Meet Clara Francis and Tania Hindmarch of O Pioneers. Founded in 2019, together with local seamstresses they make small run batches of stunning vintage-inspired dresses using end-of-roll heritage fabrics (like Liberty). We spoke to the duo about their approach to design, sustainability, and why they are excited to rent their pieces on HURR.
We set up O Pioneers in the Autumn of 2019. We have always shared a love of clothing. We both love vintage, particularly feminine frocks that hark back to another era when people would dress up on a daily basis. We love things that are old and individual, that have provenance, that were made to last with care and attention.
Both of us had been designing and making our own clothes for many years as we were unable to find the types of dresses we liked and we would often get requests from friends to make things for them.
So we decided to make it official and came up with the seed of an idea to create, O Pioneers. A sustainable, vintage inspired dress label making small runs, using end of roll heritage fabrics such as Liberty and beautifully made by local seamstresses and makers.
We pull inspiration from everywhere...a book we’ve read, a film we’ve seen, old paintings, browsing vintage markets – a passion of ours is discovering vintage patterns! We are heavily influenced by what our mums wore in the 1970s and what our mums dressed US in in the '70s. There was A LOT of mummy and daughter matching dresses!! Liberty prints and Laura Ashley florals played a big part in our childhood memories!
That special feeling we remember of wearing a new dress our mum had made and feeling so magnificent in it is something we wanted to create in our brand. Being able to incorporate Liberty prints into our collections now brings us a wonderful sense of nostalgia and immense joy!! And the quality of the Liberty fabrics is second to none!
It was one of our founding principles when we first set up the brand that we wanted it to be truly British! Getting our clothing made locally is really important to us as we love being able to create and nurture positive working relationships with our makers. They are the real stars in the process and so it is crucial to us that we get to know them and they feel the passion for our brand in the way we do.
We are very people orientated and we both visit our seamstresses regularly when taking new designs and have discussions (often over a cuppa!) about how they will be made. It's a two-way conversation and they inspire us with their experience and we learn so much from them too! Currently all our dresses are made in and around London, where we are based.
In the same way that making our dresses locally was a founding principle of O Pioneers so was sustainability. We are all far more aware of the damage created by fast fashion and the terrible throwaway, ‘onto the next new thing’ mentality of fashion.
We make in very small runs – partly because we use (wherever possible) end of roll prints so there is a limited amount of fabric, but also because we don’t want lots of surplus stock. We know what we sell and gauge and make accordingly. We both have thrifty sensibilities so we very much bring that zero waste principle to our work. Even to the point of using up the last scraps of fabric to make face masks and patchwork to embellish our dresses. Nothing goes to waste!!
When something is made well it is made to last! We are both at a stage in our lives where we know what we like and what suits us and so making clothing that is beautifully made to last and that we enjoy and wear for years to come is important to us.
We are both really excited to be part of the HURR family because we share the same values. Clothing should not be seen as throwaway. It should work hard for you – making you feel amazing when you wear it, time and time again.
We all like to treat ourselves to something new – that’s never going to change. BUT the way in which we treat ourselves to ‘new’ can change and be more mindful. Renting is also a fantastic way to try out new brands and if you find something you LOVE and you want more of it then that’s a much more comfortable step to take.
Well – we are living through unprecedented times! But we truly believe that as we progress through 2021 it will reveal much more hope, joy and freedom for us all and with that a sense of excitement and experimentation when it comes to what we want to wear.
People have been amazingly supportive of smaller, home-grown brands during this time – carefully seeking out labels with provenance and authenticity. Brands that are trying to make a difference and not just make a fast buck at the expense of the environment and the people who make them. Our collective eyes have been opened to the impact of fast fashion and one of the greatest things to have come out of our global ‘slowing down’ is the chance of revival for our wonderful planet. This is something we hope to see continue in 2021 and beyond.
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