“I absolutely adore our building! We love it here – it really suits our brand.” Brixton local and founder of ethical fashion brand Lowie, Bronwyn Lowenthal, enthuses with an infectious smile.
Vintage-inspired fashion brand Lowie has been located in Brixton since its inception 12 years ago. The last few years, its HQ has been located on the 5th floor of the Piano House. Which, pending planning permission, may be converted into flats. Another concession to Brixton’s continuing gentrification.
“I am probably to blame for Brixton’s gentrification by opening our nice shop in Herne Hill, which is a bit more expensive ….. “ Bronwyn tails off, continuing with a smile: “But, I am very happy about the gentrification – it helps my shop and we would never leave Brixton.”
Since moving from Australia to London in 1999, she has seen many changes in her beloved Brixton. “When you have a really cool place like Brixton this is what happens”, she says with a shrug. “I can finally get my friends from other parts of London to come and visit me!” She continues: “But Brixton wouldn’t hold the same appeal without all the old communities and green spaces.”
Lowie HQ is a haven for anyone interested in fashion. Everywhere you look there are pictures, sketches and actual vintage clothing for used for design inspiration. Under a desk sleeps a small, fluffy snowball of a dog, Milo, which belongs to Bronwyn. Beautiful Lowie clothing fill rails standing pride of place in the centre of the room, colourful knitted garments peak out of large cardboard boxes stacked around the room.
This colourful knit work was the inspiration behind Lowie, tells Bronwyn: “I just love the colours, the concept and the chunkiness of Turkish hand knitting. I brought some hand knitted socks from Turkey for some of my friends and one of them didn’t take them off for ten days!” Beautiful Turkish, hand -knitted socks in strong colours still form part of Lowie’s winter collection, along with “lots and lots of bobble hats and Nordic inspired jumpers.”
But, it was never possible for Lowie to be based solely on knitwear due to its obvious seasonal limitations. She nods. “The problem with knitwear is that you don’t have much to sell in the summer, apart from light-weight cashmere cardigans, Pashminas and knitted dresses. We needed something else; I had always loved vintage dresses so decided to do something based on that. “Most of Lowie’s clothing is based on 1940s and 50s fashion. Bronwyn’s favourite fashion era. “We take inspiration from vintage clothing, such as a little pocket here or sleeves there; we don’t copy the style completely. Everything was so beautifully made in the 40s, with feminine shapes“, she says dreamily.
Lowie is very clear about its appeal. “We don’t try to be everything to everyone so we try to stick to our vintage heritage. We are not 100% ethical because that is difficult, the designs come first.” The actual garment manufacturing takes place in “a little seaside village in China because nobody really manufactures clothing in the UK anymore.” A testament to the widespread appeal of vintage inspired fashion, Lowie has a number of high profile fans. “We’ve had Royals such as Zara Philips and Beatrice wearing our stuff, Fearne Cotton, Pixie Lott, models Eirin O’Connor and Lily Cole, chef Rachel Khoo,“ Bronwyn proudly lists. “We sent Fearne and Pixie some stuff to wear, but all the others bought it straight from stockists who then called us saying things like ‘Lily Cole just bought your hat.’” The brand has even made its Hollywood debut: one of its dresses featured in the zombie TV-series ‘The Walking Dead’, no doubt helping further broaden its appeal and customer base.
Unusually for today’s penchant for fast fashion, Lowie offers free repairs of its clothing at its Brixton office. “We are an ethical brand so we want people to wear their clothes for a long time. Clothes can last a lifetime if you look after them”, Bronwyn explains.”
One of Lowie’s main challenges is “trying to get people to understand why our clothes are priced the way they are” says Bronwyn. “We are ethical and we never make more than 20 items of anything. Sometimes we might just make 12 pieces because we want to keep the exclusivity. It’s like a piece of art.”
In the midst of studying for an MBA, one would assume Bronwyn already has enough on her plate, but she is planning a second standalone store as well as other brand collaborations. “We would like to work with larger stores to create bigger collections like we already do with Antrolopogie.”
But whatever happens, she won’t leave Brixton: “Every time I go anywhere else in London, it’s just so lovely to come back to here. It’s just such a great space!”