ABOUT THE DESIGNER
0. Who is Hepzibah?
I am a twenty-four-year-old designer currently living and working in Oxford, founder of HVML.
1. Was there a key moment that prompted you to bring HVML to life?
I never actually planned to build a brand, initially, I started creating bags as a way to recycle materials leftover from my studies. The transition from that project to the brand was very slow and natural, but once I felt it was possible, I was SO excited. It’s my dream job and life.
2. How are you changing the narrative in the sustainable fashion sector? Exactly what does What does it take to run a successful, sustainable business?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. The fashion industry is so vast, that it’s hard to know if you make any impact as a small brand, but I feel the power in knowing that what I introduce is kind.
I think I am seeing change though… and I think rather than taking it all upon myself, I situate HVML as part of a network of brands that are together making an impact. For me the most important element of my work and success is transparency and I feel it’s the best weapon any sustainable brand can use to challenge fast fashion.
ABOUT THE BRAND
1. What makes a brand, truly sustainable? Consider, circularity, material sourcing, production, and a timeless product lifecycle.
For my work, it’s sourcing material. My belief is if I am only working with recycled and found materials, then I am having minimal impact on the environment. I see myself as a fashion waste-hoover. I also think the community is essential to sustainability, through my work I often collaborate with other artists using their offcuts or unwanted materials. Again, I don’t think so much about how I can change things, but how we can all change things together. Imagine if brands stopped burning unsold clothes and passed them onto designers like me to recycle? That would be a perfect, small, collaborative step to reduce harm to the environment.
2. What is the purpose behind HVML considering sustainability?
I don’t think I ever considered the purpose. There’s no space for unsustainable. If I’m totally honest, I don’t understand why anyone building a new brand would think otherwise.
3. There’s a big misconception that sustainable clothing and accessories don’t go hand in hand with cutting-edge design. What piqued your interest in designing aesthetic statement handbags? And where does the inspiration come from?
I take a lot of inspiration from nature and my surrounding environment, I try to think more about weight, colour, and touch as opposed to just aesthetics. I think this misconception is changing though, social media has allowed for lots of new exciting designers to put work out there, and with marketplaces like APOC Store giving us a bigger platform and reach I’m seeing lots of cool things!
4. In a few words, walk us through your inception and execution process of creating your statement handbags.
My working process is very physical, I like to use the gestural process of crochet and knit to build and design as the piece grows. The shopper design came to life by making a bag for my mum. I wanted to make her something that was bold and architectural because she likes to make an impact with her accessories. I think of my bags as objects; I only create them and hold them as that… it’s my customers who experience the functionality. That said, I wear mine all the time, I like feeling the weight of my bag on my body. It makes me believe there is a connection between me as the maker and my buyers wearing my pieces, as they also feel the materiality of my bags. The process of designing accessories for me is about giving them space on the body, making pieces that ‘add to’ rather than just sit.
5. How are you using your crochet x handbag-making classes to help change consumers to become more eco-conscious? Is the aim of making small significant changes part of HVML’s mission?
Totally! I believe traditional crafts are super important in today’s fashion climate, If I can teach people how to crochet something with their scrap materials, or cut up old clothes, then that’s less waste and more recycling.
ABOUT THE VISION 1. How has becoming a business owner of a sustainable brand changed your life?
It has become my life. It feels amazing to sustain myself by creating things with my hands. I’m not sure if I have totally nailed being a business owner yet, but I will.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced and what advice would you give others pursuing something similar?
That’s hard to say… there are a lot of challenges in building a brand, especially when you don’t have any financial help… and social media seems to have endless people asking you for a freebie. My best advice is to design something that you back because it might be a while before other people show interest. Take your time as well! There’s no rush, and it feels better to build slowly with control. I guess I would also say be resilient, especially if you’re building a fashion brand without any education in fashion. It can be kinda ruthless, and plagiarism is very real.
3. What’s next for HVML, what is the next milestone you would like to achieve? Consider product range variation/increase, manufacturing partners, press, hiring, and or more events.
Next is something I’ve been planning for ages now! WOOL!
I intend to branch more into making garments using wool spun and dyed by me. I believe wool is magical… plus if you have an old woolly jumper, and you don’t want to up-cycle it, and you can’t donate it, you can just bury it and let it biodegrade.
ABOUT THE INDUSTRY/COMMUNITY
1. How does your vision stand out amongst other players in the field?
My vision stands out because it reflects me… and a lot of the time through working on commissions my work also reflects my customers.
2. Describe the HVML buyer?
Kind and cool
3. What are the most valuable aspects of your product, and what does it offer your buyer? What message or emotion are you trying to install in your customers?
I think anything handmade offers something very special. I’m not sure if there’s a message, but I hope my buyers can feel my love for my work in the construction of the pieces!
4. What does the future of fashion sustainability look like for you? Consider technological advancements.
I know there are some really fascinating new technologies, but for me, the future looks more like crafters and designers sharing skills and offering services to become sustainable together. Sometimes I worry thinking about making more advances ignores sorting out existing issues. I hope that we can all educate ourselves on the industry to help change it together.
The dream future of fashion sustainability for me is garments made ethically with recycled materials in total transparency.
Edited by GLITCH Team