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In this guest article, Tamsin Davis, co-founder of eco fashion brand Nancy Dee, explains how the company got started and why they only manufacture in Britain.

My sister Seraphina and I launched Nancy Dee in 2008, with a view to creating what we term “day-to-night jersey” – stylish, versatile and comfortable pieces that translate easily from home to office to evening out.

Inspired by retro designs, the collections rework classic shapes with bold prints that we design ourselves, utilising the inherent characteristics of jersey – its softness, drape and stretch. The focus of Nancy Dee is to offer customers a realistic, sustainable alternative to the high street, and we decided, right from the start, that the company should strive towards being as sustainable and ethical as possible.

Sisters Seraphina and Tamsin. Image courtesy of Nancy Dee.

The origins of Nancy Dee

My sister Seraphina graduated with a degree in Fashion Design in 2004 and was instantly commissioned to design and make a series of one-off pieces for a boutique in Cornwall. On the back of that success she began selling her designs at craft markets whilst continuing to work part-time. In 2006 she started working for a prominent boutique in London, which offered a hugely useful insight into the buyer’s perspective of the fashion industry, and she regularly advised on buying decisions.

As for myself, having started my career in the film industry, I returned to university to study Economics and Social Policy at the LSE, having developed an interest in the way in which trade and social policies can improve the way people live. I fell in love with South East Asia and spent time before and after the degree travelling throughout the continent, becoming acutely aware of the scale of poverty in these countries and the possibilities of using trade to improve lives.

By the end of 2007 Seraphina was at make-or-break point with her designing, whilst I had returned from travelling wanting to utilise my awareness on a new project. We combined forces and Nancy Dee was launched in May 2008, merging Seraphina’s design talent with my more practical skills in organisation and management.

Made in Britain

Initially, we researched fair trade registered factories in India to produce our designs, and regularly visited to work with staff on sampling and production. However, without a dedicated quality control manager living out there, we were plagued by problems. A chance discovery of a local factory near to where I live led us to start manufacturing in Britain instead.

Penelope dress, made from organic cotton. Image source: www.nancydee.co.uk

Having since learnt more about how Britain lost most of its factories to cheap imports from abroad, and the resulting loss of jobs and those specialist skills that Britain was once known for, we feel it was the best decision we could have made with the company. Now our office is onsite so we work alongside the machinists and have complete control over production – we really do know the names of those who make our clothes!

Additionally it means that the quality is top notch! British manufactures understand the standards of quality needed for garments sold here, and the air miles of each garment are dramatically reduced, which helps our policy on sustainability too.

Eco-friendly jersey

Right from the start we made a pledge to use only eco-friendly fabrics as part of our commitment to the environment, and over the years have explored fabrics made from organic cotton, bamboo, soya bean, linen and Modal. Our favourite discovery so far has been a new eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to silk that can be machine washed and we’re planning a couple of styles in this new fabric for Autumn/Winter 2013 – watch this space!

Ultimately, our aim with Nancy Dee is to make ethical and sustainable fashion accessible by creating easy-to-wear styles at realistic prices without compromising on quality or standards – we want eco fashion to be a real alternative to mainstream fashion brands.

To find out more or to shop the styles, visit www.nancydee.co.uk.

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