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Meet the Makers, Bryony of Palava

Hi! and Welcome, You are here as a maker and we love makers of beautiful things.

Q: Tell us a little bit about who you are.

A: Hi, I’m Bryony, and I am the Founder of Palava. I design all my own prints and then we put them onto dresses. I started with Childrenswear and Palava has grown up with me to now be more Womenswear than kids clothing.

Q: What did you want to be when you were younger?

A: It’s a good question, I suppose as a child I was a bit of a dreamer… I fantasised about being a writer. I liked the romantic idea of thinking up plots and stories. I’ve always known I would end up doing something practical, I was always making models, dens and loved watching ‘Blue Peter’ for inspiration! 

Q: What inspired you to get into the business you are now?

A: I feel like I’ve been doing this forever now but… You could say it is in my genes, I suppose. I was working for Cath Kidston, travelling around London, working in all their different shops, when I thought there seemed to be a growing appreciation for prints. My parents have a children’s clothing company that had long since been mothballed, but all the paper patterns for the garments were there, and the fabrics … so I thought: This is my opportunity to grow something. Cath Kidston had a great business idea and seemed to be making anything they could from a handful of fabrics, it seemed very clever and it was inspiring over a decade ago. 

Q: What’s your elevator pitch?

A: I’m not really sure on this one, but recently we got an email from a customer thanking us for making clothes that made her feel happy, and made those who saw the dress happy. I thought that is what it is all about, that is why I do this.

I do think colourful clothes spark joy, conversation and people who wear our dresses get something back from that. So I guess for me, it’s not just clothing, it’s more than that, it’s making people feel at home and happy no matter age or size.

Q: How has the journey been – What would you change?

A: If I had known how hard it was going to be I certainly wouldn’t have done it! I did a huge amount of learning. I was very naive and knew nothing about anything when I started, so I think the first 7 years were very difficult, and I seemed to be endlessly borrowing more money than I put in. Digital printing is relatively new and has revolutionised –  not having to print 1000’s of meters of cloth at a time. But that’s the way it was. 

I don’t think I would change anything big, I think every mistake you make, you learn something from however painful, and the more you understand your work, the more it changes with you and you with it. I think you develop together.

Q: What food sparks joy in your life?

A: Ha! I love food, so it’s hard to say but… I love being able to try and taste new dishes, new flavours. I love colour, so that matters to me probably. I just feel so lucky to have tasted so many things.

I think travelling brings back some of the most memorable food for me: The street food in Vietnam was incredible, it was all just so fresh and simple. I brought back many experimental dishes that I still cook even now 10 years later. 

I also have been lucky enough to go to Japan and love the food there. When you can’t speak any Japanese, and you think a dish will look like one thing and turns out to be something completely different, it really plays with your mind. For example, we were in a Japanese department store with a client of mine, and they asked if I would like to try some sweets. These little white balls looked like Panna Cotta with caramel sauce, but when I came to take a bite, they were soya beans with soya sauce! They thought that was a sweet treat, my mind was totally confused.

Although I’m not vegan (I’d find it hard to give up cheese and milk in my tea), I cook mainly vegetarian food and love simple, nutritious flavours, especially in the summer.

Q: What do you wish someone would have told you before you started?

A: Probably not to do it! But then I doubt I would have listened and I am so proud of myself for sticking with it and not giving up. So on a more positive note… There is always a way through, there is always an answer to the problem, if you look hard enough.

Q: What would you tell someone who is trying to make it in the fashion sector?

A: The same, I’d be careful about encouraging them, but I think I’d say try not to do too much, become a master at what you do, care about the process that is involved, and make sure you know who made it and how, spend time finding the right people to work with, and help each other to succeed, it’s always a two-way relationship. 

Q: What failure are you glad you experienced?

A: The biggest one for me was receiving a letter from a lawyer, demanding we changed our company name and every item we had with the name on it to a new name – all within a space of two weeks! It is the nastiest thing that has happened to me in the whole time I have been in business. It’s a long story, but for copyright reasons we had to change the name not only once, but twice. It was an awful time, and I struggled to see anything positive. I felt I was going to lose the business and all that hard work that had gone into it. In the end, we came through it and named the company “Palava” as it had been a right palava! 

But I felt like the name actually helped give us an identity and made me stronger in the long run. So as a piece of advice for the question above… make sure you have your company name copyrighted! After that, I thought, If I can survive that, I can survive anything! 

Q: What’s next (new) for you? 

A: Sooooo much, so many exciting plans I am fidgeting on my chair. 

But one step at a time… It’s all top secret until we actually manage it.

I will say though, I love making my creations locally, and so my plans involve finding and working with people as close to home as possible. We have so many fascinating and talented companies here in the UK, I feel it’s our oyster.

  To get yourself your own Palava visit www.palava.co

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