AN ETHICAL BRAND YOU CAN REALLY TRUST – DILLI GREY
When it comes to the reasons as to why I decide to shout about a brand or business on this here blog, it’s usually because a) their products or services are insanely good and b) I find the actual human(s) behind the brand are just SO bloody inspiring!
Whether it’s a vintage clothing business created by two mates who’ve moved back to the ‘Burbs or a cool, converted barn project in the Devonian countryside. More often than not, I have found that a) doesn’t really exist without b)
The above rule most definitely applies to Dilli Grey – a stunning artisan lifestyle brand which includes bedding, accessories, gifts and clothing for women and girls.
What I love most about Dilli Grey is that no one involved in creating the products are getting a shit deal.
And that’s all down to its founder, Vickie El-Rayyes.
Now. I’m not about to discuss the complexities of ethical fashion right now. That’s a whole new blog post, innit!
But I will say this. I love the high street. And while many brands do give back to the workers and communities that make their products and with the majority complying to the strict manufacturing guidelines, the fashion chain itself is SUCH a very long and very complicated beast…
Which is why, Dilli Grey does it for me. You know where you stand from the beginning. It doesn’t involve a long chain and you know for definite that it’s playing an entirely ethical game. And I love that transparency.
Plus, it’s so flippin’ gorgeous, too!
I first discovered Dilli Grey at a curated lifestyle pop-up event in London showcasing British boutiques and brands.
From the moment I set eyes on the collection, I began INHALING its wanderlust vibes!
After not long returning from our month long, family holiday spent chasing the sun in our camper van across France and Spain, as soon as I saw the floaty fabrics, the delicate prints and the quality craftsmanship, I was HOOKED!
From the embroidered linen pouffes to the bright neon pom pom purse bags – I honestly wanted to scoop up the entire range, get back in the camper, put my foot down and find the nearest commune! (Seriously, ask Vickie, I came very close to stealing the blue jodphur paisley pyjamas, pictured here!)
But after politely letting go of them (they have POCKETS!) I got chatting to Vickie and discovered how Dilli Grey isn’t your run-of-the-mill lifestyle and fashion brand. If sustainable and ethical fashion is starting to imprint on your agenda, then like me, you’ll be praise-palming Vickie for how she champions the artisans that help create her brand.
She also does the motherhood/work/life juggle and oh – get this – she’s grown Dilli Grey “without a single penny of investment.”
I’m telling you, she’s SO ruddy inspiring!
Oh, do shut me up!
Over to you Vickie…
SO, TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT HOW DILLI GREY STARTED?
For almost 25 years, I’ve worked in the fashion industry as a buyer for some of the most iconic brands on the British high street.
Many of these roles involved me travelling to India and it was love at first trip…
It was while at East – as their Head of Buying – that I had the pleasure and privilege of working with an iconic Anglo/ Indian brand that’s famous for hand block printing, the Artisans at Anokhi and also Fab India. Seeing the incredible work by some of the best artisans in the country blew my mind every time I visited and from that, a seed was sown about creating my own artisan home and lifestyle brand with a modern British & Indian sensibility.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE ETHICAL SIDE AND THE ARTISANS THAT YOU CHAMPION?
I am so passionate about supporting them by allowing them to continue with trades that have been passed through generation after generation. It keeps communities together and allows them to thrive and grow in the environment that they have grown up in instead of travelling to expensive cities where living and pay conditions can be really challenging.
I have met everyone who produces anything for Dilli Grey – there are no ‘middle men’ which is why my prices are so fair.
I would be proud to take anyone to any of the people who work for the brand in India and this is something I fervidly commit to as the founder.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?
I think my best achievement so far is that I have managed to steadily grow my brand without a single penny of investment.
I started with £2000 and each time I made a sale, I put the money back in and went from there.
It has taken me two years but I have learnt so much from doing everything at my own pace and by listening to my customers and what they think about the designs.
AND WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING?
Starting a business is dynamic and exciting, you have the ‘aha’ moment and you run with it. Then the fun starts, the workload grows exponentially and you realise that running a business is never just about the idea it’s all about the execution.
So many businesses collapse when they realise this and my biggest challenge now is to move to the next stage of our development and expand to a multi-channel, international brand. This is going to require some fine tuning of my original strategy and some monetary investment which is daunting but exciting at the same time.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE THAT WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
I’ve been working as a consultant Head of Buying four-days-a-week whilst building up the brand as I didn’t want to put too much financial pressure on my business while I was still testing. I have stopped consulting for a while to focus on Dilli Grey. Working for other brands whilst building my own has been brilliant as it keeps my head fresh and being in the same industry keeps me on my toes.
Being at home and seeing the kids more has been brilliant, I have been able to juggle my work and not miss those parents evenings and netball matches.
I always used to dread having to ask if I could have the afternoon off for a sports day or Harvest Festival when I was working but now I can squeeze everything in, guilt-free, which makes us all happier.
WHAT MADE YOU TAKE THAT LEAP OF FAITH?
I actually had my own womenswear brand in 2007 so I already had a taste of being an entrepreneur from back then but I knew I would do it again and the timing just felt right professionally and personally when I started Dilli Grey in 2015. I had been feeling a little disillusioned with the fashion business on many levels and wanted to try and spend more time with my kids and so I took a leap of faith and never looked back.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
I am lucky enough to have carved out a career that has given me a huge amount of pleasure professionally, creatively and personally.
Success is finding a way to do what you love.
More recently, success has meant trying to juggle life as a mum whilst still finding a way to devote time to my career, this time as an entrepreneur and small business owner.
HAS IS DIFFERED FROM SAY 10-15 YEARS AGO?
Yes, most definitely. Having worked as a buyer for so long it probably was more important to me to be earning the big bucks, buying the ‘IT’ bag or must-have designer shoes, going to the best places but now it’s more about family and that real, personal satisfaction.
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
I am a colourful eclectic dresser – my wardrobe is organized by colour. I adore embroidery, kimonos and dresses but worn with boots, trainers or a sexy shoe.
I’m a British bohemian and adore dressing up.
I have more clothes than I know what to do with although I buy what I consider keepers and try not to do throwaway, fast fashion. I still wear things I have owned for 10 years. My style has definitely evolved from the same place, it’s just a bit more grown up.
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING TODAY?
I am wearing my leather leggings, bronze metallic boots from Hudson Boots and an embroidered velvet duster coat from my friends collection (Lisa Taylor) I love to try and support independent brands and wear lots of vintage.
FINALLY, WHAT’S YOUR TOP STYLE TIP FOR NEXT SEASON?
Colour, colour and colour. Whenever there is unrest culturally and economically we all need uplifting and trends often swing this way.
For me key pieces this season would be a coloured quilt to throw on your sofa or drape at the end of the bed. There has been a huge trend for grey and I think it works beautifully as a complimentary neutral to a pop of colour so go ahead and add a splash and see how uplifting it can feel.
I couldn’t agree more with Vickie – I definitely use colour to lift my mood whether that’s a banana yellow shoe or a chilli red tassel earring. It’s a great tip, don’t you think? Plus the ethical stand on this brand is totally commendable, innit? Feeling inspired? Drop me a comment below and let me know what you think.