Local designer Dionne Gooding, who is bringing style into the streets of Brixton and beyond, tells Simone Richardson about her fashion brand, getting through lockdown and why Brixton has everything she needs for work and leisure
“Think Big and support each other” is Dionne Gooding’s advice to women who would like to follow in her fashion footsteps.
Her own journey to success, which included a “Project Earth” collection for Selfridges last year, has not been a walk in the park.
She was almost ready to quit fashion when Selfridges came calling.
Starting out in 2012 as a women’s footwear designer, she was hit, like so many others, by Covid and lockdowns. They forced the closure of the shoe factory in Italy she was using.
But, rather than give up, she switched to creating sustainable fashion. Last year alone, she says, UK landfills were filled with £12.5 billion worth of clothing after the holiday period.
Her own clothing brand – Dionne Gooding – sees her design and make “hand-crafted apparel using pre-loved clothes and scrap African fabrics”.
She has also moved into making masks.
The change of direction in her work coincided not only with lockdowns but also the birth of a son.
“During Lockdown I challenged myself to creativity months on social media,” Dionne says.
“I got on to my sewing machine and make accessories, masks and clothing. This was fun as I was able to explore, and my followers would let me know what they thought of my designs.
“It was during lockdown that I changed my business from footwear to clothing.
“I was pregnant during the first lockdown, so I spent most of it sewing, walking and eating.”
Her daily routine is just as busy now. “I wake up at 5am most days, so I can get a few hours work done before my baby Izaiah wakes up.
“Our days vary, so he is either at a childminder, with my mum, or with me.
“The days when he’s with me, we go swimming or to Clapham Common – this tires him out. When he sleeps, I’m able to get more work done and prepare food.
“Other days I’m able to go to the gym, complete orders throughout the day, post orders, and purchase sewing equipment when necessary.”
As well as her social media followers, Dionne also gets and offers support through REALWORK, an online group for women in business.
“We network, promote our businesses, set goals, give each other advice and get access to courses.”
Members also share tips on juggling parenting and business.
“Think Big” and “Don’t do everything yourself” are two of Dionne’s tips.
She explains her concept of sustainable fashion and how to extend the lifecycle of clothes, saying: “Just because your jeans no longer fit, it doesn’t mean it’s over.
“They can be transformed into a totally different garment … or even add panels so they can still be worn as jeans.”
Dionne is keen to educate people about her ideas – “Making women aware that preloved treasures can have a new lease of life.
“Get people to think about where all those clothes in the charity shops end up if they are not sold.”
She also plans to organise workshops to teach women and families how to extend the lifecycle of their clothes. You can register your interest online.
“My proposal is to use more organic materials and continue to use pre-loved clothes to create designs.
“I am currently experimenting with more ways I can make use of tiny fabric off-cuts.”
Dionne’s own favourite fashion era is the 60s. “I love the bold colours, the colour blocking and appliqué techniques used.
“I am also a huge fan of African fabrics, most of my designs feature wax print fabric.”
Dionne has lived in Brixton since 2009.
“I enjoy living and working here as everything I need is on my doorstep,” she says.
“Simply Fabrics for all my sewing supplies, hair shops, Superdrug for eyebrow threading, the Underground if I need to get to Oxford Street, and all the delicious restaurants.
“I love the food in Brixton! My favourite places are Bushman’s Kitchen for jerk chicken roti, Healthy Eaters for all Caribbean food, Eat of Eden for vegan meals and Satay Bar for cocktails!
“I also love the Ritzy cinema and the cute messages they put on their noticeboard. They always put a smile on my face.
“I used to enjoy going to the Lambeth Country Show. I plan to go to City Splash in Brockwell Park this year, the line-up looks really good!”