As part of our founder interview series, we speak with Annie Colley from Flock By Nature about creating a new label, her inspiration, and "The Flock Promise".
What inspired you to launch Flock By Nature?
The dream of having my own label and running a business had been floating around in my head for about 10 years but for many reasons (lack of time, funds, confidence etc.) I never put my thoughts in to action. Inspiration and motivation struck on maternity leave, following the birth of my daughter. During this time, when my awareness of my own wellbeing was particularly high, I came to truly value quality clothing made of natural fibres. Merino wool, in particular quickly became a favourite due to its ability to regulate body temperature. Unlike many other wools it doesn’t itch and feels super soft next to the skin.
I spent many hours searching for the perfect merino sweater (that wasn’t designed for hill walking or mountaineering!) but I never found anything with the elegance that I wanted. This was the inspiration I needed to create my own range.
How would you describe the style of Flock By Nature?
Flock is relaxed yet doesn’t compromise on style & elegance. Wellbeing is at the forefront of the brand so we don’t do anything uncomfortable or that might restrict movement! We take loose, relaxed shapes and then elevate them with carefully considered details (a deep cuff, a step hem, a very delicate rolled trim on the neckline) to create elegant silhouettes.
Ethical fashion is an extremely broad topic. How do you interpret ‘ethical fashion’?
To me, ethical fashion considers and takes responsibility for its own impact on the social and physical environment. It actively drives to minimise its environmental footprint whilst maximising social good. It all sounds so simple…
How does Flock By Nature embody your definition ‘ethical fashion’?
We give a huge amount of thought to how our clothes are made. We have a massive amount still to work on but, as a minimum, we commit to 4 guiding principles of sustainability:
We use 100% natural fibres - We love natural fibres and are strong believers in their contribution to our general wellbeing & comfort. We also believe natural fibres lend a superior quality and longevity to clothing that isn’t found in synthetic alternatives.
We know who made our clothes - All our clothes & accessories are made in either the UK or Italy. Where possible we strive for production in the UK but when this is not possible, we stay within the E.U where labour rights are strong and enforced. We have personally visited our factory in Italy, met with the designers, knitters, technical and clerical teams. We have been working with them for over 2 years prior to our launch and have built a great rapport.
We produce Quality not Quantity - Our range is consciously small, allowing us to focus on the detail and quality of the individual items. We are very lucky to be partnering with factories that are happy to work with us in low quantities. This reduces the potential for wastage of materials throughout the supply chain.
We give something back - We’d like our activities to have a lasting, positive impact on our environment. 10% of the profit on each sale goes to the Flock Fund which donates to charities and causes we care about
Finally, all sweaters and cardigans are backed by the Flock Promise of free repairs to ensure your garment remains a wardrobe staple.
How does designing clothes with ethics & sustainability in mind alter the design process?
For me I don’t think it materially altered anything but then our design process starts with ethics & sustainability in mind and builds from there. From a practical perspective though, it definitely lengthened the production process; It took me 2 years to source a supply of Merino wool that I was happy with. It would have been easier to compromise on something to make the sourcing easier but we ploughed on, kept digging and it was worth it, in the end.
What is the ‘Flock Promise’?
The Flock Promise is our complimentary repair service for any Flock sweater, top or cardigan. We want our knitwear to be a wardrobe staple and loved for years and years but we know accidents do happen. Little snags and holes can consign an otherwise-still-lovely piece to the back of a cupboard which is sad & also a waste. We can fix small holes, loose threads, even minor moth damage… if we can fix it, we will!
You donate a portion of sales to the Flock Fund that supports charities and missions close to your heart. How did you decide to set this up, and what charities are you currently supporting?
I believe very strongly in the role of business & enterprise in contributing to social and community good so it was a given that the Fund would be a core foundation of Flock. We currently support 3 charities, the reasons for choosing vary but they are all close to my heart.
Lend With Care (a microfinance initiative set up to help some of the worlds poorest people work their way out of poverty) came about because of my frustration in how money just goes to money. Lack of investment or available funds prevents so many great small businesses from getting off the ground (this was a challenge for Flock) so if there is any opportunity to support likeminded small business owners, then I’d like to take it.
Unseen whose vision is a world without slavery. Slavery is a huge issue for the fashion industry and we want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Trees For Cities just because we love trees and think everyone should have access to hug one should they feel like it!
What do you think is the main problem with the fashion industry today?
Much of the industry is trapped in a vicious circle of constant pressure to bring a quick, constant flow of new designs to market whilst reducing consumer prices. I’m extremely grateful that as a start-up, Flock can choose not to step into that circle. From the start, we adopted a slow-fashion mentality and will take our time to build our range
Do you think it is the responsibility of the fashion industry, or shoppers, to create a more sustainable relationship with clothing?
I think there is a real joint responsibility and everyone can play their part. The scale of Industry gives it power and influence and the opportunity to invest in new technologies, marketing campaigns and raising awareness. From the shoppers perspective they can vote with their wallets and stem the demand for disposable fashion.
How would you like to see Flock by Nature evolve in the future?
It's important to me to build a sustainable and positive business. I hope that the brand goes from strength to strength and that more people appreciate our clothes and so allow the Flock Fund to grow. I want Flock to be an example for my daughter of what she can achieve if she sets her mind to something and keeps going. As she and Flock grow, I hope it will be something that she is proud of too.