Farm women explain their passion for fashion

A new generation of female entrepreneurs are capitalising on the renewed interest in country style. Meet two farm girls carving out a career in clothes.

Name: Georgy Heneage
Age: 24
Location: London
Company: Head to Toe in Tweed

Where does your business run from?

My business started in a farm building in Lincolnshire, but I am now living and working in London.

What is your farming background?

I was brought up on the family 101ha mixed arable and sheep farm. Although my parents no longer farm on a large scale, my father is a commentator for county shows and my mother still has chickens, geese, piglets and cade lambs.

Summarise your brand in one sentence.

The best of British tweed with slick cuts and bold linings that burst with personality.

What inspired you to start the business?

At university, people couldn’t understand how riding and growing up on a farm could fit with fashion. This helped me to see a gap in the market for tweed which pushes the boundaries of fashion. I was drawn to tweed by its versatility and practicality and I wanted to revive it.

What is your best-selling item?

The best-selling menswear items are waistcoats. I make these in many styles with colourful backs, military buttons and personalised features. For ladies it’s fur and tweed headbands with jackets becoming increasingly popular this spring.

Who are your customers?

Country sportsmen and fashion followers alike. My target audience is in their 20s – they are people who wear tweed for functionality as well as for style.

What hurdles did you have to overcome in setting up your firm?

The biggest hurdle is the lack of financial backing. I would have loved to stay in Lincolnshire and work from my studio every day but it wasn’t financially viable so after being offered a job in London at the beginning of the year, I moved out of the countryside. It’s not a permanent fixture but it has helped me to afford the best fabrics and machines.

Did you seek business or financial help?

I’ve had a lot of advice from friends of my parents who have set up businesses or who are running flourishing farms. They have given me great advice on how to get my business seen and how to keep my books.

What was your single biggest breakthrough?

When my brother’s friend asked me to make eight waistcoats and bowties for his wedding. They will keep their wedding photographs forever so for him to want to wear my garments for such a momentous occasion was really special.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of running a business in a rural location?

A great advantage is the strong community – country people are amongst the friendliest and most welcoming you will find. The country is also the perfect place to lock yourself away and concentrate on a new business. The biggest difficulty is the distance I have to travel to find suitable suppliers. Traipsing up and down the country to find just the right fabric has been very time consuming.

Who are more stylish – country people or urban people?

Style isn’t about what you wear but is about how you wear it. Recently the boundaries are becoming blurred between city and country style. You see tweeds and wellies in the city, and designer dresses and the odd Louboutin popping up at a hunt ball. Style is immensely personal; it expresses more about the person than where they are from.

Where do you want your business to be in five years?

In five years I would like Head to Toe in Tweed to be a regular feature at county shows and fairs across the country. I would like my garments and accessories to be stocked in independent boutiques.

Name: Hannah Wright
Age: 25
Location: Gower, South Wales
Company: Hannah Wright Designer

Summarise your brand in one sentence.

Cherished, practical, timeless garments in small runs, to ensure individuality and superior quality. The “Duke and Daisy” babywear range is designed for the little farmer in your life<.

Where does the business run from?

We converted one of the outbuildings on the family farm into a workshop/studio space.

What is your farming background?

The farm where my business is based used to be a market gardening business. The farm is now a livestock farm breeding commercial cattle and sheep. My father’s father was a dairy farmer.

What inspired you to start the business?

I graduated with a fashion degree in 2009 and have always wanted my own business. After graduating I worked in the fashion industry in Wales for a few years to gain further experience. In 2011 my grandfather passed away, who I was very close to. He always used to tell me to follow my dreams and it was after he passed away that I felt I should start my own business.

Who are your customers?

Both the tweed and babywear range are aimed primarily at the rural community, however they don’t necessarily need to be farming people.

What are your bestsellers?

The best-selling tweed item has been the men’s ‘Harry’ gilet – a tweed and moleskin padded gilet with a checked cotton lining. The best-selling babywear item has been the bibs, especially the pink tractor design.

Farming-themed garments which are available on the high street are mainly aimed at boys, but farming families know that daughters can be as passionate about the industry as the sons.

What hurdles did you have to overcome?

I started the business from my dining room table, but once the business started to grow in demand – especially the babywear range – I knew I would need to find a bigger space. The current studio used to be a storage building for equipment on the farm and required a lot of work to turn it into a workable space.

Did you seek business or financial help?

I did try to get a grant to help set up the business but I was unable to find any funding in my area. Therefore the business has been built on my savings.

What was your single biggest breakthrough?

I committed myself to having a stand at last year’s Welsh Winter Fair. This was in my first year of trading and it was the biggest show I had done to date so I was very nervous. The show gave my products great exposure and it was a great success.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of running a business in a rural location?

Advantages – working in a beautiful rural landscape which helps inspire my work.

Disadvantages – having to travel long distances to reach my customer base.

What advice would you give someone setting up a rural company?

Make sure you have a strong social media base to market your business (website, Facebook page, Twitter).

Nearly everyone uses the internet to find information about products and services. I would also say the same thing my grandfather said to me: “If you are passionate about your idea and believe it will work, give it a go and don’t refuse the offers of help you may receive to help build your company.”

Who is more stylish – country people or urban people?

I will always think country people are more fashionable, as they tend to wear classic, staple clothes which are always in fashion. That said, I do feel inspiration is needed from the urban community to help keep country fashion styles modern.

Where do you want your business to be in five years?

I would like my business to have a strong range of garments which are well known for their ethos of being cherished, practical and timeless and which are still being produced in Wales.

I would also like to be in the position to offer work placements and possibly apprenticeships to individuals who wish to work in this industry.

More on this topic

Farmer’s daughter is international fashion hit

See more