Fashion forward: Suffolk’s ethical surfwear and streetwear start-ups
- Credit: Eleanor Piggott
Nicola Warren meets the people behind two of the county’s newest fashion brands.
Husband and wife team Robert Castellani and Alexandra Maycock have combined their love for beach life and board sports and passion for fashion and art with their ethical surf and skatewear company Kachina.
The business started from their kitchen table in May 2018 and just a year later they were set up at The Lab at Shout About Suffolk.
Shout About Suffolk was set up by Paddy Bishopp, Richard Croft and Toby Durrant to support local entrepreneurs.
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They introduced Robert and Alexandra to their mentor Ian Griffiths, creative director of Max Mara.
"That's an experience we wouldn't have had without Shout About Suffolk," said Robert.
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Kachina offers a range of t-shirts, hoodies and accessories.
Robert says they have been "true to their nature" by getting all of their garments made in organic cotton.
They have been influenced by family life too - their six-year-old son is already environmentally conscious.
As well as using organic cotton, they can now print their own designs on to clothing with their eco printing method using water-based inks.
They will also be offering their printing services out to other businesses.
The pair recently had a pop-up shop in Aldeburgh and hope to do pop-ups in other locations this year.
"It was really positive," Robert said. "We got to see so many people in the store respond to our products on the shelves."
They are also planning to sell their clothing at festivals this year.
The pair are hoping to work with a variety of artists on future pieces and go into retailers too.
Having had support when he was a musician, Robert was keen to give something back through the business.
"We give a portion of the profits to support young surfers," he explained. "We got this idea of giving back to the community we are part of.
"When I was a young musician, I was lucky enough to have a sponsor and now we are in that position it's only right that we give back and do something similar."
Not only have they had initial investment and support from Shout About Suffolk, they have felt the benefit of working closely with other Lab businesses too.
"That's been really interesting because we share ideas and share resources," explained Robert. "We can bounce our ideas off someone else too."
Olly Leggett has wanted to start his own clothing company since he was in high school.
Now, aged 19, he's done just that with his business Nulla Clothing.
It was while he was still at high school, at the age of about 15, he started selling hats.
"That kickstarted my passion to start my own label," said Olly.
Olly had a place to study business at university, but cancelled it to set up his own business instead.
Nulla's streetwear is aimed at 16 to 24 year olds and its unique selling point is the clothing's smart label.
Each label has a chip in it - you scan it with your phone and get to a secret page on the Nulla Clothing website which is password protected.
The password will be in the order confirmation email.
Once you've entered the password you can enter the customer platform, where you could find anything from an exclusive music track to free merchandise.
"I was into high end sport fashion. I wanted to make it more of a personal experience," he said. "I can't just be another name on a t-shirt."
All of the clothing is made from vegan approved organic cotton - he uses the same supplier as Kachina.
"That's added quality as well. The quality is amazing," he said. "We get all of our printing done in Suffolk, that's important to me."
This year, Olly is hoping for steady growth, with some different collaborations.
"Because of the nature of Nulla's smart label, it gives us the ability to do so many collaborations," he said.
Nulla Clothing launched in December 2019. "It's gone really well over the Christmas period, better than I expected it to, we made quite a few sales," he added.
While stock was low for their first collection, they will be stocking 10 different designs for the next one.
"We will start to ship them out to magazines, influencers and YouTubers," said Olly, who is well aware of how many young people are influenced by social media stars.
Talking about the support he has received from Shout About Suffolk, he said: "If it wasn't for them, I would be at uni right now. I could have done a business degree, but this is what I really wanted to do. They have really helped me to just really do it. Without offering the office space and mentoring, and just a place to come to every day, I wouldn't be doing it."