Founded by Olivia Welsh and produced ethically (and with love) in Manchester, Olivia Annabelle is one of those dreamy fashion brands that transports you to another world. Steeped in historic references and nods to nostalgia, each piece feels inherently British through the carefully chosen prints and shapes. We spoke to Olivia about her magical slow fashion brand and why she's joining the HURR Family.
After graduating from Cambridge School of Art and undertaking a few internships I realised I couldn’t find the right company to work for, that had good ethical practices and brand identity, local to me. I was so bored with what the high street shops were offering. So it was a frustration with the lack of diversity and innovation on the high street that fostered a desire to design clothes made from beautiful fabrics that are unique, well made and don’t follow trends.
At the heart of the brand is our aim to make limited-edition high-quality pieces that have longevity and timeless appeal that can be kept and worn forever. Olivia Annabelle has now been up and running for 3 years which is crazy!
Historic, artistic and literary references are deeply imbedded in the DNA of the brand, it’s something I’ve wanted to continue throughout my collections which started at Uni when I created collections inspired by the Bronte Sisters and Tudor portraits. I love vintage clothing mainly because there’s a story and a history behind old clothes so I wanted to create the same feel to my designs. There’s a story behind every detail, print, colour and shape in all OA collections.
When looking for themes and inspiration I usually start by looking at my extensive Pinterest board and art book collection. Every time I find something that inspires me I try and create a board on Pinterest that I can then build a concept around. I currently have 140 boards on there at the moment! I take inspiration from the nostalgia of the past, local traditions and superstitions, with hours spent researching the history, novels, art and culture of each theme.
The main goal for Olivia Annabelle is to create beautiful clothes in a sustainable way so that people want to keep them for a lifetime rather than just a few months. In a world of throwaway over-produced fast fashion we have made it our mission to constantly improve the way we produce our collections and are striving for even more sustainable production methods and materials. We have been working to achieve this by sourcing more natural fabrics for our collections. I didn’t want to be another fast fashion company where I could sell hundreds of pieces dirt cheap for a quick profit. I want people to feel as though the pieces they’ve chosen to buy from me are special and worthwhile - they want to keep them for a long time.
Our collections are produced on a small scale, with environmentally sensitive production methods; the constituent materials have also been sourced sustainably. I like the fact that customers can see on our website our whole journey, our story, and our complete transparency. I wish that more brands would be transparent with their production and I know it would certainly make me think twice about buying from them if I knew their true ethics. I love theming our collections too – as we’re not a fast fashion brand who just produce trends – we create pieces that hopefully people will keep for many years to come.
I think renting fashion is such a great idea! So many times, in the past I have bought pieces for specific occasions, worn them once, regretted buying it and then think what can I do with this piece now? It makes perfect sense to me to only rent special pieces as and when you need them. There are so many things I’ve seen on HURR that I’ve been eyeing up for when we’re allowed out of lockdown and I’m so excited to rent something special! I’m so glad that people can now experience this with my own designs too!
I’m hoping fashion will slow right down, I think this has been a thing we have seen happening as a result of lockdown. Speaking to other people they have felt the same and hopefully this might mark a change in people’s spending habits and help steer the way towards ‘slow fashion,’ ‘rental fashion’ and away from ‘fast fashion.’ I do think it is a shame that the high-street is struggling, with businesses such as Debenhams and Topshop saying farewell, but I also think there is a new generation of small ethical brands paving the way for a fresh way to shop which in the long run will improve the way we shop for fashion.
When it comes to the pieces you reach for time and time again each season, nothing quite says wardrobe staple like a simple slip skirt or your favourite trusty knit. These items have endless styling potential, so I’ve rounded up a few of the best duos, and how you can rent the looks yourself right now.
Words by Kate Haines