In a world of fast fashion, it’s a big hurdle for us indies to compete with high street giants whilst also keeping our ethics. We’ve been suckers for it ourselves – you want something new and you want it straight away! These days it’s so easy to slip into, with everything available immediately, and with hundreds of new, cheap items popping up on big retailers sites daily. And with global brands taking designs from independent artists as well it’s difficult for smaller names to be seen and to be given a chance.
We are so happy to be seeing a backlash at the moment, with people caring more about where their clothes come from and shopping more consciously. There still feels like there is a long way to go though, and this is why we wanted to write this blog for you – in the interest of full disclosure of what really goes into Burnt Soul products, why we charge what we do, and our considerations as a brand – everything that makes us us!
(The girls on making duty at Christmas)
First of all, a little intro for those of you who don’t know us. Burnt Soul is Robyn, our creative director and designer, and Anna, studio manager and PR organiser (and currently our lovely intern Clara!). Whilst you probably imagine the Burnt Soul HQ to be a magical land of catsuit walls, tinsel curtains and unicorns leaping around sewing machines (one of those may be true), we are currently based in a spare room studio in Bristol. Check out the video at the bottom to have a look around and see our smiley faces!
(Anna and Robyn at Topshop this Summer)
At Burnt Soul, we don’t believe in cheap, low-quality, quick thrill fashion. We try our hardest to bring you the best fabrics available, and our items are made to a high standard to ensure that they keep their shape and seams stay firm. This means we opt for quality fabrics over the cheapest option, we quality control our products and spend weeks trialling and testing the best shapes and fabric combinations, so that you can get as much love out of your lycra as possible and avoid the cycle of throwaway clothes.
(Testing and sampling our new lemonade print items)
We believe in fair working conditions and fair wages. Our products are made either in our studio, by Robyn our Creative Director, or by two lovely ladies, Teresa and Kay, down in Exeter. We have worked closely with these ladies over the past year, and have built up a really close relationship, visiting them several times a month. We pay them fairly for their time; often when clothes are sold at rock bottom prices your savings are taken from those making the garments, and we are very much against that.
(Anna on her way to visit the girls in Exeter with leggings patterns)
Beyond removing smudges on backdrops, we don’t ever edit product photos or photoshop our models. Our photos are real images and of our products exactly as they sit on our models on the day of the shoot. Accurate representation, and real proportions, are of utmost importance to us.
(Our models Rebecca and Penelope, photos unedited)
We keep our production as sustainable as we can: as far as is possible, we try to source UK fabrics to keep air-miles down. Our products are made locally, again to keep the carbon footprint down. We don’t use one-way patterns (prints that only work when cut in one direction), because of fabric wastage. We keep all our studio offcuts and they are passed onto local schools for their arts and crafts.
(2 way repeated prints to save fabric wastage)
We do our very best to bring you lasting products you’ll love for the most reasonable prices. To bring you items that are made of up to 16 different panels to tailor your outfit perfectly to your shape, in a range of different fabrics, it can be a challenge to ensure we bring you the best item at the best price and we still stick to our moral standpoints. We, like many independents, want to get our brand out there, to grow our business, and often this means we have to take cuts that high street brands don’t have to in order to be seen.
(Rainbow jewel peekaboo catsuits and our swatch board for 2017)
Because we want to keep prices at a certain level, this affects our ability to wholesale our items. This also means that our manufacturing costs are higher. If we ordered 10,000 for instance, it would be a whole lot cheaper per garment than 100. There is a positive to this though, and by shopping independent you support a more reactive system. We don’t want to churn things out and over produce, we seek to meet demand and not to waste. Instead we make small orders regularly to keep up with demand, which also allows us to react quickly to your feedback and make sure we are bringing you exactly what you want. We love receiving emails and feedback from all you sparkly souls, we both read every one and we listen to what you say. It really makes our day hearing from you (especially when we get photos!!).
(Email from customer)
In terms of our bespoke pieces, the reason these prices are higher goes back to the earlier point about mass production. Ordering one metre cost 4x as much per metre as ordering 10 metres of the same print. Bespoke items are made in the studio by Robyn too, taking time out of day-to-day running of the brand. We love being able to make your own lycra dreams come true and make you something as individual as you are, in order to get such a piece it does, naturally, cost more.
(Bespoke Burnt Soul items)
So many of you support and live this ethos too – and we are so grateful for those of you that are helping to get the ball rolling. Please give us a shout if you’re an independent retailer and this is something you feel strongly about too – we’d love to hear from you. Hopefully us explaining all the love, consideration and care that goes into Burnt Soul, and other independent retailers garments, gives you more clarity and more awareness, and we hope it brings you loads of happiness being a conscious shopper!