Written by Bel Jacobs
Bel Jacobs talks to alumni, Catherine Hudson, about the challenges of setting up a fashion brand.
“Confidence is so important. It’s so vital to be confident in your work and speak with authority. Giving yourself time to learn your medium from A-Z will definitely help with that. Because at the end of the day, you are your business.”
Entering the Redress Design Award 2014/15 (formerly the EcoChic Design Award) was finalist Catherine Hudson’s first step into sustainable fashion: “I was shown the effects of throwaway fashion and how damaging it was to the environment,” she recalls. “And I wanted to be part of the solution - to be fashion forward in my work ethic as well as in my design execution.”
In 2016, she launched her sustainable men’s outerwear label Leif Erikkson. Specialising in offbeat, concept-driven design and inspired by the enduring craft of men’s tailoring and constructivism, Catherine’s striking coats and jackets are made from a mixture of discontinued and deadstock fabrics from local manufacturers and organic/GOTS-certified fabrics, with close attention paid to the finer details and the finishing process.
Setting up the business wasn’t easy. “It’s like trying to make that first loop in an elastic band ball,” laughs Catherine, who has a degree in Fashion from the Manchester Metropolitan School of Art. “It can seem lonely at first, at times impossible!”
“I don’t have a diary full of contacts; I’m not based in London; I work from a tiny workshop in my back garden,” says Catherine. “In some ways, it would be easier to inject energy into finding a job and building my career that way. But I believe I have something exciting and innovative to share with the world.”
Approaching The Prince’s Trust, a youth charity, Catherine gained the approved business accolade for Leif Erikkson and, with it, a business mentor. “It’s easy to make hasty decisions when you’re building a business, especially in the first two years when things are so unpredictable, and this mentorship has been invaluable,” says Catherine.
“My business has been slower to develop than most, precisely because I’m looking to build something that will last. That means starting small and perfecting each stage as I develop: trusting my own judgement, acknowledging and learning from my mistakes, taking risks when necessary.” Breaking down goals into achievable targets has also been key.
“I’m happy my business is different from others,” says Catherine, proudly. “My jackets are made with respect for the environment, for production, and for the wearer - instead of what’s trendy. This is something I’d recommend any emerging sustainable designer to think about: what does your brand have to offer? How does it benefit your customer?”
“Being a sustainable designer is so much fun,” she adds. “I meet people and artisan businesses who are passionate about what they believe and who carefully consider their craft to create things of a very high standard. This, I relate to and reiterate in my own business ethos.”
Catherine’s top tip? “Consistency and perseverance is key - along with a dash of pure stubbornness when necessary!”
This article originally appeared in the EcoChic Design Award 2017 Magazine.
*Previously known as the EcoChic Design Award, the new Redress Design Award directly reflects the work of Redress itself and our overarching mission to reduce textile waste and ultimately fuel a circular system for fashion.