When you think of duvet covers, clothing isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, but a Hackney designer is aiming to bring everyone’s favourite comfort item into the fashion world by turning them into a line of unisex clothing.
Upcycling is the concept of taking something used and turning it into something a little more special than it was before; and Hackney resident Emma Graham-White’s collection of clothing made with re-used duvet covers is achieving just that.
Graham-White, 28, founded the brand in 2012 and went full-time with it in the summer of last year. Each piece is handmade and one-of-a-kind. The unisex range is made of simple shapes- vests, jumpers and trousers, and even a range for children, all made from differently patterned upcycled duvets. “I try to keep my shapes simple because the patterns can be so crazy,” she says.
“I’ve got really influential and inspiring women around me… it’s kind of scary but it’s also great being a young woman, working for myself. It’s like being a one woman band.”
Graham-White lives and works in Hackney Wick with her cat, Bruce Willis and her dog, Bill Murray. She explains where she got the idea for her brand: “There was this crazy bit of fabric I got from my old job that I made into an outfit for a festival and people really liked it. With the idea of upcycling in mind, I just randomly got the idea to make more but with duvet covers.”
Having lived in Hackney for three years, she is constantly surrounded by artistic people. “Living in Hackney is great, it’s so creative. There’s Facebook groups like Hackney Wick Locals, and there’s so many people looking to work with other people and I’ve messaged a few of them,” she says. “It’s so motivating.”
Graham-White has always been passionate about sustainable fashion; even her graduate collection from Bournemouth University was made with all recycled fabrics. She says that the ethical fashion community is a lot more inclusive than the mainstream: “everyone helps each other out.” She uses every scrap of the duvet covers, often using small leftover pieces to make hair scrunchies.
Building a substantial following on social media was pivotal. “I’m trying to do loads of stuff with bloggers at the moment,” she says. “It’s really important to keep up with social media trends. I think that’s why ASOS have done so well; they know how to engage with customers.”
The future of Duvet Days holds many possibilities. “At the moment, my costs are too high to do wholesale because I get most of my duvets from eBay and charity shops and I’m really picky about only choosing striking duvet covers in great condition. I have a few plans about how to lower the costs, though.”
Graham-White hopes to approach companies like John Lewis and M&S to gather end of the line stock and “work in collaboration with them.” She says: “even if it was a plain sheet I could do my own print or tie dye or something, but I would ideally like to love the duvet.”
Graham-White was able to go full-time thanks to loan from the Prince’s Trust. “I’ve got a loan and a business mentor. I get a lot of support from her. I wouldn’t have been able to afford all this if I didn’t have that bit of cash behind me. It’s been amazing.” She encourages other creative people to take the leap to working for themselves, if possible.
Duvet Days is available online and a stall will be found at Wilderness festival this summer.