B MEETS OFKT
Meet Ashley, the founder of sustainable, ethical, recycled, expertly crafted shoe brand OFKT. The brand name stands for off cuts, as in off cuts of perfectly good wastage leather – why waste, when you can make gorgeous shoes? Ashley is based in Yorkshire where all her shoes are made locally. Doesn’t this just give you a lovely vision of lush fields with sheep roaming around, long walks and cosy pubs, sigh. Moving on!
Ashley started her brand after feeling completely disillusioned with fast fashion, and really aren’t we all? Don’t get me wrong I love clothes, I love fashion and I love stuff, but I also want to buy better, I want to shop small, support independents, find something different and know more about what I’m buying! Of course, mix it up, everyone does a bit of high, middle, low or A, B, C and we’re the B (wink).
WORK, WORK, WORK
I’ve been working in the shoe industry for the last 8 years, for high-street retailers and suppliers. I’m originally from South East London, studied Product Design at Cordwainers London College of Fashion and worked in London, New York, Manchester and Leeds where I’ve now settled.
FEELING DISILLUSIONED WITH FAST FASHION? READ ON
I started OFKT in late 2015. The idea came from basically being disillusioned with fast fashion and wanting to start a brand that truly cares - about its workers, the environment, the quality of the product and the craft of shoemaking! There’s some 23.22 million tons of leather (whaaat!!) which ends up in a landfill each year. OFKT try to play a part in reducing that waste. I get leather offcuts from a supplier in Keighley, Yorkshire. The dust bag, the ribbon, the info card, and the shoebox are all made from recycled materials. I get these from SCRAP based in Farsley, Leeds. One of the most inspiring places to go. They have a shop open to the public where you can buy all these wastage materials, and they also offer creative workshops and training. B - This sounds amazing like a sustainable crafty flea market!
ON HER BRAND - MADE IN YORKSHIRE (not Cheshire – if anyone shamefully watched that show you’ll get it)
Our shoes are made in a family run shoe factory in Yorkshire. We always use offcuts of wastage leather pieces, meaning each production is a limited run. The idea is there will always be black and then an alternative colourway. Once an offcut is used up, then it’s gone - truly limited edition! Although we use wastage, it is never for free and is still premium leather. Even the dust bag and the shoebox (or shoe tube!) are handmade, and we always encourage our customers to reuse their shoebox! B - Love this! Local craftmanship, handmaking and sustainable materials all add greatly to production costs but create a very well made and beautiful shoe. This is one that will last you ladies, think investment, cost per wear over a few years? Pah nothing!
SLOW DOWN and BUY BETTER
OFKT is transeasonal, and doesn't really follow trends. There’s a real anti-fast-fashion movement happening right now and shopping routines are changing. There’s a real shift in people making more thoughtful buying choices with a want for slow fashion, upcycling, vintage and made in England – it's great to be a part of that movement. B - We’ve definitely picked up on this change and one of the reasons I created Studio B, I wanted to tell people more about what they are buying. I’m not saying all our brands are centred around sustainability but we have a mix and all use sound production. Read each brand story to know more!
Being a small business, it is difficult to fund the marketing side, but I hope with time this will develop as OFKT grows. The best bit is having the love and support from so many OFKT fans. Social Media has been a great platform for us to build a fan base. I’ve had bloggers like En Brogue and Leotie Lovely who have written beautiful posts about us. Eco-Age, founded by Livia Firth, have also shown their support by featuring me on their Eco-Loves Instagram stories.
ADVICE FOR DOING IT – BE PREPARED!
Be prepared it's not easy. Have some finances behind you as it is an expensive process before you even launch selling! Make sure you really love what you do, and believe in the product. I would recommend reading David Hieatt: Do Purpose Why Brand With Purpose Do Better and Matter More.