• ECFS Edinburgh

Spotlight Series - Slow and Sow

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

In this week's Spotlight Series, we spoke to Charlotte Harding, who set up Slow and Sow during lockdown. Using natural dye, Charlotte and her mum make beautiful small batch and custom made scarfs and scrunchies. It is inspiring to hear of such a brilliant initiative developing out of difficult and uncertain times and we love the concept of a mother/daughter business duo; check the interview down below to find out more.

Tell us about yourself!

Slow and Sow is a mother daughter duo, me and my mum Lizz. We work with what we find in the undergrowth to create small batch pieces to wear and cherish forever, working with nature’s botanical preserves to create a unique spectrum of colours as the seasons change.

My mum has been working with natural dyes for over 8 years and is a textile artist, she studied at Morley College London when she turned 50. I have been working in journalism through my twenties. I studied at Chelsea College of Arts on a fashion foundation, a Geography BA at Sussex University and an MA at Goldsmiths in Visual Anthropology. Our learning experiences have a direct and enduring influence on what we are doing now.

How/Why did you come up with this endeavour? Was there a particular ‘light bulb’ moment?

I’ve always wanted to do something creatively with mum, but I had previously never made the time or had the time to explore what this could be. Funnily enough I did have my first ever lightbulb moment with Slow and Sow. During lockdown I was at my parents house, and my nana asked where I find the bandanas and head scarves I wear, as she had to isolate and was worried about not getting to the hairdressers. I thought and told her that I mainly get my own scarves on my travels or in vintage shops, and then, the lightbulb happened! All at once everything came together, an idea and product I could make with my mum using our shared knowledge and skills.

Was there one particular thing you did that you feel enabled the business to take off/gain traction?

Being lucky enough to be furloughed made everything happen. Not having to work 9-6 in a job I was unhappy in took a weight off my shoulders straight away, and slowly gave me the space and time to explore and gain confidence in making and my ideas. I know that this is a great privilege and the pandemic is a struggle for so many people, so I feel grateful to the universe for this chance to breathe and let my creativity flow with people I love.

How did you source the fabric for your beautiful headscarves?

My mum’s friend is an amazing seamstress and had gifted loads of her spare and leftover fabrics from making costumes for film and theatre. My mum also collects lots of beautiful vintage fabrics which we have used too. Natural dyes are integral to Slow and Sow, and my mum’s knowledge of them has allowed us to continue to create an amazing rainbow of colours for all our products. We are very lucky that my parents live in Sussex with a large garden. My mum is an avid gardener and grows so many wonderful plants that we can harvest from, sustainably of course!

Is there anything that has influenced the aesthetic of your branding/instagram?

I worked with one of my best friends on my branding, she is a very talented designer! I find inspiration in so many places, but mainly in the natural world and art. Instagram is such an inspirational source if you can have a mindful relationship with it; it has allowed me to find archival imagery during lockdown and I am constantly saving images from people I follow that spark ideas. I hope our aesthetic is a reflection and extension of me and my mum, I love curating imagery and I am always taking photographs wherever I go.

What has been the most challenging/rewarding part of running your business?

Starting from scratch with no understanding of business at all has been both a blessing and hard at times! It still is, and I am learning as I go. What has been most rewarding has been working with my mum, learning so much every day from her and seeing customers and friends wearing Slow and Sow, it fills me with so much joy!

Where do you see it going in the future?

We want to slowly and sustainably add larger pieces, I’m working on some bags currently using vintage fabrics. I was a sewing machine novice before Slow and Sow, so I want to learn to make a collection, and just keep going and growing my skills. I want to collaborate with friends and makers and build a brand we can be proud of!

Is there a positive aspect that's come out from this pandemic?

Slow and Sow probably wouldn’t have existed without the pandemic. I am so aware and have felt the destruction of Covid and this year, but it has also been a time to reset and reevaluate – to finally start putting my energy into what I love to do. I want to be able to build something with my mum that can give back in many ways, so I am very much looking forward to exploring this, trying to continue to create positives out of this uncertain time.

How do you ensure you run your business with sustainable practice in mind?

I want and need Slow and Sow to be as sustainable and ethical as possible. I think it is irresponsible and ignorant to not be socially and environmentally conscious while starting any business now, knowing our devastating impact on the biodiversity of our home. The environment is at the forefront of everything we do, we are always learning and amending our process to be as conscious as we can.

We endeavour to find vintage and deadstock fabric that we can continue to use. I understand even deadstock is not perfect, so I am continuing to research on the best ways to move forward, I never want to greenwash. Sourcing is a challenge but a positive one, I’ve found great biodegradable elastics for my scrunchies and the tags I use are biodegradable too – they contain seeds, so you can plant and grow flowers from them too. Sustainability is about thinking 360 about every process, in many ways, it is hard but worthwhile, it is everyone’s duty to be driven to make the world a better place.

Interview conducted by: Louisa Bradby

Tune in next week for our Spotlight Series interview with Sonder Candles!

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