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8 min read - Monday 9th August 2021 
From Art School to APOC Store: How Artist Hepzibah Lyon took on the world of slow fashion. 
Q&A with Lucy Alves 

Gatekeeper is sitting down with recent graduates to discuss how they have developed their practice into careers. In this series, we aim to provide insights from some of the industry’s upcoming talent into how you can understand and nurture your work.

First up is Hepzibah Lyon, a graduate Fine Art and Photography student from Camberwell College of Arts, UAL. During her course, she developed a practice centring around knitting and textiles. However, she was overwhelmed by the cost of working with these materials and the waste it created. Graduating into the pandemic with a mass of materials, a lack of storage and a keen interest in ethical fashion, Hepzibah tells us how her slow fashion venture began: “I thought the best way to come to tackle these leftover materials was trying to design something that I could use to make back some of the money that I spent. It just started off as a little project”.

What began as commissions from friends soon grew into a much larger brand and business. She is now stocked in APOC and sells out almost immediately. So, what has this process taught Hepzibah? We asked her to share some advice:

LA: How did you find graduating into a pandemic?

HL: Artists are quite good at handling shit situations. Collectively, they're quite good at building spaces where they can still celebrate each other and the pandemic highlighted this. I felt as though there was quite a lot of momentum, particularly in my peer group of graduates. When I graduated, I just tried to keep the momentum going. As we ended university remotely, there wasn't a sudden withdrawal from going into the studio, so my routine just kind of stayed the same. 

LA: How did you find not having a studio space? What is your advice about getting a studio?

HL: Obviously a studio is another overhead, so I worked from home until I was bursting out.  However, working in your boyfriend’s grandma’s bedroom is never ideal. I am so much more productive now that I have a studio because I get there and want to make my day worthwhile; I'm just getting more work done. I find that the extra pressure from having to pay for the studio helps me to remain motivated and focused to create. I think that if my studio got taken away I would be lost, so that shows how much I rely on it!

There are ways to find a cheaper space, so ask around and see if there is anyone you know that might have a spare room in their homes and investigate sharing a space to make it cheaper!

LA: How do you overcome greenwashing?

HL: There is such a problem with greenwashing in fashion and sourcing materials. I am constantly trying to find more rogue materials that can be repurposed. Speaking to suppliers is so important. There is such a trend around sustainability but often materials that are labelled ‘sustainable’ are just a marketing ploy. For example, someone selling a job lot on eBay labelled as sustainable factory ends is often someone purchasing materials and cutting them into a way that people who crochet and knit might want to buy.

I eventually found a knitting machine wool supplier who buys old factory yarns. I WhatsApp him and ask if he has any green, he sends you some pictures, and then you say what you like. This means there is not much control over the colour but having this relationship with a supplier means I have an invested knowledge of the source of the products that I am buying.

LA: How has social media enabled your growth?

HL: My best advice is to utilise social media. Contact other social media accounts, whether they have a big following or not. There are so many accounts that will support your work and shine a light on your business. Other Fashion magazines that are in their initial growth stage are a great place to start.

Whatever stage you are in your career, you can harness social media. I was quite worried about being overly active and coming across badly. So, my biggest advice with building a social media presence is being authentic with your followers and how you convey yourself and your brand.

I sent a message to this account called @Ap0scene during a time when interest seemed to have died down. They loved what I was doing and agreed to post about my work. Subsequently, an Instagram influencer purchased a bag and posted about it – my sales increased hugely.

Moral of the story - message everyone and everything that you want to be involved with! Photograph your work and don't worry about needing to send polished proposals. I just send a little message, around four lines, summarising what I do and thanking them for reading - you never know who might repost you and what it could lead to!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
LA: Do you have any burning advice to give?

HL: I think if you're working in fashion or selling products, looking at getting a stockist is quite a good idea. This can seem scary but, for me, APOC store gives me financial security. I give them around 10 bags a month which means I still have a lot of time to do stuff for my own website and experiment with my practice. APOC take care of outreach and promotion on their site which is also great!

To understand the business and financial side of things there are lots of free seminars that help you get to grips with the basics of running a business. There is loads of stuff on your local council website, especially accountancy help. It helps to get a business card and business PayPal to separate this from your personal finances.

But, most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I'm constantly emailing and contacting people and I’m still surprised at how nice people are to me.

You can check out Hepzibah’s work and products on her website and Instagram.

Instagram: @hepzibahvmlyon


Gatekeeper Magazine© 2021