MSL delves into the fascinating world of fashion designer Henrietta Ludgate to uncover stories from her childhood and what it takes to start your own fashion line. We also hear admiration from the women who support and inspire her.
Who is Henrietta Ludgate?
I am a fashion designer from Scotland; I graduated from Central St Martins and worked as a costume designer before founding my own label. My label has continued to grow; I now have stockists as far afield as Kuwait and Japan, last year I opened my first store in Bayswater.
What is a normal day for you?
Do I ever have a normal day? When you run your own business no two days are the same. One day I may be running back and forth between factories getting a wholesale order ready, the next day I could be meeting with stylists, buyers or even serving customers in my store.
What triggered you to go into designing ethical garments?
I grew up in a remote idyllic Highland environment, where, rather than being a trendy lifestyle choice, the three Rs (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) are embraced as a necessity. I try to purchase local and independent where ever possible and the ethos of repair and recycle is deeply ingrained in my character, it seemed natural to adhere to the same philosophy in my business. All the fabrics I use are produced in the UK and my pieces are also manufactured in Britain reducing the business’s impact on the environment and supporting local communities.
What has been the highlight of your career?
Last year I won ‘Best Young Designer’ at the Scottish Fashion Awards, it was a real honour to be singled out from so many other talented designers, I was truly touched. It was a great achievement but I hope the award was not the highlight of my career, I aim to achieve even more in the future.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced throughout your career?
Finding the finance to start my label was an immense challenge, it is incredibly hard for young companies to get the capital they need to grow their business. Fortunately the process of applying for finance turned out to be a positive one for my business, it helped me to reassess my aims and really think about what sort of fashion brand I wanted to create. In the end I did receive a loan from the Princes Trust to start my company, I was lucky, many other budding entrepreneurs don’t get the sort I support that I did.
What is your most treasured piece of clothing/accessory?
The first dress I ever made as a child (with a little help from my mother and grandmother) is my most treasured piece of clothing.
What is the story behind this and how do you feel when you wear it?
My granny lived at the bottom of the garden and I made my first dresses from the off cuts and scraps from her cutting room floor. I was so proud and wore it as often as possible! Both my grandmothers were involved in the fashion industry and inspired my decision to become a designer.
What was the last book you read or exhibition you visited?
On my last trip to New York I went to visit a Harper’s Bazaar exhibition, beneath the show I originally went to see there was another exhibition about Ground Zero. I had gone to see a light hearted fashion show but I ended up visiting the 9/11 exhibit as well, it was so moving I was in tears throughout the whole exhibition, it was a really poignant, emotional experience.
What woman inspires you the most and why?
Many women inspire me, I find fashion designers such as Else Schiaparelli, McQueen and Jean Muir very inspirational, such great fashion minds really influence my work. I am also inspired by women such as Livia Firth and Laura Bailey; both have been extremely supportive to me, my brand and ethical fashion as a whole. Laura is a tireless ambassador for ethical fashion; she manages to carry out numerous different roles, an Ambassador for Oxfam, contributing Editor to British Vogue, a Cultural Ambassador for the British Fashion Council as well as being top model. Ever since she discovered me in 2010 she has championed my label and her dedication is a constant inspiration. Livia’s commitment and contribution to Eco Fashion has succeeded in so many ways. From her exquisitely curated shop, Eco Age, to The Green Carpet Challenge which has brought ethical fashion to the foreground on the worlds red carpets. I find the success of her Green Carpet Challenge immensely encouraging, now even big fashion houses like Armani are taking an interest in sustainable fashion. I am extremely grateful to Livia not only for the support she has given my own label but also for advancing the cause of eco fashion in the world at large. And they are both unbelievably beautiful!!