Meet the women who defied retail gloom and launched their own labels in lockdown

From a jewellery designer made redundant from her high street role to a stylist who raised $40,000 for charity selling jumpsuits


Hester Patonfounder of Breast Dressed

It was always my vision to launch my fashion brand, Breast Dressed in summer 2020. I’d gone down to part-time hours at my job as a designer for a clothing supplier that January and had been working in fashion for around 12 years - I was ready to have a go at doing something new. 

A lot of my friends had started having babies the previous year and complained about how there weren’t any decent clothes out there, so I researched into it and realised they were right. There really wasn’t much maternity wear out there that was cool, stylish and also sustainable. 

I decided it would be my niche and started creating a brand of maternity and breastfeeding wear that was a bit more fun and could be worn throughout all stages of pregnancy and beyond. I wanted it to be a versatile alternative to fast fashion throwaways. I use deadstock fabric and don’t plan on creating a new range every year. I want the styles to be trans-seasonal and versatile. 

Prior to the first lockdown, I’d teamed up with a charity based factory in London and was due to start sampling in March, but due to the lockdown they had to close. It was a huge mix of emotions. I knew straight away that I needed to come up with a different solution as it had been in the pipeline for so long and my products were aimed at summer. Not launching was never really an option. 

I found a freelance pattern cutter who helped me develop the styles and an amazing seamstress in London who created some samples for me. It actually went quite smoothly from there. 

I guess there have been some positives to launching it the way I had to. I’d actually planned to launch with just one style but because I had more time on my hands, I was able to create a collection of styles. Also, working with the seamstress meant my business model pivoted to a made to order basis which is much more sustainable. 

If I’d had a crystal ball and could have seen that the UK would be basically locked down for a year, I think that would have terrified me and could well have made me not persist with it, but I feel like a different person having done this. I’ve learned so much and it’s been so rewarding.

Obviously, in my head I’d planned some glitzy launch party but none of that could happen. It was still exciting to launch though, I sold my first piece within two minutes of the website going live. Of course, there were times when I was disheartened and I questioned whether it would work or if the timing was right but I’m really glad I stuck with it.