Vicky Demetriou is an innovative hair stylist and co-founder of sustainable scrunchie brand ROKNDOL.
Frank talks with her about how she designed 100% cruelty-free organic silk scrunchies that care for your hair as well as the planet, and the challenges of building a “slow fashion” brand that will stand the test of time.
ROKNDOL AND THE SUSTAINABLE SCRUNCHIE
What gave you the idea to start making scrunchies?
Vicky Demetriou: Every client that sat down in my chair would be wearing a scrunchie so I knew that was a good place to start, plus I understood what made a good one. My goal was to see if it was possible to make a scrunchie that’s good for the planet as well as the hair.
They were ridiculed for a long time. Even in the TV show ‘Sex in the City’ there was a scrunchie storyline. Why do you think they were considered bad taste for a while there?
Vicky Demetriou: Like everything from the 80s they just needed a makeover. I believe almost anything can be cool if done in the right way. Part of the revamp was creating a matte one – that’s been the most popular one so far.
Tell us how you sourced the fabric?
Vicky Demetriou: I have always been fascinated with where something comes from and how it is made. I knew that silk is literally the only fabric that really works as a hair tie in terms of breakage, defrizzing and general hair health.
Silk is naturally antibacterial and has friction defying qualities that help maintain your hair and skin. Best of all, it’s part of the natural cycle of the world, making it completely biodegradable.
Most silk production is unethical though. Silkworms develop into moths in their cocoons and once they have broken free, they leave behind silk. Demand has led to hundreds of thousands of moths being bred in factories and to maximise extraction the moths are boiled alive in their cocoons before they can escape. Not only is this cruel but it stops moths from re-pollinating the area, removing an essential part of our eco-cycle.
In my head I decided what cruelty free silk could be and I set out in search to see if it existed. Slowly I connected with a network of people on the same page and built contacts. It wasn’t easy and it took time. I also still believe in picking up the phone and making friends & visiting people – it wouldn’t have been possible just through emails!
The look, colours, and branding are subtle and beautiful. How did these things and elements come to you?
Vicky Demetriou: We are not fast fashion and production is slow and considerate so I wanted to create timeless products. ROKNDOL has two sides to it. The ‘Rok’ side is the tomboy in me and inspired the matte scrunchies. My business partner Debbie is the ‘Dol’ side and inspired the chic, glossy ones.
The box was inspired from a practical point of view and my love of experiences – I love the idea of them feeling like a gift! The practical side was creating a card box made from sustainable forests.
It’s packed once and can be transported anywhere without needing to be repackaged or stuffed with unnecessary extra throw away packing.
What were the difficulties you faced when creating the brand?
Sustainability was a huge factor. Our silk is organic and 100% cruelty-free. Our moths live outside in protected areas and are able to break free from their cocoons and live out their full life-cycle.
When you’re not using battery moth farming and your silk is a by-product of wild moths, production is slow.
The issue is the manufacturing industry isn’t yet on the same page and it’s difficult and uneconomical for them to work with ethical practices even when they want to, which many don’t as I found out. The attitude was “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and the push back I experienced was almost impossible at times.
What elements of the process do you enjoy?
Vicky Demetriou: I love the research; I really want to know the mechanics of everything step by step. Although I’m a designer at heart, the creative if you like, I enjoyed learning all the workings of the business – I had to!
What do you think sets you apart from other brands?
Vicky Demetriou: I know hair and Debbie knows skin but I have broken down every element and stage of the process and tackled it. We created our first product, the scrunchies, because the time was right. They had to be cruelty free and sustainable to the core. Two years of research ensured that. I really don’t believe an animal should have to die for us to thrive.
What advice would you give to someone setting up a brand such as yours?
Do your research! Make sure you understand what you are producing and its impact. Start small and keep your range simple. Lastly you will have to make tough compromises – you can’t be green if you’re in the red!
What’s next for ROKNDOL?
Vicky Demetriou: Our Ultimate Scrunchie is only just the beginning. We’re on a mission to make a whole range of planet-friendly products that seriously rock!