Sitting down with La Sororité founder - Emma Victoria Potts
La Sororité is a socially and ethically conscious brand bridging the gap between sustainable and luxury fashion, with their stunningly luxurious cashmere collection. The brand has thrown away the fast-fashion model and instead focused on ethical production by empowering its craftswomen, celebrating artisan work, establishing personal relationships with their suppliers and carefully considering the impact their supply chain has on nature.
At La Sororité they care about the women who make their clothes as much as the women they make them for.
We sat down with the lovely Emma Victoria Potts, founder of La Sororité, to ask her how the idea came to life and what we can expect from the brand in the future.
1) What inspired you to set-up La Sororité? Where did the idea come from?
I was inspired by first being faced with 2 problems that I wanted to overcome. Firstly, I saw the clothes that I wanted to buy because they were beautiful and then I saw the clothes that were ethically and sustainably produced and I felt I had to compromise too much. This space has changed a lot in the last couple of years but at the time I felt uninspired by the options. I wanted to create something beautiful that just happened to also be ethical and not damaging to the environment. I have always been fond of natural fibres, as they are intrinsically better for the environment when produced correctly, and cashmere has always been my favourite and felt the most luxurious to me. I love that it comes from such a beautiful animal, it just seemed majestic to me.
Secondly, I was growing frustrated by the inefficiencies I saw in my work in the charity sector. I had graduated in Politics & IR wanting to change the world but felt the realities of the sector didn’t live up to that. I wanted to be much more hands on with impact and to empower individuals to live a better life rather than facilitating aid. I wanted to personally know the people I was working with along with their individual struggles and ambitions, and we now very much have that with our team in Kathmandu.
2) Coming from a different background, were you worried about taking the plunge and setting-up your own business? What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome?
I am not particularly risk adverse (it’s an ongoing joke with friends and family), I knew that if I wanted to work for my dream company I was going to have to create it. It was actually very exciting. The biggest hurdle for us was bootstrapping! Unlike many other brands we started with literally nothing in the bank, but I was really fortunate to have people like our talented designer Emmeline and our first team member Andrea be completely dedicated to the idea of La Sororité, and both full of creativity and drive to get the ball rolling without money. They gave so much and all I had to offer them was coffee and croissants. I will be forever grateful for them both and so much of La Sororité is them.
3) Take us through the sustainability and ethical side of your brand:
At our solar powered work space in Kathmandu we have 12 women working for us who are skilled in cashmere and all from marginalised groups. Firstly, we provide access to health care for our female team and their families. When I first went to Nepal I was very heavily focused on education and upskilling but after speaking with the women about the issues facing them day to day we realised that providing health care was more beneficial. It was important to me to make these decisions with them as only they knew what they needed. We also support the women in their children’s school fees and do wider community projects with local orphanages. We do everything we can to ensure a high level of communication between us here in London and the team in Nepal so they feel heard with voicing their suggestions. We of course also ensure the women earn a good wage so they can support themselves and their families.
Secondly, from a sustainability perspective we get our fibres from natural herders in the Himalayas and occasionally Mongolia. These natural size herds prevent damage to the land they’re grazing on, and traditional combing methods are used to collect the fibres from the goats. This is better for the goats as it leaves them with the hair needed to stay healthy in the harsh climates; and it leaves the fibres extra long making our jumpers extra soft and durable.
We never use chemicals in our process (many brands do this to soften the jumpers but it actually just damages the fibres, the environment, and means your jumper doesn’t last as long). When we do use dyes they are all acid free, and our packaging is all sustainably produced and bio degradable… even the gold foil used on our hangtags!
4) What makes you different?
Our designer has worked for some big designer names and I think this combination of high end designs and artisan handmade pieces is something that is really unique. The format for our social impact is also different to most ethical companies. Often brands will give a percentage of their profits to an organisation in the country they associate with but our impact is directly with the women we work with and centred around them, their families and their community; and I think that’s really special and authentic.
5) Your jumpers are so soft and stunning, and we love the fact that they promote sisterhood and community! Obviously, you are already doing so much good in Nepal.
Thank you! Yes, sisterhood and community are the underpin for everything we do. Not only with the team in Nepal but also with our team here in London; we all support each other and encourage each other’s ambitions. I feel so lucky to be part of this group of incredible women, they really inspire me everyday.
6) Are there goals you want to reach? What are the next steps for La Sororité?
I want to do more impact projects with our female artisans in Nepal. The more sales we make the more we can do; currently my ambitions are outsizing us but going forward we want to provide lunchtime English classes (as the team in Kathmandu have informed us that this is often a barrier for them) and weekend English projects for the women’s children. We recently met with UNICEF in Nepal to understand how we can build on our existing projects, I am particularly interested in working against sex trafficking in Nepal, which is a huge issue there. But this is at an early stage idea for the time being.
7) Who would you say are your biggest inspirations? People or businesses you look up to?
Brother Vielles inspired me at the conception stage of La Sororité, they truly didn’t compromise high fashion while ensuring ethical production.
Leila Janah and her book ‘Give Work’ were hugely impactful on me and were one of the main factors that lead me to starting La Sororité. Ironically I bumped into her in Dean street a few months before I launched and followed her into the bathrooms to fan girl her. She helped so many people’s lives and impacted entire communities with her company Samasource which focused on upskilling people in African countries to do tech based jobs for big Silicon Valley companies. She really demonstrated this middle space between charity and corporate and how that middle space was in fact a superior alternative. Leila tragically passed away from cancer a couple of months ago and the world really lost a remarkable woman.
8) We are strong believers that inspiration and imagination comes from reading. And with imagination comes openness and acceptance. So we have one last question we like to ask everybody: Any favourite book to recommend?
I am a romantic so I love the classics like ‘The Beautiful And The Damned’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. But in connection to my work a book that I found insightful and perspective changing was the controversial (and heavily criticised) ‘Dead Aid’ by Dambisa Moyo.