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The Ethical Fashion Brand

With a focus on conscious consumerism and working with vulnerable and homeless people, Daisy and Ozric set up their own ethical brand.

Ozric Vondervelden, What Daisy Did, Northampton

Having worked on sustainability projects, Ozric Vondervelden and Daisy Hardwick were inspired during their travels around India by people’s resourcefulness in repurposing waste materials for use in their day-to-day lives.

With a focus on conscious consumerism and working with vulnerable and homeless people, the couple decided to set up their own sustainable, ethical and affordable fashion brand – and three years ago, What Daisy Did was born.

We spoke to Ozric about their amazing journey.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your backgrounds before running a fashion business ?

Before setting up our business we spent several years working in event sustainability, running schemes that educated people about waste and encouraged waste reduction. 

What was it that inspired you?

This work really opened our eyes to the disposable lifestyles that we all live. We realised how much planned obsolescence is designed into the products we buy and how little waste we utilise. 

What’s the ethos behind your company?

We set out to create fashion accessories that tackle waste from every angle. We prevent supply chain inefficiencies by utilising waste from a range of industries.

 We make strength the key factor in our designs, keeping them out of landfill for as long as possible, and lastly, we use timeless designs that will survive trends and seasons.

The fashion industry is the second biggest pollutant in the world (after big oil) and we hope to change that. 

We are strong advocates of 'slow fashion', a term which describes our battle against reckless consumerism in the fashion industry (fast fashion). It is encouraging consumers to slow down and make more conscious purchases by asking themselves a few simple questions – such as: who made my clothes and what is the environmental impact?

In order to combat these issues, we are BAFTS-registered and work with the Woodland Trust to offset our carbon footprint by planting woodland.

The fashion industry is the biggest employer of slave and child labour. This is hidden well behind a
vast and complex supply chain system which we hope to deconstruct by encouraging demand for transparency. 

We work with a small impoverished community of ex-shoe tailors in India, many of whom lost their jobs to the dwindling shoe industry that their town was once famed for. They work from home and
have flexibility around commitments such as university and parenting and create their own deadlines to alleviate pressure.

We do not use any child or forced labour and pay a living wage.

Why did you decide to expand your manufacturing to the UK?

We experienced a huge demand for our bags which our partners in India where unable to keep up with. We usually travel to India annually to work on new designs but with the arrival of our first child we couldn't make it.

Combined with the current state of our currency we decided it was best to create a UK made collection. This has reduced pressure on our partners, which will allow them to grow organically. Because 95% of all the materials we are using for this collection are sourced within 75 miles of our workshop, these bags have a smaller carbon footprint.

Because of Northampton's shoemaking history, there are lots of very skilled machinists that can now keep their traditional skills alive by passing them on.

We love the creative process of producing in-house, and the flexibility of our work has now led to several new commissions and the supply of several new sources of waste materials. For our next collection, we are looking at utilising the materials used on boat sails and surplus leather from a local shoe factory. 

What charities are you involved with and why did you choose them?

We work with our local homeless charity, the Northampton Hope Centre, with whom we are piloting a new scheme which involves us recruiting the charity's clients. A lottery-funded grant allows the candidates to receive full background support from the charity whilst they transition into the role. And it is through them that we’ve recruited our first UK-based pattern cutter.

What challenges have you encountered along the way and how did you tackle them?

We really struggled to find funding for our new collection, 'the wayfarer collection'.

After looking at several options we decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign where we received huge amounts of support. With the support of 225 backers we managed to raise £13,045 to help bring the project to life. 

What words of advice would you give to someone thinking about setting up a business?

Setting up a business is challenging and every step of the journey has filled us with self-doubt. It can be insecure and at times we have had to spend every waking moment working.

We have had to make lots of sacrifices and the experiences have caused us to cry with both happiness and sadness!

It's a difficult test of character and a hard one to pass without a lot of faith and determination. We would say the most important drive comes from the friends and family around you who are there to celebrate the good days and pick you up on the bad days.

Melanie Luff

About the author

Mel wrote for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other global industry publications.


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