The ethical womenswear label using fashion as a force for good
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A luxury womenswear brand with social justice at its heart, Beulah London was born out of an experience Natasha Rufus-Isaacs and Lavinia Brennan had six years ago, while working in the slums of Delhi.
‘Witnessing the horrors of human trafficking first hand motivated us to make a difference to the lives of these women and raise awareness of the effects of slavery,’ says Natasha, who, together with Lavinia, spent her afternoons teaching the women sewing and English.
‘We thought slavery was abolished in the 18th century but, nowadays, it’s more prevalent than ever.’
Having realised the power of employment to transform lives, the pair decided to launch an ethical fashion label, both to provide an alternative, sustainable livelihood to those who have come out of sex trafficking and also to educate others in society of their plight. ‘We saw more and more women escaping shelter and needlessly returning to the streets, lured solely by the promise of money.’ Beulah’s mission is to become a global lifestyle brand that dresses women for every occasion and also has a long-term positive impact on society.
Even before the first standalone shop opened last year, Beulah had received two commendations from the United Nations (in 2010 and again in 2013), won themselves several high profile ambassadors, including the Duchess of Cambridge, Livia Firth and Donna Air, and fans such as Darcey Bussell, Jessica Alba and Tess Daly. They set up The Beulah Trust, a charitable foundation that sits alongside the commercial operation and gives grants to women for skills courses, so that victims of trafficking have the chance to work, generate an income and to live self-sufficiently.
Initially they worked on the label from Lavinia’s mother’s house, designing a collection of cocktail dresses and evening wear but, since then, they have branched out to encompass effortless, feminine ready-to-wear for the day, bespoke, bridal and accessories (satin headbands, wool scarves, heart-print clutches); in other words, an outfit for every elegant occasion. Beulah’s trademark canvas bags are made in Kolkata, organised by Freeset, a charity that gives employment to women trapped in the city’s sex trade. Their ready-to-wear dresses are made in London and a proportion of the silks have been block-printed by hand by a charity called Women’s Interlink Foundation, in Kolkata, in association with Key To Freedom.
The pair describe the Beulah woman as an ageless beauty, an informed influencer with strong morals who has a fast-paced lifestyle and needs a transeasonal wardrobe. She is sophisticated with a touch of romanticism but, above all, she wants to help empower women and make a difference in the world.
Not content with the difference they’re making, they want to inspire other companies to also become a voice for social change, develop better business practices, and work with purpose to be a force for good. ‘I am inspired everyday by the stories of the women I have met and it keeps me going when I’m having a challenging time,’ says Natasha of the feel-good factor that comes with running a brand this way.
Far more than just another fashion label, at Beulah there is a social awareness behind every pretty pussy-bow blouse or A-line dress. ‘I believe Beulah is uniquely positioned as an attainable lifestyle brand with a social conscience,’ concludes Natasha. ‘The clothes are glamorous and easy to wear, made in the most beautiful silks but knowing that there is a story behind the process makes me proud to wear it. That’s what sets us apart from other brands.’
BEULAH LONDON 145 EBURY STREET, LONDON SW1W 9QN +44 (0)20 7730 0775
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