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Interview with Rachael Howard, the founder of the sustainable brand with a social mission – FUND

Interview with Rachael Howard, the founder of the sustainable brand with a social mission – FUND

Statement quotes, luxury fabrics and making a difference in children’s life are at the heart of Rachael Howard’s fashion brand – FUND. Avoiding the fast fashion idea and favouring sustainability, these jumpers are created to last decades and have already captured the attention of some of the world’s most fashionable women. Here, founder Rachael Howard, tells us more and reveals some of the inspiring stories behind her unique brand FUND…

Rachael Howard, Founder of FUND

CHIC: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to start your own brand?

Rachael: I grew up in a remote region of southern Africa, my dad was a geologist and I often rode out with him into the desert. I was part of that world for a short while – I saw that the children there had so little, I saw how much they loved school because, for many, it was the only meal they would eat all day. I had always wanted to run my own business, even at school I knew that it was going to be important to me to create something. I also knew that it wasn’t going to be money that inspired me, so I was drawn to businesses with a social mission, such as Tom’s Shoes where the good you can achieve is the motivation.

Before university I taught English in a very poor region of Nepal for a year and once again became inspired by the beauty and enthusiasm of the children there. During that time I decided that whatever my business would be, it would involve providing school meals to children in poverty. School meals provide much more than daily sustenance, they provide children with opportunity. It empowers them to strive for a better future for themselves, their communities and the world. So the mission of FUND came first.

CHIC: How did you come up with the name “Fund”? 

Rachael: I wanted to be clear from the start that our brand was centred around our mission, which is to FUND positive change through ethical luxury. We FUND 100 school meals with every jumper sold. At the beginning people said it was crazy, because it reduces our profits quite considerably, however it was so important to me that I would simply reply that without the donation I wouldn’t want to run the business. Now it is the focus of what we do and people love and support us, because of the good work we do.

Rachael Howard

CHIC: Why did you decide to focus on knitwear?

Rachael: I wanted to find a way of making the clothing we wear more meaningful. The average jumper only lasts for a couple of years which is very unsustainable. As an antidote to fast fashion I looked to create an heirloom piece that you would cherish and keep for many years. We started by creating a simple beautiful unisex jumper, that looked good on everybody. In a way, it is a blank canvas and our embroidery is the colourful paint that adds meaning and depth to each piece.

CHIC: How do you make your jumpers?

Rachael: Our yarn is spun in Scotland, it’s a beautiful old mill on the edge of an ancient loch. We source our wool from ethically reared sheep and use natural dyes and recycled water from the local Loch to colour it into a beautiful array of bespoke colours. The wool is very soft, because the water is gentle and so our jumpers feel like cashmere. We have an expert team of British weavers, who knit our seamless knitwear from a single thread, we do this to avoid any fabric offcuts and waste. Once complete the jumpers head to our embroidery workshop near the Cornish coast, its where we live, so I go there every day to see the colourful new creations. The team will hand-finished each piece which can take up to two hours to complete, every piece is made with lots of care and love.

CHIC: How do you choose the slogans / what do they mean?

Rachael: I studied Art History at university and am drawn to song lyrics, poetry, satire and quotation. Inspired by the experience of others and the positive power of self-expression through language and story-telling. I am a hopeless romantic. Everywhere I go, I go singing, I have a useless talent for remembering every word of every song or poem I have ever heard, and much to my children’s annoyance I can’t help but sing along to everything. Each of our statements comes from a meaningful quotation for example our Brightside jumper is inspired by the quote for C.S Lewis “when you can’t look on the Brightside I will sit with you in the dark”. It is actually about friendship during difficult times. All our embroidery is designed to inspire bold self-expression and empower people to speak their truth. I’m also completely fascinated by the amazing lives many of the authors have had, often battling adversity to do incredible things. You can read the bio for each author of my statements on the product pages of our website.

CHIC: How long did it take you to refine your process and what are some of the challenges you have faced?

Rachael: It took us a year to refine the process, because we don’t use any synthetic backing in our embroidery. We had to develop a completely new way of embroidering with wool on wool. Even now, we have to proto-type each design a number of times and make small alternations in order to create the perfect finish. 

CHIC: Did you find it hard sourcing ethical suppliers, for example your wool manufacturers?

Rachael: Every part of our process, from the wool we use, to the way we knit our jumpers, to the packaging we use is considered. We only work with British suppliers as it is very important to us to support British manufacturing. It took time to find good people who shared our belief in sustainable luxury and making beautiful pieces that will last a lifetime.

CHIC: Can you explain more about the charity you support to help provide free school meals?

Rachel: A donation from the sale of each jumper goes towards funding 100 school meals for children living in poverty, across 26 different countries. I set FUND up as a vehicle to do good, it’s much more than just a fashion brand.

CHIC: How would you describe your personal style?

Rachael: I like clothing from all eras, I have original pieces past down from my mum and grand-mother along with other vintage pieces. I wear a lot of dresses, mostly in colourful prints and I often wear these with my jumpers. I like small interesting brands who make things well, so they last a long time. I try not to buy anything synthetic if I can help it. I also really love crazy trainers and eighties style wool socks pulled up over my jeans. Basically anything colourful or different. The most beautiful thing I own is an Alice Temperley floor length dress embroidered with beautiful colourful flowers.

IMG_6527CHIC: What was your biggest achievement so far?

Rachael: One of my biggest achievement so far is being stocked by Harrods, from the 22nd Feb they are going to be selling FUND jumpers online and in the Autumn we will be having an exclusive pop-up shop in their Knightsbridge store. It was very exciting for us to know that they like our brand and ethos enough to include us. We feel very grateful and I’m sure the press coverage will mean that so many others get to hear and share our story. We have sent out a lot of jumpers now and so by far the biggest achievement is when people receive their jumper and are so happy with it that they take the time to say thank you or how much thy love it. We get so many photos of people in their new jumpers and that is just amazing.

CHIC: What advice would you have for anyone looking to launch their own ethical brand?

Rachael: Start with what you hope to achieve, the good, that is what inspires me every day. It’s not about profit, it’s about people. Our customers are always telling me how much they love their new jumper, because they are making a difference. That is what inspires people to support us and share our story.




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