Andrea Talarico meets the owners of local fashion brand, Valour & Valkyrie.
Brixton based fashion business Valour & Valkyrie lies at an intersection of stories: the romance of its creators, the myths that inspire their collections and the tales of community participation. All this helped David and Jo Morton bring their ideas to life. The result is seven unique collections that have led them to comparisons with Vivienne Westwood.
The love bit…
David and Jo Morton married around twelve years ago and moved to Brixton, where they are raising two sons. Jo told me she has been working in fashion since graduation. Encouraged by David, she soon decided to take the leap into launching her own brand.
David starts telling me that he has no background in fashion and Jo humorously interjects: “But you’re very clear on what you like” she says. She should know. They’ve been working together all that time. David takes care of the marketing and business, leaving Jo free to focus on the creative aspect.
Weaving some ancestry, bravery, and mythology into the design
Jo begins to explain the name. “My ancestry can be traced to Scandinavia,” she says. “I used to read as much as I could about legends and folklore so the Valkyrie comes from there. She was a figure that accompanied brave soldiers’ souls after they died in the battlefield.”
The Valour, she went on to explain, comes from the bravery necessary to start your own collection and do something that probably every fashion designer dreams of.
The legends that Jo read as a child are also reflected in the design process. Each collection begins with a mood board.
“The mood board is always geared around a fairy tale or folklore or some kind of story,” says Jo. She points at some of her work. “This is called the Midas collection, which relates to the story of King Midas. It started with the idea that everything we touch turns to gold. So everything has something glittery. That’s how I started building it.”
From the mood board, Jo begins designing individual pieces. She then sends her specifications to the manufacturer who sends her some fabric samples.
“I design quite quickly, but it’s the fabrics that bring it all to life”. Once the fabric is selected, the manufacturer makes samples that Jo then fits on her model. Photographs are taken, and Jo sends her comments to the manufacturer.
She must then decide which designs will make it into production. David’s objectivity helps when it comes to choosing the designs. “He can be a bit more matter of fact,” she says.
“I try not to inhibit the creative process at all,” adds David. ”But for some things I need to say ‘That doesn’t make sense’. We’re still building the brand so we need to think about cost effectiveness.”
The finished garments are distributed in boutiques across the U.K. and Ireland, as well as through House of Fraser.
A Brixton Story
Despite the Scandinavian name, the company’s roots are firmly planted in Brixton. Currently producing its seventh collection (Spring 2014) the couple are keen to tell of the role that family and friends have played in their success. With the exception of a sister living in Finland, the team is local.
“Years ago,” says David, “I thought ‘Let’s build something so we can employ our entire family’. That’s a bit far fetched. But it was a noble idea.”
They haven’t done badly though. The fit model (who is also a model in the catalogue) is a local mother who Jo met through the school run. One of Jo’s sisters does the photography, while the other has done their public relations work. And the website was created by Jo’s brother-in-law, the makeup for the photo shoots by a friend.
“It’s nice,” says David, “because when I take the kids in to school in the morning, I see some moms wearing our range.”
When their sons’ school organised a “swish night”, where people were invited to bring in clothes to swap, Jo was invited to set up a stall to sell her collection. The experience proved extremely successful and she was encouraged to have another sale four weeks later, with a portion of proceeds going to the school.
From there, another mum invited her over for a gathering where Jo tells me she struggled to keep a tally of all the purchases.
“You feel good because people are wearing our brand, it’s a local band, and something is going back into the school.”