Hattie Bottom meets the founder of Hoda London, the sustainable clothing brand you need to watch out for…
Elegant, poised and fresh faced- drinking a green smoothie. When I meet Emma, she might easily be mistaken for an off duty model, straight from the Topshop Boutique catwalk. Nevertheless, we’re here to talk business. She’s the founder of an ethical and sustainable clothing line, HODA. Unlike other brands in the ethical and sustainable market, she chose not to launch her company online. Selling first at Portobello Market and festivals, Emma has used the natural magic of her silk designs to draw in customers organically. Now she’s hit the jackpot; stocking seasonal collections for the last three years at Topshop’s Flagship store on Oxford Street. It’s a natural progression for HODA, as Emma truly believes that clothes made with care, ethics and sustainable production carry good karma.
Inspired by the craftsmanship, creative spirit and beautiful fabrics in India, she has followed her intuition, and creative flair, putting together a collection of simple dresses, co-ords and kimonos; letting the allure of pure silk patterns mesmerize girls all around the world. Since then her designs have traveled to South America, Italy, Hong Kong and Ibiza (for those taken by wanderlust, these silk slip dresses take up zero space in your travel luggage).
“For a party, I wear my slip dress with nothing else, I keep the dress simple and put my hair up, with vintage earrings. I think the dresses can make you feel really ethereal.”
But, let me take you back to the beginning of HODA. Emma left school early, her creative spirit jarring with the structured environment of minute by minute timetables: “I’ve always been instinctive and impulsive,” she explains to me, “I’m not very good at being in a super structured environment and I don’t like being trapped.” She continued to carve a career in digital retail and marketing, but the night after she was offered a promotion, she had a dream she was in India and the next day she packed her bags, left her job, booked flights and set in motion her travels to Rajasthan, India. Giving a whole new meaning to ‘follow your dreams’.
She reminisces, “I fell in love with the sky and the beaches; then the creative energy and the craftsmanship of Rajasthan.”
“ Things should be made with love, I really believe that.”
At first Emma simply produced dresses for herself, but, many compliments later, the her small, organic idea grew into a 200 unit order, which was sold at Portobello Market in London. Gradually building up stock, success and reputation in London, a Topshop buyer scouted HODA and asked Emma to put together a seven piece collection for their basement of independent designers in the flagship store, Oxford Street.
Although she is the sole founder, Emma describes her clothing line as a collaboration. She works in a transparent partnership with a local family business in Rajasthan. There are no factory secrets. The family source the silks, offer opinions and advice and sew all of the dresses. This happens alongside daily family dinners including children, grandparents and, of course, Emma.
When I asked Emma about the growing ethical and sustainable fashion movement, she admitted how oblivious she was to clothes manufacturing before she started HODA. Now enlightened, Emma can’t help but compare the natural, durable (yet still affordance) fabrics of her line with the quality of standard highstreet designs, “now when I look at the clothes, I look at them and realise the quality is disgustingly synthetic and mass produced with a huge mark up.”
” Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, second only to oil in terms of its environmental impact. 23% of chemicals produced worldwide are used for textiles and the industry is often noted as the number two polluter of clean water. ” (Deloitte, Danish fashion institute.)
Before ethical fashion became mainstream Emma was deeply moved by Lucy Siegle’s book ‘To Die For’. She expains to me, “People want stories behind their clothes now. Everyone’s ethics have really evolved in the past few years, from the food we eat, to where our clothes come from, we want to be the best people we can be. If you have a good product that people like and its ethical/sustainable, then you feel so much better about wearing it. I really really feel like clothes carry karma and energy.”
And she really does, “I genuinely believe better things happen to me when I’m wearing these clothes with good karma. Things should be made with love, I really believe that.”
But how should we be styling up Emma’s silky numbers?
“I love how different types of girls wear them. Some really girly girls but also more grungy girls who layer them up with t-shirts, doc martins and leather jackets. I really like everyone to make it their own. Florals, stronger reds and greens, aztec prints, they each attract a different type of person. I think with fabrics people get very instinctive; the fabric chooses them.”
For the day, Emma favours her HODA over a t-shirt or polo neck, but in the evenings she lets the silk speak for itself: “for a party, I wear mine with nothing else, I keep the dress simple and put my hair up, with vintage earrings. I think the dresses can make you feel really ethereal.”
Watch this space because HODA is investigating the history of sari silks and other fine vintage fabrics with the plan to launch an exquisite evening wear collection soon!
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