Pause for Thought – In Conversation With Thought Founder Rachel Kelly

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We’re a big fan of UK-based sustainable clothing brand Thought and how they’re driving change within the fashion industry. That’s why we’re delighted to bring you behind the scenes of the brand as we chat with co-founder Rachel.
We look at what materials the brand uses, their challenges, and how they’ve remained true to their values over the years to become market leaders in sustainable fashion.

Hello! Who are you, what brand do you run, what kind of products do you create?

Thought founder Rachel Kelly

I’m Rachel, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Thought. I run the business with my husband and our small, family owned brand is looking to spread the joy of dressing more responsibly.

Our small, family owned brand is looking to spread the joy of dressing more responsibly.

We sell a wide range of sustainable clothing and accessories, from wardrobe basics and underwear, to party-dresses and nearly everything in-between.

What was the inspiration behind Thought? 

We love this business but we wanted to be able to operate in a different way. When we started 20 years ago, operating with a focus on sustainability or responsibility wasn’t such a desirable attribute for most businesses, and we’ve worked hard to turn that around.

Our inspiration is in the everyday aspects – our relationships with our team who are breathtakingly talented and committed, our manufacturing partners who we have deep and long lasting partnerships with and our customers – who at the end of the day are the reason we’re able to do what we love. We’re passionate about Thought and giving this brand every opportunity to exist in this competitive landscape.

Thought sustainable clothing

What were the main challenges and learnings you had when you first started? How do things compare today?

My husband John likes to remind me that business is problem solving, and that every day is an opportunity to be taught a new lesson.

We’re constantly navigating a hugely competitive landscape without the tools and advantages of our larger contemporaries so our challenges and learnings are never ending.

Our big and consistent messages are to keep close and true to your core values both as a brand and as a leader, be nimble and relentless in your pursuit of your goals.

Our big and consistent messages are to keep close and true to your core values both as a brand and as a leader, be nimble and relentless in your pursuit of your goals. John and I couldn’t run the business without each other, our abilities and personalities cross over and compliment and I’m grateful that we get to do this together. 

Thought’s clothing is vibrant and unique, can you tell us more about how and why you choose the fabrics you work with? 

We edit and review our fabrics through the lens of responsibility. Our fabrics need to match our criteria of natural first and if not natural then innovative and leading in responsible manufacturing. They need to be desirable for our customers and fit for purpose in a busy woman’s wardrobe.

In your eyes, what’s the biggest achievement or milestone so far?

Oh gosh! Have we got one?! Working with my husband while getting married, and raising 3 small children and looking to ensure Thought has a legacy and history beyond us is a huge achievement. Being excited about going to work every day is a huge privilege. 

How have you ensured Thought has stayed true to its mission as you’ve grown over the years?

There’s no choice, it’s our DNA and is never up for discussion or debate. Our whole team is committed to what we are trying to do – spreading the joy of dressing responsibly.

We filter every decision through this lens and over the years we’ve had to sacrifice development or growth to make sure we work within that framework. It’s our cause, it’s our passion and we love the challenge!

Do you have a favourite Thought piece you can’t live without?

Thought sustainable clothing

I rely heavily on our dresses every season, for their fit, their exuberance of colour and pattern and the way they brighten any day or occasion. From my underwear drawer to my coats to see me through Winter.

Thought is the cornerstone of my wardrobe – I’d have to say I can’t live without any of it!

 Thought is the cornerstone of my wardrobe – I’d have to say I can’t live without any of it!

What do you think are the main challenges around the sustainable fashion industry today? How do you approach these on a day-to-day basis?

We believe the main challenge is around defining what sustainability means – to a brand, to a customer, to the wider population. The generalisation of the term is becoming a problem and you need to have a tenacity in research to truly get to the core of the question.

We approach this by trying to be clear on what responsible production means for us – the pillars that anchor our decision making – choosing fabrics with a reduced impact, working with partners who manufacture responsibly, designing beautiful long lasting products and showing our customer how to wear, love, mend, and pass clothing on ( our circularity mission).

Have you seen a shift in consumers’ mindsets when it comes to the sustainable clothing industry in recent years?

Oh absolutely – we used to spend an enormous amount of time working against the negative preconceptions of sustainable fashion. Constantly communicating with our customers on our positive attributes outside of our sustainable messages – our high quality, beautiful designs, accessible price points. The shift in consumer sentiment has allowed our heritage in the sustainable space to shine through so that we can stand proudly as a market leader.

Do you have any advice for people looking to be more sustainable in their consumption habits and lifestyle?

Don’t let the big, difficult issue of our environmental future get in the way of the small, every day decisions you can make to instigate change. Act small and you can make an impact.

Don’t let the big, difficult issue of our environmental future get in the way of the small, every day decisions you can make to instigate change. Act small and you can make an impact.

Change your body wash to a soap bar, update the washing detergent that you use, have a meat free day or two – these everyday changes can have a huge impact and you should feel empowered to make them in your day to day life.

Have you tried a product from another brand that you think our audience should know about?

I am the biggest fan and walking advert for Nuud, the responsibly produced, natural deodorant brand. Both John and I use this product religiously, and while we were sceptics at the start of our adoption we can say without hesitation that this product works and makes a difference.

What does the future look like for Thought?

We’re working really hard to navigate the most complex and treacherous time in our industry – we want to make sure that Thought is here to stay for the long road. Post Brexit, Covid, Inflation, Cost of living crisis and huge amounts of uncertainty mean we are wanting to remain focused, smart and nimble as we try and spread our message. Supporting small businesses during this time can make all the difference.

Thought Essentials collection

Wrapping Up: Thought Interview

We hope you enjoyed the article, and we want to thank Rachel for taking the time to chat with us about Thought.

Make sure you check out their new season collection and everyday essentials range; they’re the perfect sustainable wardrobe staple made from natural and organic materials.

Join us in our Q&A series as we go behind the scenes of our favorite sustainable brands, including VotchKitty & VibeNeem, and more.

Bethany
Bethany

Bethany Worthington BSc (Hons) (she/her) is the Sustainable Fashion Editor and Co-founder of Ecothes. She has a passion for the environment, and a long love of all things clothing, and combines those two interests with Ecothes. In her free time she loves dancing, hiking in the countryside, and laughing with friends.

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