Meet the Trader: The made-in-Deptford clothing brand championing slow fashion

Michael Curniffe working on his laptop at the back of the shop. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

At his pop-up shop in the middle of Brockley, Michael Curniffe spoke about the history of his clothing business and its eco-friendly approach to designing clothes with reclaimable fabrics that customers will favourite for years to come.

“We’re not fast fashion, we’re very slow, and we try to keep it more sustainable. We don’t produce any new fabrics because there’s no point, there’s so many fabrics that you can source all over the place.”

While stood at the back of the store wearing a multicoloured, casual spring outfit, Curniffe was content with telling me all about his craft and the journey of his brand, Edy & Bridge.

The pervasiveness of vintage fashion has meant that materials can be reused for years. At Edy and Bridge, sustainability has always been deeply embedded in its core values. As a huge believer in replenishment, Curniffe hasn’t let any material go unused in the decade of running his women’s clothing business alongside co-founder, Jenni Redstone. Any fabric that is left over from their designs will still serve a purpose elsewhere.

Curniffe previously completed a degree in Pattern Cutting Technology at the London College of Fashion before working with different designers across his 20 years in the industry. He has worked in designing womenswear for Topshop, childrenswear and sold menswear with his current business partner, Jenni Redstone.

Having mostly worked in younger markets, Curniffe saw potential in creating a brand that would appeal to a wider age demographic. The shop adopts smart and casual styles that embody a rural and urban hybrid.

Gaining a following of over 7,100 followers on Instagram from their journeys, these pop ups have allowed online shoppers to get a feel for the products in-person with a ‘try before you buy’ type of approach. Since March 21, they’ve set up shop in Brockley and have drummed up a lot of support from local customers.

“It [the pop up] gives people the chance to see the fabrics so they then have the confidence to buy online,” Curniffe told ELL.

Many of Curniffe’s regular customers turn up swiftly to claim products before they are sold out, as he only produces limited numbers of products that are displayed and gone for good once they’re out of stock.

Something that makes the business special is the origins of the brand name. ‘Edy and Bridge’ is derived from the names of the founders’ beloved grandmothers, Edith and Bridget, to keep their legacies alive.

The brand delivers its simplistic but innovative designs that are developed and handmade at its studio in Deptford. Every week, Curniffe sources reclaimable fabrics himself or from other people and “designs a small capsule collection around it”.

Everyone who shops here is getting a limited edition because we don’t make more than 20 garments, so there’s uniqueness and the shapes are very good, the fabrics are very good, and the stars are everlasting. I’ve seen people come back wearing jackets as dresses after three or four years, so it’s not throwaway fashion and everything can be repaired as well.

Despite being a South East London based company, Edy and Bridge haven’t sold their apparel in one place at one time. Over the years, they’ve seen most of their success through online sales, as well as coordinating various pop ups and stands at events across the country, from Covent Garden in London to Brighton.

Year by year, Curniffe finds that his brand continues to grow, though inevitably, he has faced challenges along the way. He’s faced difficulty in maintaining a stable cash flow, sourcing fabrics and running the daily business as a whole.

As we all know, the pandemic was the last thing everybody needed, forcing numerous businesses to close down and people to stay at home as much as possible. This led Edy and Bridge into the challenge of discontinuing its pop ups. After everybody diverged onto the internet during lockdown, their sales flew up dramatically thanks to their online presence and the business had returned to its stride. On top of that, they were able to donate to a food bank and they began giving away free masks to take pressure off the NHS which was very successful.

View of the pop-up shop from the outside. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

Despite all these challenges, Curniffe has managed to circumvent them and has found that one of his greatest achievements has been adapting and growing the business since the Coronavirus outbreak.

“I thought that was quite challenging and just adapting the business so it is still growing in the right direction, every year it gets bigger and bigger. We seem to get more of a fanbase in such a highly competitive market.”

Going forward, Curniffe wants to be more eco-friendly and continue giving back to the community. His vision for Edy and Bridge is to grow slowly and venture towards having a standalone shop. He hopes for a stronger online presence and to continue doing pop ups because of the enjoyment he finds in meeting customers.

Edy and Bridge’s pop up is open until April 2, 2023 at 16-18 Brockley Cross, London, SE4 2AA. More information on their opening hours can be found here, and to find out where the next pop up will be, check out their website.

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