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How Motherhood Changed My Perspective On Fashion

by Helen Farr-Leander

I always knew becoming a parent would change my life, but I had no idea it would change it so dramatically and so completely. Firstly, let me say that becoming a mother was not an easy path. Like many women I struggled to conceive and after years of trying, I decide to take a break from my career. There is no doubt that the stress and anxiety of trying to create a family was affecting my mental health and added to that the stress and pressure of work and it was all too much. It all came to ahead when I was at Aspinal of London, a company I had worked at for more than 10 years.

We were fortunate to welcome our first child within 18 months of leaving my job and a second quite quickly afterwards. Now, with my young family complete and being out of the 9-5 rat race, I could not imagine going back. My priorities had completely changed. I wanted to continue raising my children without additional childcare, but I also needed to earn some money. The only way I could see to achieve this was to start my own business from home. Having worked in luxury leather goods for most of my working life, the most natural route was to create a brand which designed and sold accessories.

In the months that followed I went into autopilot, gathering materials, seeking suppliers and building the marketing and sales plan, but several months later it was apparent that something was not right. So, I stopped everything and looked hard at the direction the business was heading in. 

Many people advise to do your research before starting a business. Understanding your market and the demand is crucial. I had experience of both, but what business leaders and professionals rarely advise is to ‘understand your materials and their supply chain’. Of course, I am talking about transparency, a word I had never heard of during my career in luxury goods. 

I first heard about and understood transparency when one evening I typed into Google ‘the leather industry’. For hours I watched videos, read articles and dived deep into the leather production supply chain. Like many of us, I had never thought about the full supply chain of the material from animal to accessory. Did you know that the leather tanning process uses around 250 different chemicals to turn animal skin into leather? I didn’t. I also didn’t understand the environmental impact of the chemical run off, or the use of child labour, or even the impact on human health. As I sat reading, I looked over at the tiny human lying next to me and I realised right then, that I could not use leather. I wanted Watson & Wolfe to be something my children could be proud of, not one which was profiting on the destruction of our planet and that so obviously endangered wildlife and people.

In the proceeding weeks I discovered organisations such as Fashion Revolution, Fashion For Good and bloggers and writers who were all championing the cause for greater transparency in fashion. Fashion generates 10% of the global manmade greenhouse gasses and fast fashion is creating mountains of clothing waste whilst consuming vast amounts of water and energy.

I didn’t consider myself an activist before this, but the experience of becoming a parent and starting a brand has created a desire in me that runs far deeper than I ever thought possible. Now, through Watson & Wolfe, I have a platform to help educate others and try to help in the global fight to change how we consume fashion and the materials we use.

I never set out to create a vegan brand, but it happens that the materials which have the lowest environmental impact are all vegan. It is worth mentioning that by the time I launched Watson & Wolfe in 2017, I had adopted a vegan lifestyle. Not just for the animals, but for the good of our beautiful planet. 

I will leave you with a quote from Sir David Attenborough that resonated with me at the beginning of all this: “How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew what was happening to the world and did nothing.”