from soft separates to evening wear and everything in between. This was a fantastic experience but not an environment I could see myself working in forever. I always imagined myself working and designing by the sea. My Father and Grandfather had their own businesses and I always felt that I wanted to do the same, I think its was in my blood to do my own thing. So I took a leap of faith four years ago and ventured into the unknown and moved back to Cornwall to start EKO, and wow it’s been a real adventure!
What inspired the brand and the designs?
The final collection of my degree was based around ethical and organic fashion, and I furthered my knowledge in this area developing successful organic commercial ranges. Seeing the positive impact you can have within the fashion industry and the growing market for organics was an eye opener. I love simple and contemporary design from Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, to the functional design of Muji and how everyday items can be elegantly simple, functional and sustainable.
Please tell more about what you love most about Cornwall? where are your favourite places in Cornwall?
I love Cornwall for the creative people it attracts and the beautiful coastline, it’s what inspires me and keeps my mind fresh with new ideas. As for places I like here goes:
• beach – the long stretch of golden sand from Godrevy and Gwithian to Hayle River – I surf their on a regular basis, a lovely beach break with a great cafe – perfect for a cuppa, catch up and meetings, business and pleasure
• gallery – the Tate Barbra Hepworth gallery / gardens is a lovely tranquil space in St.Ives (a hub for artists) where her sculptures are set around beautiful gardens – a constant inspiration for natural form and sculptural drape
• local cafe – up the road from the EKO HQ is the Cook Book in St.Just a cafe / book shops just off the main square and a great Friday afternoon treat
• Walk – a lunchtime walk for us is down the road to Cot Valley a unique place where smooth rounded boulders deposited by ancient glaciers meet the rough seas of the Atlantic make. On calm days it’s a great place to find a hidden spot amongst the rocks and cliffs and look out for dolphins and seals or just layback amongst the pink Armeria
Why have you chosen to use organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics to make
We use Turkish organic cotton which has a fully traceable supply chain, it is GOTS approved by the Soil Association and can be tracked back the farmers and fields, this is very important to us. Our organic cotton is grown, spun, knitted and garments are produced all in the same area of Turkey which makes the supply chain efficient and lowering the environmental impact. We also use Tencel which is made from eucalyptus fibre from European suppliers Lenzing in Austria, again we can track back to source. We work closely with fibre, fabric and garment manufacturers to understand exactly where and how our clothes are made from ground to garment.
How do you ensure that your clothes made with respect for people and planet? do you have any ethical/ organic certifications?
Yes we are GOTS certified and approved by the organic exchange with ISO working standards. We visit our production factory regularly and have a strict supplier manual to ensure all ethical criteria are followed. Our supply chain is very important to us and we work hard to maintain a transparent working relationship with them.
Where are your clothes made?
All of our collection is made in Turkey in one factory – its small, family run and we have been working with them for 3 years now, we see them as part of the EKO family and part of our success – we could not have got where we are now, without them.
What kind of women wear your clothes?
The great thing is there is not a certain age or stereotype. When we do shows there are mothers and daughters that will both buy from us, often the same garments but for different reasons. We see elegant older ladies that just want something soft and organic against their skin. We have a large yoga following and some of our designs are specifically create with this in mind. A number of boutique spa hotels including the beautiful Scarlet Spa in Mawgen Porth near Newquay incorporate many items from our collection into their uniform. I guess it shows our range is versatile and timeless which is what we have aimed to achieve. We have our selected garment road testers and rely a customer feedback to improve how we do things every season.
Setting up an eco fashion brand can be a challenge, what have you found to be the biggest challenges and what do you love most about what you do?
The biggest challenge is coming from a design background and having deal with not very creative business side of running the company. Trying to juggle the creative elements with the day-to-day less exiting stuff. Its all new to me which is scary but at the same time very rewarding. Having a customer ring up at the end of a long day and tell you how their go-to EKO dress is still going strong after 3 years and they still love it. I love waking up in the morning, dealing with different challenges, some fun, some stressful, but knowing I can easily escape to the coast for a surf, a wild swim or just windy walk and come back refreshed and ready to carry on building EKO into the successful brand I dream it will be.
A big thank you to Helen and EKO for sharing this inspiring story and sending me one of their lovely dresses to try out. It is definitely one of the most comfortable items in my wardrobe and its simplicity makes it very easy to wear and style. I have already worn it quite a few times. In the above picture I am wearing it with a scarf from Hoss Intropia.
You can check out the Earth Kind Originals website here: www.earthkindoriginals.co.uk
With warmest wishes