White t-shirt stories are…
A series of candid conversations with creatives, uncovering their values and style.
Eleanor O'Neill is...
A Knitwear Designer and Sustainable Fashion Advocate, writing for The Huffington Post and championing responsible fashion through STUDY 34.
RW: What is STUDY 34 and what made you want to start it?
EO: I started STUDY 34 because I wanted to use the education and experience I had gained so far in the fashion industry to good use – I didn’t want to stay working for a big brand and in so doing be limited to ‘designing’. I am much more interested in the technical construction of garments, craftsmanship and the origins of fibre etc as well as designing, understanding the market and how best to communicate a story.
By setting up my own label, I can explore and be involved in all of these aspects of the industry, and I can work towards doing them as responsibly and creatively as I can.
STUDY 34 Alpaca Crew
STUDY 34 is a multitude of things really! But I like to think each aspect supports the others nicely. It started as my own knitwear brand – and the STUDY 34 label is still one of the core components of the business today. In addition to this, the study34.co.uk website also sells womenswear from other small, independent brands whose values and aesthetics match that of the STUDY 34 label - one which is the wonderful White T-shirt Co! And finally, the site also has a blog section for which I do a lot of writing with the aim of encouraging interest in the issues surrounding the fashion industry is becoming more responsible (ethical and sustainable) in a simple and engaging way, so that everyone may be excited and able to join in the conversation.
RW: What were the main challenges you faced at the beginning?
EO: One of the biggest challenges was to decide to actually do it! When you’re a recent graduate working in fashion, a notoriously difficult industry to get into, and you’re working in a design role, removing yourself from ‘the scene’ so to speak can be a risky one! Lots of people advised against it. Once I got started, apart from the daily challenges of starting a business (financial, physical, emotional!), I suppose things like making sure to keep up with the industry was a challenge but also retaining a positive mentality towards it all – I very much underestimated how important but difficult it can be to learn to structure your work in a way that keeps you from being isolated.
RW: What are the top values you look for in an ethical fashion brand?
EO: Authenticity, style and ease.
RW: For those who want to be more responsible with their fashion choices, how can STUDY 34 help?
EO: I think a good place to start might be the ‘DISCOVER’ tab on the site - short, easy to read explanations of concepts within the industry so for example answers to questions like ‘What is ethical fashion?’, ‘What is sustainable fashion?’, ‘What is organic cotton?’ and ‘What does Fairtrade mean?’. Then there is the blog, which is more long form and delves a little deeper into similar discussions. And then, of course, there are the products from all the independent brands who in their own ways, seek to make their beautiful products as responsibly as they can!
I hope STUDY 34 is seen as an insightful and educational platform as well as a place to find great clothes – because understanding and being interested in the origins of clothes is just as exciting as the end product in my opinion.
RW: What essential advice can you give our readers who want to live a sustainable lifestyle?
EO: I suppose that I would go with the things I try and do to lead a sustainable life. Firstly to take time to really understand who you are and what your style is – what sorts of things suit you, make you feel comfortable and confident and make you feel like the person you are? What sorts of things fit into your daily lifestyle and perhaps even, enhance it?
Once you’ve figured that out, build a versatile wardrobe with things that can be mixed and matched. There’s nothing more freeing than having a curated wardrobe of firm favourites you know look good on you and you feel comfortable in AND can be interchanged with each other for different occasions. And when you need something new, invest time in looking for it – enjoy the challenge. Get to know the back-story and how it came to be. Buy into someone else’s passion by buying from independent brands who put their heart and soul into developing their products. You will love your clothes in a different way if you do this. You’ll respect them for what they represent and you will not want to replace or give them up so quickly…
RW: Responsible fashion means something different to everyone, what does it mean to you?
EO: To me it means clothing with real story and origin. It means investing in real craft and skill. It means valuing the role of everyone and everything in the supply chain. It means producing something that is timeless, to somebody. It’s something to be proud of and to cherish for a long time to come.
RW: Do you feel the fashion industry has improved since you began STUDY 34?
EO: Yes, I think so. But that can be a difficult thing to gauge when you work so closely in a particular niche. You are so involved and read so much into it that you see all the changes unfold… but they are often small changes. If you were to pan out a bit, things look very different I think.
RW: What is the one thing you would like the fashion industry to achieve this year?
EO: Too hard to say. It’s such a vast, complicated and far-reaching industry that everything is entangled. I find it impossible to isolate any one thing.
RW: What are your plans for the future of STUDY 34?
EO: Well, excitingly, the new STUDY 34 knitwear styles launched in September - the first jumpers made with 100% baby alpaca in Peru, a country with a huge textile history and one I have been lucky enough to visit twice in the past year! Following on from this stage on manufacturing, I would like to expand the offering slightly to cover a few more classic knitwear pieces for men as well as women. I’d love to expose the supply chain further to my customers through video, giving them a real insight into how STUDY 34 knitwear is made. To really show off the story behind the clothes and get people involved. I’d also love to keep expanding the platform and represent more independent labels as well as some time, build up a small team of individuals motivated by and dedicated to a more responsible and exciting fashion industry!
Eleanors beautiful Alpaca Crews, Articles, and responsible fashion choices can be seen at STUDY 34.