Shalke Gummels, model, jeweller and healer, chats to her friend Zoe Stevenson, co-founder of nature-inspired clothes brand Tallulah & Hope about self-expression, sustainability, and supporting women.
Zoe, how are you today and what have you been up to?
I have spent a large part of the morning on the phone to India discussing the next collection. I’ve been looking at new prints and discussing embroidery placements and wishing I could teleport myself to the studio in Mumbai to feel the materials and see the different print options!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I tend to go for a swim first thing then get back before 7am, wake up the kids and prepare breakfast which I insist on. My son and I cycle to school and my daughter will take her skateboard. The T&H studio is only minutes from my son’s school, which is great.
My partner Tom is an artist and he is such an inspiration; we talk a lot about our creative projects, which are a real catalyst for new ideas. Bedtime is about 10.30, whilst the teens are usually still noodling around their bedrooms.
What is the story behind Tallulah & Hope?
Lisa (Ispani) and I are the co-founders and have been building the business organically around our young families. Lisa worked in PR and is the backbone of the brand and a beacon of kindness and wisdom.
I was a stylist and on a joint family holiday we started obsessing about the perfect kaftan – that was the start of Tallulah & Hope! Then after years of designing resort wear, we wanted to shift the focus and make ready-to-wear pieces that were versatile, hardworking, and precious.
Tallulah & Hope are two fictitious characters. Hope, the grandmother is wise, witty, and stylish. She has a natural sophistication, is unapologetic, and is quick to laugh. Tallulah is her youthful, playful, irreverent granddaughter.
I love the idea of making clothes that both women of very different generations can wear, each bringing their own energy and flavour.
I have loved dressing up in your clothing. The prints are fun and the embroideries are subtle, meaningful, and beautifully placed. Who and what inspires your designs?
Birds – and my grandmother! She was a keen birder, right into her 90’s. I remember her taking off in her ‘birding jacket’, binoculars, and Reebok Classics. She was the first woman I saw mix an elegant outfit with a pair of trainers. “So light and comfortable”, she would say and because she felt confident, she looked wonderful.
I was a stylist and on a joint family holiday we started obsessing about the perfect kaftan – that was the start of Tallulah & Hope! Then after years of designing resort wear, we wanted to shift the focus and make ready-to-wear pieces that are versatile, hardworking and precious.
What pitfalls have you encountered on the journey?
When we launched the brand we were focused on producing beachwear in unique prints and worked with an established factory in Italy. We totally underestimated the costs and issues of digitally printing whole collections and using silk. We probably should have taken a pause and re-thought what we were trying to achieve as a brand, particularly as we were also juggling young families. After a lot of trial and error, we finally found the most incredible production partners in India and we are now able to keep evolving the brand.
Creating a brand has been intense and personal. Switching off is almost impossible but getting it right is so rewarding!
How is it all rolling and what’s next?
We’re at an exciting point with T&H and have a strong vision for how to move the brand forward sustainably. We recently started working with a US agent and it’s exciting to have international stockists. The next collection (SS22) takes its inspiration from the very old farmhouse where my mum now lives in North Wales, which has been in my family for over 100 years. Swallows, foxgloves, and starry nights are all motifs and hold deep significance.
We would love to hear more about how your brand is supporting women.
We both had small children in the early years of the business. Growing a brand was not easy so being able to support each other was key. T&H was our ‘third child’ and we put an incredible amount of time and energy into the business, willing it to flourish. From our solid base, we are able in turn to support other women.
We have a small local all-female team that helps with running the studio and design. Our dynamo production manager Amala is based in India and has been pivotal in helping to grow our brand. She vets our production partners, ensuring they share our brand values and that they prioritise fair pay and treatment of workers in a safe environment.
It is with Amala’s support that we will start working directly with artisans in Jaipur as part of the larger goal to bring T&H in harmony with the planet. With each collection, we choose charities to support so we can also give back, for our SS21 Lovebirds Collection, Give India was one of our chosen charities.
What do you think makes Tallulah & Hope’s designs so appealing?
I love clothes that communicate a woman’s spirit without shouting ‘look at me’. I also love the idea of producing wardrobe treasures with a jewellery designer’s approach, pieces that are bought for personal and sentimental reasons.
There is a lot of subtle psychology in the placement of the embroidery that relates to my own spiritual journey. Although the designs appear simple, they are infused with stories and significance that I hope resonate with other women.