Every week, we shine a spotlight on the best small brands we think are worth shouting about. We love our great British high street, but there are so many fantastic independent brands out there making clothes, accessories, homeware and more from a place of passion and love and we need to support them – now more than ever.
From fashion and beauty to homeware, accessories and food, we bring you the best small businesses you need on your radar. This week we chat with Louise Jackson, co-founder of London-based brand The Jacksons.
How did The Jacksons come about?
I started years ago making floral flip flops with my sister, hence the name The Jacksons. My dad brought back little gifts from countries he had visited and I always loved the artisan aspect. I had started to make dog collars with a group of Masaii women in Kenya but the lightning moment was when my friend Gretchen Andersen (who has a beautiful antique shop, The Lacquer Chest), called me to say she had a friend just returned form Bangladesh who had some bags to show me. Two years later I thought it might be a good idea to visit the group making them and that was it – love at first sight.
I have always been horrified by the waste and environmental impact of clothing on the planet, but jute is a plant that absorbs more CO2 than trees, so I’d say that sustainability is at the core of The Jacksons.
What three words describe The Jacksons?
Vibrant, community, eco-aware.
Who is The Jacksons customer?
Anyone who loves colour and humour. We have a very loyal clientele at our shop in All Saints Road [in Notting Hill, London] who have supported us over the years as well as a growing online community. It’s always a lovely surprise when they drop by.
Where do you find inspiration and tell us about your design process?
I love car boot sales, I don’t always find things but it always triggers something. We try to have regular design meetings where we discuss words, ideas and different fonts. We then draw up all the words on to card and ordinarily I would take them with me to Bangladesh. Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to do this so I do a lot of FaceTime every morning.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I cycle to work and start talking to colleagues in Bangladesh. These conversations continue until about midday but I’m able to make some of them on the move. Yesterday I was out on a buying trip all day and the week before we were shooting our look-book for the bags and place mats. Today I dealt with a flood in the basement. The office and shop are together so I can never resist chatting to a customer in the shop. If I’m at work during the day, I often have lunch at The Tin Shed down the road – so basically I talk all day a lot!
What’s the best and worst thing about running your own business?
The best thing is the many people I work with – I have a fantastic and funny team in London and I am immensely privileged to work with a huge and diverse group of women and men in Bangladesh – Brexit was a definite low but we now have a company in the Netherlands so that’s sorted – I actually can’t think of any other ‘worsts’ at the moment, but that’s probably my selective memory.
The most memorable moment so far?
Apart from having my children, then the best thing so far is some of the daughters of the women that I work with in Bangladesh have gone to university. This would have been unheard of a generation ago. It’s maybe big-headed of me, but I do feel quite proud that I’ve helped to make that possible.
Which piece is your current favourite?
Our new collection is being sold now for Summer 2022 – there’s one bag that says ‘I should have been a cowboy’ – I love that, and an old favourite is the ‘kiss me quick’ bag.
Anything exciting planned for the rest of this year?
Yes, we’ve developed lots of new shapes and place mats and we’ve done a project with Jumpers 1234 for cashmere jumpers from Mongolia. I want to build a clean water plant in Bangladesh so that all dye water can be cleaned and put back into the water table.
We did a range of Christmas decorations last year featuring David Bowie and ABBA. This year, we have added the Bee Gees, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Jay-Z – they make us laugh.