The thing that unites the worldwide network of @LibertyFabrics makers is a penchant for bold and original self-expression – plus an abiding love of Liberty print. All around the world, thousands of talented creatives draw from the vast Liberty archive, using metres of heritage and brand-new fabric designs to add to a constantly-evolving universe of new projects. In this instalment of the series, we catch up with Tania and Clara from O Pioneers – two London-based makers with a passion for sustainable and beautiful fashion design.
How long have you known each other?
For about 11 years – we used to live around the corner from each other in Camden, and originally met as slightly exhausted mothers taking our very little children to the local play centre. We gravitated to one another over our shared inappropriate humour and love of style.
When did you found O Pioneers?
We have always talked about the idea of doing something together. Clara has always designed jewellery and a few years back started to make her own clothes. Tania has been sewing her own clothes for years and had started to make things for friends and friends of friends. Then about a year ago, we were walking our respective dogs, George and Alfie, and started to formulate the seed of an idea for O Pioneers.
What’s your philosophy?
We try to hone a mindful approach to life in general, and this carries through to our aspirations for our brand. The antithesis of ‘fast fashion’, O Pioneers is based on our philosophy that if an item of clothing is desirable, well-made and stylishly classic it will be a loved item in a wardrobe that gets revisited time and again, for years to come.
You work with a lot of our Liberty Tana Lawn™ cotton – why is this?
We love working with Liberty Tana Lawn™ because it is THE most beautiful fabric, both design-wise and quality-wise – it’s timeless, and only gets better with age. We have both sewn a lot with it over the years and it really is the most heavenly fabric to work with.
How many people are part of the O Pioneers team?
The core of O Pioneers is us, Clara and Tania – we founded it and run it day-to-day. But we have an amazing team of skilled people who we work with across all aspects of the business. We also have a small pool of super-talented seamstresses who share our vision for quality making and limited production, who are based in and around the London area. And we mustn’t forget our ‘knitting demon’ mums who hand-knit our beautifully soft and warm tank tops – often while watching the telly!
Do you have a favourite era of vintage clothing?
Our favourite era is probably an odd Edwardian-slash-1970s mash-up! We love vintage because it’s sustainable, the quality is generally impeccable, and you’ll never see anyone else in the same item – the concept of which we have tried to carry through to O Pioneers.
Where does your name come from?
We both love reading, and mulled over several names with associations to literature and music. Clara is a huge Walt Whitman fan and loves the poem ‘Pioneers! O Pioneers!’ We felt this resonated for us in some way, as starting a new career, not to mention a new business in our mid-forties felt terrifying and surprisingly liberating – so we felt a little like pioneers ourselves.
What is your earliest Liberty memory?
Tania: I remember being taken to the Liberty store as a child and being in awe of it – as I am even now – it just has a very special feel to it. Growing up, my mum would sew a lot of our clothes and I remember her using a Liberty print to create matching ‘mummy and me’ summer dresses when I was very small – I wish we’d kept them!
Do you have a favourite Liberty print?
Clara: The one that I love is called Chive. I remember having a dress in this exact print as a child and then in my 20s I bought a dress from Cacharel in the same print. It feels like it’s followed me throughout my life.
@LibertyFabrics lovers – we always want to see your creations. Upload and tag us with #LibertyFabrics, so we can see what you’ve been making – and maybe we’ll feature your work in our next series instalment.