A colourful fashion blog supporting independents & sustainable fashion in Bristol and beyond since 2011

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Indies in Lockdown - Elin Horgan

When faced with a situation that none of us have ever experienced before it knocks the way we live our lives for six. During the height of the pandemic we all adapted to change, with many of our jobs and livelihoods slowing down and in some cases coming to a complete halt. 

As an independent business owner you didn't have the opportunity to furlough yourself to spend more time with home-schooling or taking a mind break, you were REALLY worried about how your business would continue and when the next payment was coming in! 

Or, perhaps, you did have some extra time on your hands, but couldn't get hold of the stock that helps you to create your products during lockdown? What can you do instead?

Where there is an indie maker there is always a way....

Jewellery designer Elin Horgan 

Elin Horgan

Creating beautiful and elegant handmade jewellery in recycled silver, Bristol maker Elin Horgan became inspired to design her new Shapes & Spheres collection after realising she couldn't get new stock and components from her regular suppliers. 

This interview took place during lockdown in June 2020. 

Elin's wax carving tools used to make her unique ring creations

How are you? What has your situation been like during lockdown?

I'm ok thanks (well, I am today at least!)....hanging on in there in these strange times.  

I've been in lockdown with my two kids (who are 5 and 8) and my husband (who is currently working from home) so, like many self-employed creatives it's been quite an adjustment having everyone in the house with me all day every day.

Sphere pendents from £60 by Elin Horgan

How has lockdown affected your business and the way you work?

Business has been mostly OK.  

My stockists have, of course, been closed, but some have taken their shops and galleries online. I'm hugely grateful to everyone who has been buying jewellery from my website during this time as their support has really kept me going!

I usually run jewellery making workshops at Kiln Workshop just off Gloucester Road, Bristol, so have had to put all of those on hold for the time being.  I'm really hoping to be back teaching in the Autumn as I miss it so much!

Silver orbit hoops by Elin Horgan 
Photography by Paola Leonardi 

Has this time helped your productivity?

It's a struggle to fit much in at the moment although I suspect that having less time actually makes me more productive as there are far fewer opportunities for faffing about.  

There's definitely a lot of evening and weekend work (and not very much homeschooling) going on at the moment.

Elin Horgan's best selling Triangle stud £45

Have you become more or less inspired in this time?

After a few weeks of adjusting to our new family set up, I had a really creative burst and produced lots of new work.  

As lots of jewellery making suppliers were closed to begin with I wanted to challenge myself to make some pieces by using materials I already had; repurposing and recycling my scrap silver where possible.  

The new Shapes & Spheres collection of one-off pieces is now available to buy on my website and I love the fact that each piece is totally unique and won't be made again. (see top image)

Apollo Statement earrings £250 by Elin Horgan
Photography by Han Goes Click Studios

What's next for your business?

I'm currently working on a capsule collection of rings made from recycled silver which I hope to release this Autumn.

Visit the Elin Horgan online shop


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Indies in lockdown - Black Olive

It's been so interesting and encouraging to find out what creatives have been up to during lockdown. One thing lockdown has offered is some headspace for our indie makers to think about how their creativity and businesses can continue going forward into this brave new world! 

Bristol based seamstress and digital embroiderer Charly Evans aka Black Olive balances her creative projects in between her full time job working in education.

Things have dramatically changed for Charly during lockdown and she has even customised a jacket for Kurupt FM's Chabuddy G! Brilliant!

Personalised velour hooded bodysuit by Black Olive

Black Olive 

How are you & what has your situation been during lockdown?

For me, lockdown has been a rollercoaster of emotions but it’s given me the time to focus on what’s important and to let all the little things go that were bugging me.  

I’ve definitely eaten too many biscuits at home in my PJs over the past four months and I’m glad to finally start seeing friends and family again!! 

One thing that has brought me great comfort has been the ability to zone it all out with ongoing creative projects.  

Black Olive has always been a side hustle to my full time job working in education and I am really happy with how I balance the two different aspects of my life.

My creative studio is at home. We forfeited having a dining room to have a space where both my housemate and I can be creative (messy). 

During lockdown I have been lucky enough to work from home and I have just started a phased return to my actual work place which has been a really positive experience. I didn’t realise how important the social side of my day time job was until I returned and realised how much I missed everyone. 

A big shout out to everyone who has been working in education during this time- being involved in delivering homeschooling at any age is a challenging experience!!

Black Olive founder Charly Evans

How has lockdown affected your business/ the way you are working??

This year I had really hoped to offer some sewing and upcycling classes at various venues across the city. 

I meet many creative people who have machines gathering dust at home and are desperate for a bit of guidance. Lockdown obviously put a stop to these plans but fingers crossed I’ll be able to offer something early next year.

At this point in the Black Olive journey, everything I make is one off and bespoke to the customer. Therefore, whilst still working full time, I am only able to take on one order a week. 

Lockdown has given me more headspace to design projects, communicate with customers and plan social media content. I have spent time planning my orders and I’m now fully booked for the next month!

Just when I think I might have some time to make myself something, the next exciting project pops up in my inbox.

Black Olive's Personalised Hen-Do Sequin jackets

Has this time helped your productivity? If yes,how?

I’ve definitely become more productive during lockdown.

I’ve found time to cut out projects on my lunch break and I’ve gone straight from work into sewing most evenings. 

Being at home has given me extra time to experiment with patterns and techniques, rather than jumping straight into a project. I’ve found this has meant the quality of my products have improved as I have had the time to ‘iron out any creases’. 

Black Olive at The Bristol Fashion Show - Image courtesy of  Edward Felton Photography

Have you become more/less inspired in this time?

Weirdly, I’ve become more inspired and that comes directly from the amazing customer ideas I receive weekly. Getting messages like ‘Can you make my dream jacket’ are what keeps me going!

Normally this time of year involves rolling in and out of festivals and the lead up to these events would have me making outfits for people. Having said this I’m finding people are still ordering festival style garments, throwing on some glitter and having a disco at home instead.   

One of the highlights from lockdown was seeing a performer wearing one of my hooded bodysuits during an online cabaret stream.  I get a massive kick out of seeing people on stage in my clothes, even if this year it had to be through the telly instead.

I’ve found inspiration from lots of online platforms, from virtual tours of V&A exhibitions, that I may not have had time to visit, to up close stage performances from acts such as Cirque Du Soleil. 

The customised Chabuddy G jacket by Black Olive

What's next for Black Olive?

I’ve just set up an Etsy store specifically for customers to order personalised Hen-Do sequin jackets and I plan spending the next six months marketing that product.

Once venues are able to start offering classes, I hope to be delivering embellishing workshops, teaching creatives how to produce the same embroidery and appliqué offered in my bespoke made garments.

Black Olive is starting to establish a name within the talented but competitive, independent clothing businesses in Bristol. 

My focus has always been to push my skills in appliqué and embroidery and this will continue to be the main feature of everything I produce. 

Other designers are now out sourcing embroidery work from me and I’ve got some super exciting collaborations planned for later this year. 

Support Indie fashion designers and follow @blackolivedesign for bespoke garms and digital embroidery projects and for all 'brides to be' head over to Black Olive Embroidery on Etsy for your sparkly customised Hen-Do/wedding jackets! 


Monday, 3 August 2020

Indies in Lockdown - Balulu

Everyone's lockdown experience has been different and in some cases creative flow has had to come to a complete standstill. 

Can keeping positive really help inspire something good out of a bad experience and how does an indie business relying on international suppliers and manufacturers continue to create and grow in lockdown? 

Super fun Balulu co-ords
Super fun Balulu co-ords made from upcycled bedsheets


Balulu is a colourful, slow fashion brand that creates fun streetwear pieces using upcycled bedsheets and vintage fabrics from India. 

As part of the No Debutante - Indies in lockdown series, super sweet Balulu designer Lulu Harrison shares how family and friends have inspired her to move forward during a tough time for her business, as she learnt to adapt and grow during lockdown. 

Colourful Balulu designer Lulu Harrison

How are you & what has your situation been during lockdown? 

I’m good! I have been staying with my parents during lockdown which has actually been great. 

It has been quite a special time as I wouldn’t usually get to spend this much time with them, so I feel blessed to have had that. 

We have been spending our time going on long walks, swimming in the river every day, doing quizzes, drinking wine and watching a lot of Netflix series! 

Reversible Mickey Mouse print Kimono by Balulu £65

How has lockdown affected your business and the way you work? 

It has been really tough on the business. 

We were meant to be trading at Glastonbury for the first time ever this summer and it would have been our second year at Shambala. 

Not only have we been affected by not having anywhere to trade, we haven’t been able to get any of our new stock as India went into an even stricter lockdown than here, particularly Varanasi which is where my clothes are made. 

I had one box of clothes come before the world went into lockdown and, to be fair, everything sold out pretty quickly which was amazing!

As we put way more effort into our online presence, we saw a lot more sales than we have previously. Online shopping became much more of a thing and whilst we had the stock our business really benefited from that. 

Mix and match repurposed fashion creations by Balulu

Has this time helped your productivity?

Sadly, without having the stock to be creative with, I can’t really say it has helped my productivity. 

I definitely started off trying to keep super motivated and coming up with new ideas, but as time has gone on the business has been hit harder, it’s been hard to stay positive about it. 

I think this whole pandemic has not only had a hit on businesses, but also on people’s mental health which I can say from first hand experience.

Unique Jungle Dungarees by Balulu £50

Have you become more or less inspired in this time?

It has been a mixture of feelings. 

With the help from my friend and marketing whizz Brodie Imogen, I have been inspired to enter a competition, update the website and make a promo video for Balulu. 

I think I needed that push from someone else to keep me motivated and generate fresh ideas. 

A selection of colourful garms by Balulu

What's next for your business? 

I have literally just got a new box of clothes which is really exciting! There are about 50 pairs of new dungarees I need to shoot and upload onto the website AND I have been updated by my tailors that more clothes will be coming soon. I’m super excited to get the new stock in! 

I have also just moved to London into a great flat/studio space so that is really exciting. 

I am also going to be studying a masters in Material Futures in October at Central Saint Martins so I can’t wait to see what will come of that and how I can incorporate Balulu into the course! 

Support Indie fashion designers and head over to the Balulu website where there is currently a flash sale happening until Wednesday (5 August) don't miss out! 


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