Ellie Armstrong and Emily Goulding are two lifelong friends from Norfolk who launched sustainable ‘art-wear’ brand, Awearness, over the summer. Here Ellie describes how lockdown changed their lives completely
Had you already had the idea for Awearness when lockdown happened or did it evolve afterwards?
Since about the age of 12, we both knew that we wanted to start a creative business together one day. We started talking seriously last Christmas, but we both had lots going on and little time.
Emily was living in Barcelona and made the snap decision to get home before Spain went into lockdown. Overnight, she packed up all of her belongings, put her room on the market and boarded a plane! I was working in London in rehearsals for a UK dance tour, and was told suddenly that the tour would be postponed and we all needed to get home.
At the beginning of lockdown our ideas collided and we decided to go for it. Emily had already created some initial designs and I had started thinking about fashion designs and values.
I had been making face coverings for Mind UK charity over lockdown, and found joy in using my creative skills to raise money for a charity I cared about to create positive change.
This all gave us inspiration to start Awearness, a brand which speaks for issues that are important to us through fashion and artwork.
Whereabouts in Norfolk are you based and how old are you both?
We are based on the North Norfolk coast. Wells-Next-The-Sea and Stiffkey, where we live respectively, are connected by a beautiful coastal footpath. It’s not a bad commute to a business meeting! We are both 24 and have known each other since nursery school, when we met aged three in the playground!
How has lockdown been for you both? Have you learnt anything about yourselves?
We’ve both reflected on our lifestyles; the way we manage time, and how important it is to be immersed in our natural surroundings; how the space that you exist in can limit or grow your creativity. We’ve both come back to our family homes, we’ve had time to reconnect with family, each other, and self-care, away from the stresses of normal life. We’re definitely more focussed on our own wellbeing, health, and exercise. There’s been a lot of beach walks, runs, Pilates, and listening to music we enjoy.
Throughout lockdown we’ve also affirmed the importance of connecting to people. With Awearness we wanted to create a community with like-minded people to make the world a better place. It’s so important to celebrate the small successes in life and appreciate how quickly things can change. There’s always an opportunity to grow.
Has it been challenging starting a business in 2020?
It’s given us space and time to develop our brand into something we are proud of. Everyone is looking to connect and support small businesses at this hard time, we’ve had lots of support from people around us. We are buying our packaging and materials from small sustainable companies, many of which are UK based. We believe in building supportive relationships with our suppliers and customers. Of course it’s a hard financial year for people, but we are focussing on the positives of being together and building a business of the future.
How have your products been received so far?
We’ve had lots of great support from our followers on Instagram, family and friends. We’re looking for more feedback from a wider demographic, to include people of all shapes, sizes and styles. We’ve still got a lot of growing to do and are looking to learn to become a brand we are proud of.
Any future plans you can share?
We would love to expand our range of fashion, we have lots of ideas and designs waiting to be developed and created. Lots of original style silhouettes, geometric shapes and minimalistic patterns. For the current collection, less<loved-lives, we want to showcase lesser known endangered animals. After this we want to expand and create collections celebrating other causes that are important to us.
Sustainability is at the heart of Awearness’ products and designs, and so Ellie and Emily aim to be as environmentally conscious as they can. Their fashion products are made from earth-friendly fibres such as hemp and organic cotton, and their artwork is printed on recycled card, made from 100 per cent consumer waste, or onto Khadi paper which is made from recycled cotton rag. They use Permaset inks for all of their prints, which are 100 per cent solvent-free, vegan and use GMO-free vegetable extracts.