Lisa Reddings is the founder of Indigowares, a brand that champions being a free spirit. Lisa founded the company back in 2016, after going through a divorce, as an outlet to create patterns but also give herself the freedom to make an income whilst being there for her kids.
With fast fashion a topic of debate right now, Indigowares leans in to the opposite of that, using traditions and techniques that have been forgotten. Each piece will stand the test of time and this business is only just getting started, we spent some time with Lisa to find out more…
Tell us about the journey that led you to launching your brand Indigowares
I trained as a textile designer at Brighton Uni. I spent nearly 20 years working as a conceptual textile print designer based mostly in the fast fashion industry, working in New York, Italy, Spain and London. I felt like I was on a relentless treadmill most of the time. Fashion and textiles can be such a soul-destroying industry. So I took some time out to have kids and dip in and out as a freelancer.
Indigowares was born in 2016 out of my love and need to create pattern… plus I was going through a divorce and needed to figure out a business that would allow me to be there for my kids everyday too.
After my time in the fashion industry— which had taught me a lot, both good and bad— I wanted to create a line that was true to our planet and championed the incredible textile processes of natural dyeing, handloom weaving, resist pattern making and block printing. I was especially focused on keeping alive the traditional processes of dyeing textiles with natural dyes. Many of these techniques and traditions have been forgotten due to our ever-quickening demand for fast fashion throw away trends.
I began learning about indigo and its magical dyeing processes, as well as the cultures that did and still do use it. The journey that I am on will never end, this is just the beginning.
What has been the biggest learning curve since launching the business?
You would think that it would be about textile processes, but in fact I think I have learnt a lot about confidence and self-belief along the way. If you are true to who you are and what makes you happy then this will be a major core to building an authentic brand that is transparent and desirable.
Next lesson: realising you cannot wear all the hats all the time. Metaphorically speaking! Learning to get help on aspects of the business that would free up my time to create and make was a huge step forward.
A big lesson has been to understand how little the general clothing consumer knows and understands about the piece of clothing that they are buying.
I think that it is our job as designers, makers and brands to help the customer understand who made their clothes and what they are made of, how they should be cared for, and so on. I have begun to offer a Repairs and Care Service, repairing any worn or damaged Indigowares product for free with the aim to extend the life span of every garment.
Your brand is all about the free spirited bohemian existence. Why is this important to you?
I think the essence of Indigowares has become about finding a spiritual richness in the pieces we craft. We make Indigowares so that they have ancient roots with modern soul. We need to notice more beauty around us to lift our spirits, slow down and enjoy life.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your designs?
Free, comfortable, and assured that we have only used the most planet friendly materials and dyeing methods we can source.
You enjoy the art of shibori pattern making, can you talk us through this process?
Creating patterns using shibori, a Japanese resist dyeing technique, can be anywhere from a quick project to a labour-intensive process that takes hours of pattern preparation.
I share quick pattern ideas that can be crafted from my organic indigo DIY kit on my Instagram account – check them out!
Shibori is a giant umbrella of lots of resist dyeing techniques. I generally focus on Itajime— a folding and clamping method— and also Arashi, which means storm in Japanese and is a binding and winding technique. Both techniques are very different – one is very much an organized repeat pattern whereas Arashi is a binding technique that creates insane abstract lines. So for me I get the best of both worlds!
Indigo is a cumulative process and can take hours to build up the deep dark indigo hues. One dip achieves light blue, and twelve dips will give you a deep rich tone.
Indigo goes hand in hand with shibori and can be found going back as far as 3,000 years in Japan. The recent exhibition at the V&A about Kimono was incredible for sharing shibori patterns.
A little background on Indigo:
Indigo is a vat dye and completely unlike any other natural dye. It is not soluble in water and requires an alkaline solution from which the oxygen has been removed to become a dye that we can use.
Indigo is found in a plant – a common species is Indigofera tinctoria. Plants of the species Indigofera contain the chemical compound indicant in their leaves, and have been grown for thousands of years for their incredible blue dye. Indigo bearing plants have mostly been grown in tropical climates such as India, South America, and Japan— they love warmth and humidity.
The plant Indigofera tinctoria has light green foliage and pea like flowers and gives no clue to the amazing strong blue dye that can be obtained from the leaves. Extracting the indigo from the plant is a long complex fermentation process, which is incredibly labour intensive. It must be extracted by soaking in water in its ‘colourless’ state, fermented, and then mixed with lime and made into cakes/balls/slices. These cakes can be stored for long lengths of time and can then be ground down at a later date and made into a dye vat.
Indigo can dye all natural fibres. The shades of blue possible are dependent on the type of vat, type of indigo and type of fibre. But the shades of blue it can reach are like no other natural dye on earth. From deep midnight blue blacks to pale pastel duck egg blues.
Indigo has always been a precious and valuable dye. The level to which it was used was not just limited to fashion, but to signify wealth and status, including use in religious ceremonies.
But for me, I create my indigo vats at home in my little studio. I source my indigo from a lady grower in northern India named Kinny – If you’d like to read more, we have a blog on her here. Kinny’s indigo comes to me in block form and I have to grind it down in a pestle and mortar before then creating my dye vat.
What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur?
Trust your instincts and be as authentic as you can. Know your value and then times it by 3, especially if you are a woman.
Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?
Never look back. Maybe in hindsight I might have looked for investment to have grown quicker rather than boot strapping and building it from the kitchen table.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic casual work wear. I love denim and generally live in jeans. I believe in buying classic timeless styles that don’t age so that they will last a lifetime in my wardrobe.
Talk us through an average day in your life…
My days generally are a bit of a mixed bag.
Usually my kids and I wake at about 6am. After school drop, then I go running for about an hour. That gets me set up for the day.
When I get back I’m ready to organise new orders and reply to emails. At the moment I’m editing the latest collection and creating descriptions and assets for the launch. The time designing and dyeing usually comes in blocks.
Once a week I have a quick meeting with my Virtual Assistant, Kay— she helps me get newsletters and blogs written, and has really taken so much pressure off my shoulders.
At 3pm I leave work and do the school pick-up. Hang out with the kids and friends in the local park. Once they get to bed I usually get another 2 hours of work in before bedtime.
Of course, this changes depending on the projects and collections I’m working on.
Last year was crazy as I was creating the ‘Reimagine Collection’ for the new sustainable Levis store in Soho. I had at least 4 vats going constantly, and dip dyed about 100 jeans and jackets throughout last summer.
This was such an exciting time as our partnership with Levi’s has been a huge step forward in innovating slow fashion retail models on a larger scale. I began talks with Levi’s in March 2020, agreeing to design and hand dye their Reimagine Collection. This collection is now sold exclusively at Levi’s Haus, a ‘circular-economy’ concept store that involves the customer in the sustainable process by offering repairs and repurposed garments (including Reimagine).
The indigo dyed pieces in my own collection are created within a unique sales model as well; they are all hand-dyed and made to order, following a slow fashion ‘made to order’ model. Each piece always comes with its own passport of when it was dyed, how it was dyed and what it is made of, so that the customer gets a unique on-of-a-kind piece.
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
Social media has played a part in the growth of Indigowares reaching further than the UK. I think it’s a great way to sell the sizzle. But it hard to replace face to face.
I would say that meeting people face to face at art fairs, such as Childwickbury in Hertfordshire and The Primrose Hill Fair, is vital to understand and respond to our customers. They also get to touch and feel the designs, which is when the brand comes to life.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Far a field—Nepal is calling me. I’d love to find out more about hemp and its possibilities as a fibre (which is grown in Nepal), considering how I can use it in Indigowares and meeting the farmers and artisans of that country.
In closer reach, my partner is half based in LA but after this year we are staying closer to home for a while. We have a VW camper that is going to take us on adventures around the UK; surfing, hiking, and camping, climbing hills and dipping our toes in streams! We want to discover the hidden gems of the British Isles. Having travelled a lot before my kids were born, I really find a lot of peace in the UK countryside nowadays.
What is your go-to quote when lacking motivation?
‘The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim low, and achieving the mark’ – Michelangelo
What’s next for the business?
Indigowares is a brand founded on sustainability, traditional practices and traceability within the sourcing and creation of each garment. Our ethos and handcrafted quality are consistent across all of our collections and collaborations— no matter what the context, I am dedicated to offering timeless luxury garments handcrafted through traditional textile processes.
I am also constantly looking for new opportunities to expand the sustainable model both within Indigowares and on a larger scale within the industry. Our collaboration with Levi’s on Reimagine was just the beginning of this journey.
Right now we are just launching our ‘undyed collection’ alongside our ‘Botanical Energy’ collection. It has been a goal for a long time that I design a capsule collection of undyed clothing for those who love to dye textiles. They can now have ready to wear pieces that are crafted from organic natural fabrics and sewn with organic cotton so that all of the garment takes the dye, even the stitching.
In the Botanical Energy Collection, I have designed one off pieces using eco printing techniques that take the natural dyes from flowers and food waste to imprint colour into the garments. The whole concept of the line is that it can be worn ‘undyed’ but it can also be transformed into your own unique hand-dyed piece, either by using our natural indigo DIY kit or your own natural dyes and techniques.
What does self care mean to you?
Self-care has meant learning to love myself and my body. It only took until I was 45! Wish I’d done it years ago. I’m grateful everyday for what I have, have learnt, and am learning. Gratitude makes me feel happy. I tell myself each morning “I am grateful because….”
I don’t take it for granted anymore. I am in awe, as a woman, of what women are capable of.
I’ve come to understand true friendship. And know no matter what happens they will be always there. Women need women. We can talk about things men would never dream of discussing. I try and surround myself with positive vibrant happy people. Age should never define friendship – different aged women in your life make it richer.
I find it hard to get a lot of down time but when I do I love time in my garden. Digging and growing is good for the soul, no matter how old you are.
Follow Indigowares to follow Lisa on her journey indigowares.com.