I heard Sophie Slater speak at the Year Here launch about her business and her ambition. Her talk made me cry and I made a promise in that moment to support Sophie and her team in the best way I can. She is the co-founder of Birdsong a new label that ploughs up to 70% of proceeds back to the women’s groups from which it sources. It has deliberately positioned its offering at high-street prices to make it as accessible as possible to everyone. The brand is also opposed to fast fashion, only producing two collections a year, and uses models of varying shapes and sizes, from diverse backgrounds, and without Photoshop. Here's what Sophie has to say...
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?
That communicating and people skills are the most important thing in the world. Three years ago before I started Birdsong, I had this Richard-Branson idea of an entrepreneur who's someone really singular or self reliant, but I think that's really misleading and quite a macho idea of what business is like. Especially working with sixteen women's groups, we're like an eco system that all work off each other. In overcoming shyness over the past few years I've learnt to be actively curious of every human we meet, to relish and treasure every interaction, and to try to make everyone I meet feel listened to and respected, no matter how intimidated or 'off' you might feel inside. I feel like I've learned to see that we're all connected, humbled, stretched and supported by the people we work and interact with, and that we can grow from every small conversation. When it came to things like our funding round, support came from the unlikeliest of places by being memorably nice to people.
What’s your burning question of the moment?
How can we rebuild a more optimistic world/vision of the future in a way that's better creative and new, and not just a reaction to all the terrifying and scary things that are happening? Why am I constantly sleepy and hungry in the winter?
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen/ heard/ read in the last year?
Feminist meme/activist accounts on instagram. This year started out really tough, being the second year of our business, bootstrapping, and undergoing lots of personal loss. Feminist meme accounts allowed me to re-motivate, remind me every day of why I do what I do, bond with friends over sharing them, and most importantly give me something to laugh about. It feels like because of feminism growing in the past few years I have so much more culture to relate to now. I want everyone to feel like that. Especially in scary Trump times, feminist memes remind me there's a community of people out there as terrified as I and the people I love are.
What would be your one piece of advice to students out there?
To try out all the things you're curious about, and to indulge all your hobbies while you have the time and space to be creative. I made zines in the holidays and blogged for fun, and then got really into activism and volunteering. None of these things seemingly fit into the career path I thought I wanted or went with my degree, but it's from doing those things, putting on punk shows, making posters and campaigning, I learnt so many more skills or practiced things that came in useful later down the line.
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