We are thrilled to be featuring the incredible designer Minna Hepburn in our Ethical Wedding section.
Minna’s vintage-inspired designs are beautiful, unique and luxurious. What’s more they are eco-friendly and ethically hand-made by Minna’s dedicated team who are passionately driven by sustainability.
Minna took time out of her hectic schedule to talk to us about how it all started and to tell us more about her wonderful designs…
Minna, we’re delighted to feature you and your beautiful dresses on Not To Die For. Could you tell us how and when Minna all started out?
Prior to Minna, I had a label called SE1 London that I used to stock in my little shop at London Borough Market and Kingly Court.
I also had a concession with one of the biggest retailers at Oxford Circus. That was a real eye opener. The shelf life of fashion was so short. For a small brand like me it was impossible to turn new designs around every few weeks and then trying to figure out what to do with the clothes that were not moving fast enough.
70% of our stock got damaged either on the shop floor or were bought, worn and then returned. It broke my heart and after doing it for 6 months I decided that I did not want to be part of that.
For me, growing up in Finland, I was brought up to look after my clothing, mending them and buying things only when needed, not just when you had a bad day at work.
When I got pregnant, I closed the business, we moved to Dorset and I took some time off to think about my next move.
I have always loved vintage and after finding beautiful vintage textiles at the local markets, the idea for Minna was born. I wanted to make garments that had a story to tell, had that one-of-a-kind feel and would be passed on. I also wanted to manufacture in the UK, as opposed to Vietnam where I used to produce my previous label.
It all started very small to begin with. I only made tops, that I sold to a few prestigious shops in Bath. After we moved back to London, I felt ready to start pushing the brand out to bigger shops.
Exhibiting at London Fashion Week as part of Estethica in 2008 gave me the confidence and I found like-minded brands that became my support network. It was an amazing and supportive network and I would not be here without Orsola De Castro.
Could you tell us a little more about your unique and ethical design? How do you balance the ethical aspect with creating such beautiful dresses?
My main focus is to manufacture in the UK. All our dresses are currently handmade in our London studio. It’s an amazing process as my team are so passionate about sustainability.
We source our fabrics around the world but we are still mostly inspired by the stunning lace madras fabric that comes from Scotland. This was my inspiration when I started my brand and they have been so incredibly supportive since the beginning. We also use organic cotton, vintage textiles whenever we can and ‘peace’ silk.
We also recycle all our off-cuts so nothing gets wasted. Our accessories collection is entirely made from recycled fabrics.
Because I have worked like this since the beginning I have never known any other way. For me, being green and sustainable is a way of life. Obviously growing a company and staying true to your beliefs is sometimes tricky but I am not willing to negotiate it.
Why are environmental issues so important to you as a designer?
I think it all comes down to my childhood, growing up in Finland. Nature has always been an incredibly important part of my life. I think Scandinavians in general are so good at it. Recycling, looking after their nature, they have that minimalist approach to life rather than creating waste and buying things in excess.
What do you do to minimalize your impact on the environment?
We operate as a made to order business. We do not hold any stock, hence we are not creating any excess waste. We recycle all our off-cuts and use them for our accessory collection.
Operating as a zero waste business is hard work but we are working towards being more efficient in recycling our textiles. Our plan is to contact local schools and day care centres to donate our surplus fabrics.
Our beautiful off-cuts are also perfect for people doing craft work, embellishments and customising projects. We are also looking to start hosting workshops how to use recycled fabrics to make bridal accessories.
Why do you think it’s so important for Bride’s to consider choosing an ethically designed dress?
I would say that all our Brides love to know who made their dress and that no one was exploited in this process.
Recently a lot of the High Street retailers have launched their cut price bridal collections, but I still think brides are happy to pay a bit more and be able to meet the designer who is making their dress.
What are the key factors a Bride should consider when choosing her wedding dress?
The most important thing I always tell our Brides is that you need to be comfortable in your dress and feel that it complements your personality and body shape.
Do not just go for something that looked good in a magazine, go for something that makes you feel confident, beautiful and allows you to enjoy your big day.
Choosing a dress suitable for the venue is also important.
Which designers inspire you?
There are lot of amazing Spanish bridal brands that I love. I do not follow any particular designer as I tend to go for blogs to look for inspiration. My favourite ones are Love My Dress and Casilda se casa.
What process do you go through when designing a new collection?
I am quite boring when it comes to designing. I do not spend hours sketching as I am useless at drawing. I can draw a beautiful horse but not a dress! I leave the sketching to my talented team.
I would say we design year-round as the inspiration often comes when I am travelling, finding a gorgeous fabric or a vintage dress. It is an organic process.
Do you have a favourite all time design?
I love the Estelle dress as it is fresh, different, slightly daring and makes me feel amazing. I have it in black and I wear it to every single outing that requires dressing up!
When you’re not designing, what do you do in your spare time?
I love walking my dogs, ride my horse, study Naturopathy at the College of Naturopathic Medicine and hang out with my family and friends.