Becky Okell, co-founder of Paynter Jackets graduated from BSc (Hons) Fashion Management in 2016 and won the Alumni Entrepreneur Award at the 2019 Creative Awards. With her partner in life and business Huw Thomas, they not only launched a new brand but aim to change the way people buy clothing. Producing only 300 products for each collection, sustainability and transparency are at the heart of their project. Becky and Huw only use trusted and traceable sourcing and encourage customers to inform themselves on their website about the whole process from production to marketing behind these unique jackets. As they work on their new collection, Becky took some of her spare time to answer our questions.
Congratulations on winning the Alumni Entrepreneur Award! You created Paynter, can you tell us more about the project?
Paynter is a brand dedicated to jackets. We only make limited-edition jackets: 3 styles a year, in batches of 300 jackets at a time. Every jacket is hand-numbered and has a limited edition illustration on the inside, by artists we find and work with to create a bespoke little artwork inside every jacket. We want people to rethink traditional buying and so we are transparent from supply chain to marketing.
How is it to be at the head of your own project? What is your favourite part of the job?
I run Paynter with Huw Thomas, my partner in life, love and business (cringe but true). It’s amazing to be the only ones who can make decisions, and it’s so good to have someone to bounce ideas off, and design both the business and jackets with. Huw is a product geek and thinks our products through and through. We both love factories and sourcing and enjoy a passion for marketing. I’m responsible for the social aspect and constantly in touch with the customers.
Sustainability is at the heart of Paynter, it’s a pressing issue in the fashion industry and LCF. What are your thoughts on sustainability in the fashion industry?
It’s a really exciting time for sustainability at the moment. It’s a buzzword which is both a good and bad thing. Everyone is calling themselves sustainable in some way, but often by the very nature of making things and selling, you’ll never be 100% sustainable.
I think the golden opportunity is the new wave of brands who are interesting and aspirational and are sustainable from design to sourcing and making, but not just as a selling point. That’s an aim of ours at Paynter. Our first jacket launched in May 2019 and sold out of 300 pieces in 14 minutes. We're working on the next jacket at the moment, and will be launching in October 2019! With Paynter, we’d like to have an impact that goes beyond the number of jackets we sell. If we’ve made people re-think the way they buy, and who from, that’s a great thing, whether they buy from us or not. We make to order, so there's no waste.
What have you learned the most during your time at LCF?
I actually first started at CSM, which was a childhood dream of mine. Over the summer between foundation and the BA, I had two jobs, first-hand embroidery at Mary Katrantzou and press assistant at the British Fashion Council. There, not only have I learnt an incredible amount, but I also noticed most colleagues studied the BSc (Hons) Fashion Management at LCF, so I decided to transfer. At LCF, I worked really hard, enjoying the variation from sourcing to accounting, to materials… I had spare time and realised that almost every brand I could think of was just a few miles away, so I sent a lot of applications, turned up on their doorsteps and got a lot of internships, and eventually jobs.
What advice would you give new students?
Throw yourself in. Be hungry - the more curious you are about your niche area within the industry, the better you’ll get. If you’re obsessed with denim - specialise in denim. If you’re really into model welfare, there’s room for you. The people I meet who impress me the most, are often the ones who’ve taken a slightly unusual path, taking that odd-job rather than the corporate safe one.
There doesn’t have to be a ‘why’ for everything, you’ll work out why later. Enjoy yourself. You’re lucky to be studying at one of the world’s best colleges, enjoy it.
Any exciting upcoming plans/news you can share with us?
At the moment Huw and I are working on Batch No.2 & 3 for Paynter. Batch No.2 has been about 12 months in the making so far, we started out by trying to source a very particular French moleskin fabric and found it incredibly difficult to find a mill still making in France (most fabrics are finished in France, but the origin is difficult to trace). We’ve now found the fabric we were looking for, and we’ve been sampling our next jackets for a little while. They’re looking gorgeous and we can’t wait to launch in October.
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