MEET OUR DESIGNERS: ULLA RICHARDS, VILDNIS
MEET THE WOMAN BEHIND THE SUSTAINABLE SCANDINAVIAN BRAND STRIVING TO CHANGE THE NORMS IN FASHION.
Danish born designer, Ulla Richards, founded her womenswear brand VILDNIS on her passion for design combined with her commitment to make a positive contribution to the world. She is making her LDC debut this November with her collection of beautiful sustainable pieces, and is also hosting an exclusive event in-store on 14th November where she will be giving a talk on how to choose fashion with the least environmental footprint, sharing the eco-fabrics she uses and giving styling tips to guests. We caught up with Ulla ahead of our Anti-Black Friday concept store to find out more about her brand, her inspirations and the amazing story that sparked her to branch out on her own and do it HER way...
Tell us a little about your brand
VILDNIS is a small London-based sustainable women’s fashion brand with Scandinavian roots.
It is run by myself (Ulla Richards), my sister, my husband and a very good friend, and we are all determined to show that fashion can be kind to people and the planet while packing serious style.
Our collections are contemporary, edgy and audacious with bold colours and striking prints. The only point of difference from conventional fashion is that we are as passionate about our planet and our workers as we are about designing pieces that can be worn time and time again.
The factories we work with have ethical certifications such as SEDEX and SA8000, and our materials and processes are eco-friendly.
Was there a catalyst that sparked you to start your own label?
Yes, I guess you can say that. Just before I left my previous job, I visited a manufacturer in China with a view to take them on as a new supplier. This is a huge business with several factories who supply some of the most well-known brands in the world and follow the standard Ethical Code of Conduct to the letter e.g. no child labour, minimum wages etc. This is all apparently good.
They had prepared a fancy powerpoint presentation for us, telling us all about the wonders of the factory and why we should choose them as a supplier. As we were going through the slides, a picture of a happy female worker from their factory in Cambodia popped up. She was sitting with a bowl of rice and a chicken leg, the sales manager took it as a cue to tell us about how well they were treating their Cambodian live-in workers. Every day, the workers were given a bowl of rice for lunch and on their birthdays, they got a chicken leg!
She carried on, amused, saying, that recently the factory had to start giving the workers a cup of tea and a roll on Monday mornings as well because a lot of the girls were fainting before lunch time. With 75% of the workers being female, this was obviously a problem! And the reason for all the fainting? The workers were paid on Fridays and a lot of the girls then spent their entire wages on having their nails done for the weekend, meaning they had no money left for food!
At this point in the presentation the sales manager laughed about the silliness of these girls. Meanwhile my colleague and I were in shock – yes, the female workers may be making a silly choice, but how can anyone think it is funny that someone is paid so little that they have to choose between having their nails done and dinner?
When this ‘incident’ took place, I had already started thinking about launching my own sustainable fashion brand, and this experience confirmed to me that it was the right decision.
These workers – in fact all factory workers - can have a much better life if we pay them a decent living wage instead of the minimum wage and treat them with respect. That is truly ethical in my opinion and I have a firm belief that all fashion can and should be truly ethical and MUCH better to the planet than it is now.
What is the ultimate goal for your brand?
We would like to see VILDNIS grow organically into a brand that is an inspiration to both consumers and other brands. A brand that is driving change in the fashion industry, making ethical and eco-friendly fashion the norm.
Where do you seek inspiration from for your collections?
The inspiration for each collection is based on a country that is doing particularly well in terms of sustainability. Through our collections, we cast a light on the chosen country’s achievements and show what all nations should aspire to. This season the focus is on Chile; one of the most stunning places on this planet and a good reminder of why living a more sustainable lifestyle and preserving the planet is important.
For our bespoke prints, nature is an endless source of inspiration: the stunning patterns on wildlife, flora, fauna and interesting formations.
Why have you chosen to partner with LDC?
We want to show our customers the collection live, allowing them to try on the products, feel the fabrics etc and doing a pop-up has been high on our wish list for quite a while.
Being a small independent brand, doing our own pop-up proved challenging in terms of budgets and store staff, and we were therefore over the moon when we discovered the Lone Design Club. By partnering up with LDC, we get the benefit of joint marketing with the other brands, shared responsibility on manning the store and an exciting shopping experience for our customers.
Discover VILDNIS at LDC's ANTI-BLACK FRIDAY Concept Store + Events this November and meet Ulla in-store at her event Inspiring a Sustainable you: INFO + TICKETS
When: 14th November
Location: 64-68 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0HR