East London based eco-chic clothing brand Arkitaip combines timeless design and skilled craftsmanship with a strong environmental and ethical compass. We talk to Lea, one half of the dynamic mother-daughter duo, behind it
Tell us about your brand
We are a family-run company located on London Fields that make ethically-and-environmentally-responsible linen garments. Our pieces are timeless, made to last, and thoughtfully put together by hand. The hope is that they’ll one day be passed from generation to generation.
Where did the idea for Arkitaip come from?
My Mami (Austrian for mum) has always had a passion for creating things with her bare hands, from making her own bread to knitting the most amazing jumpers. It wasn’t until I found an image of my mum in her twenties wearing this beautiful crochet bikini that I tuned into her talent. I asked her to make me one and the result left me speechless. From then on I was convinced that her extraordinary talent needed to be shared.
What’s the significance of the name?
Our name Arkitaip is the phonetic spelling of “archetype” and reflects what we stand for. In the same way an archetype is something which other things are copied from, we aim to inspire those wearing Arkitaip to live a conscious life what will motivate others around them. As a business, we hope to set an example of how you can responsibly create high-quality pieces, which are as equally beautiful as they are ecologically-friendly.
Were you both always interested in fashion?
I grew up in a family of very well-dressed women and men. From my grandmother, with her beautiful jewellery – found in flea markets or antique shops – that she pairs with her traditional Austrian folklore dresses to my granddad, whose linen shirts I love to ‘borrow’ their outfits were always intrinsically linked to and reflected their identity. So for me, the focus was never on following fashion trends, but more about ‘how can I convey a part of myself to the outside world by wearing something unique’. I think I can say the same for my mum. As a flight attendant, she was always bringing back the most amazing treasures from her travels.
Each piece she wears tells a different story.
How do you find the mother-daughter dynamic?
I’m based in London and my mum is still living in my hometown Vienna, however we do have regular calls where we update each other on our progress. We also see each other roughly twice a month. We definitely have our ups and downs like you have in every relationship – whether professional or not – however, I feel like the experience of working together has brought us even closer.
What benefits have you found running a multi-generation company?
One of the biggest benefits is definitely the level of trust. It’s amazing to know that I can always rely on my mum and she knows that she can always count on me, no matter what. Just knowing each other inside out allows us to focus on the things we do well, along with supporting each other.
Was the ethical and environmentally-friendly dimension always important?
The thing my mum has always taught me is this: we should never lose our strong bond with nature and the beings that surround us. So once I convinced her to embark on this exciting journey with me, it was a given that we would work and produce in an ethically and environmentally responsible way.
What are the ethical and eco credentials of your line?
We use carefully-sourced European linen as our primary material, allowing us to keep our carbon footprint as small as possible. As one of the oldest textiles in the world, linen is known for its extremely environmentally friendly nature, with its cultivation needing little to no chemicals and pesticides. It’s also very durable and strong, which helps ensure we make garments to last. As well as being earth-friendly, it was important to us that our garments are ethically produced too. So we made sure to look for a production based in Europe, working under EU-regulations to ensure fair wages and working hours. We now work together with a very small sewing studio based in Porto, which only employs seven women and is run by a mother and daughter too. There we produce our woven range, and our crochet wear is made by my mum.
Have you seen any change in the industry?
Yes, I’m happy to see that people and brands are becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental effects the garment industry has on both the environment and the people involved in the production process. Nonetheless, it’s crucial that there is a radical and, most importantly, fast change in the way we consume and produce clothing. We need to move away from being a throwaway society and towards a way of thinking where each piece in our wardrobe is valued and treasured for years to come.
Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
Our first collection has been inspired by the pieces I found in my family’s wardrobe. Named after the women in my family, each piece aims to inspire people to dream big whilst also maintaining a strong bond to nature.
Has living in East London influenced the brand?
Although I’ve never actively thought about it, I’d say yes. It’s an East London’s dynamic, an uplifting, motivating and multi-cultural vibe which inspires me everyday to reflect more thoroughly on each decision I take with the business – both on smaller and bigger-picture scale.
What’s best about living in East London?
Definitely its versatility. I live in a little house tucked away from the hustle bustle, just next to London Fields with my three roomies. We have a little garden and it’s just amazing; I can open my windows at night and the only thing I hear is birds in the morning – no cars, just tranquility. At the same time, the city centre is super close.
Do you involve yourself in the fashion community of East London and how?
I love going to talks and events around East London, which are often more focussed on entrepreneurship, which I obviously find very useful! I’m also often exploring East London’s shops for inspiration.
Do you have any favourite shops in East London (both clothing and otherwise)?
I love Modern Society and all the vintage shops on Brick Lane (Rokit is my favourite). There is also an amazing antique shop, whose name I can’t recall, but it’s located on Brick Lane and if you look for it you won’t be able to miss it. You can find everything from your new favourite piece of jewellery and the coolest old-school, floral cup, to a vintage French Monopoly game.
Where do you like to hang out and work?
As I live next to London Fields, I love going for an early morning swim at the Lido or for a run in Victoria Park. Afterwards I get my daily caffeine hit at Climpson and Sons, before I make my way to work. I’m currently based at WeWork, a co-working space, which I love as it gets me out of my bubble and allows me to connect and exchange ideas with like-minded people. On weekends, I love strolling along Broadway Market before heading for a cheeky afternoon beer at Netil 360’s rooftop bar with some friends.