Meet Studio Courtenay – the eco-conscious fashion brand helping us shop sustainably, without sacrificing our love of style
Fashion lecturer and Studio Courtenay founder Lou Rogers tells us why ethical fashion doesn’t have to mean surrendering to a sea of beige hemp
Combining maximalism, vintage-inspired silhouettes and eclectic design flourishes, Studio Courtenay is all about creating responsibly-made pieces that don’t sacrifice feeling on-trend for living more sustainably.
We chat to founder, fashion lecturer and lover of all things vintage Lou Rogers to find out more…
What’s Studio Courtenay all about?
Studio Courtenay is all about playful but conscious fashion. ‘Sustainable’ doesn’t have to mean beige hemp!
What is ‘slow fashion’?
The best way to describe slow fashion is to look at what it’s pushing back against. Slow fashion espouses a different philosophy, making process and approach to marketing than fast fashion. Fast fashion emphasises high turnaround and low quality, with often inhumane conditions for garment workers. It relies on star power to shift products and creates a sense of alienation if you aren’t ‘on-trend’, adding to the urgency of always accumulating more. Slow fashion is more about investing in pieces you will wear repeatedly, treasure, appreciate and wear for your own sake, rather than for your social media following.
How would you describe the overall style of Studio Courtenay?
We’re still finding our feet in terms of an aesthetic. For me, colour and print are central to what I want to do. We made the decision earlier this year to be bold and lean into all the playful things we want to do, rather than shying away from them. So, expect a lot of kitsch prints and patchwork coming your way!
All your products are made to order here in the region – why was the North East the perfect base for Studio Courtenay?
The North East has adopted me – I’m originally from Belgium – and I’m forever grateful for the hospitality the region has shown me. But it’s also worth mentioning that the North East used to have a healthy garment and textile industry that has been decimated since the millennium. I would love to be a small part of helping to bring that back, reskilling people who might have lost work during the pandemic in the process. I also wanted to make locally so I could learn and be a part of the process – my background isn’t in design, so for all of my ideas I wanted to also be involved in how these could come to life through clothing.
What inspired you to start up Studio Courtenay?
We decided to set up Studio Courtenay last October. I’ve been dealing in vintage for the past five years or so and I love it, but it’s very erratic. Things never get any easier and every month is a gamble. The time felt as right as it ever would to try and build something from scratch that still had a responsible process.
How would you say Studio Courtenay breaks the stereotypes of ethical shopping?
I think we try and shy away from a serious tone and preaching (we know our followers are already the converted!), and instead focus on showing people that ethical clothing can be bright and maximalist. I’m also a real collector myself, so I would never reproach someone for wanting variety or a lot of clothing and accessories, I would simply encourage them to think about buying those pieces second-hand rather than forgoing them altogether
You only use deadstock fabrics to make your products. Where do you source these from?
We source them from other businesses, or manufacturers who end up with these rolls of fabric that crowd up their warehouse space. We also sometimes get smaller pieces of fabric from markets, auctions or private sales. I learned through my studies that the biggest contributing factor to pollution in the fashion industry is actually the production of raw materials (that includes the growing of cotton, the dying of fabrics and the power involved in weaving), so it made sense to try and avoid these when putting together our own range. I grew up in a home where buying second-hand was the norm, so it felt logical to me to try and use what was already out there, rather than adding to the pile of products.
Are Studio Courtenay pieces more affordable because of this?
Unfortunately not! Because we make everything locally and the people producing our items have houses and families to pay for, our price point remains similar to newly-made pieces. The advantage of using deadstock is that we can only get a limited number of pieces from each run of production, so you will end up with something unique or even one-of-a-kind.
You even turn your off-cuts into accessories to ensure minimal waste. How important is it to work responsibly in the fashion industry?
The West has created this problem and now we should try and address it. To me it’s very important, but the reality is that until the market leaders pay attention to the issue, it will be hard to see tangible change. Once the big names – think Zara, H&M, even Primark – change how they work, we won’t see costs go down at the early stage of the production process. Only then will sustainable fashion start to become more affordable, and the new standard for consumption.
How does vintage fashion inspire you?
Vintage has always inspired me because it was a lot more experimental than what we have now. The prints were bolder, more tongue-in-cheek and elaborate. Design details like buttons were opportunities for further fashion statements and everything was made to last. The fabrics, lining and tailoring are second to none. Vintage also takes inspiration from historical fashion and re-imagines it – they celebrated borrowing from other times and cultures, rather than shying away from it.
What are your top three Studio Courtenay pieces right now?
What does the future look like for Studio Courtenay?
For now, we’re working on new products and building up our brand profile. We want to be a bit braver and more experimental with what we’re doing. We love to see how many people are embracing shopping more consciously for clothing without sacrificing their love of fashion, and the joy that can create.