Fferal Ethical Clothing designer Helen Burgess has been on a mission to offer sustainably manufactured cotton loungewear since 2017. The brand had been ticking over slowly alongside her design consultancy business, but from April 2020, purchases of her super soft clothing range quickly rose, with a whopping 863% increase in sales over 12 months from May 2020 to May 2021.
“I’ve been delighted to see my loungewear offer comfort to people as they have lived, worked and schooled from home over the last year.” Says Helen. She puts the loungewear brand’s new success down to three things; her neck gaiter designs which double up as face coverings, people having more time at home, and an increased interest in sustainability
across the UK (Google search terms for Sustainable Fashion quadrupled from March 2020 to July 2020). “More time for reflection and David Attenborough’s much viewed ‘A Life On Our Planet’ documentary may have influenced people to shop with smaller, more sustainably focussed makers.” Comfort was a key element when Helen created the range of lounge pants, t-shirts and accessories – but sustainability was also a driving force. Fferal uses pure cotton, minimal packaging and avoids labels and swing tags to reduce waste.
Helen began her career as an overlocker in Leicester having left school at 16 years with one ‘O’level. She returned to education at Southfields college to study fashion, then onto the University Of Huddersfield where she gained a 1st class honors degree in Textile Design.
“I returned to the fashion industry as a designer working all over the globe, living an ambitious and adventurous life, but when I was caught up in the Asian Tsunami with my husband Dave in 2010, the near death experience gave me a complete change of heart about my career. Later, having a daughter with down syndrome and autism gave me the final
push to investigate ways to do things better in the fashion industry.”
The couple returned to the UK to live in Leicestershire, and by 2017 Helen was ready to launch a clothing range that was kind to the planet, and the people making it. She had worked with a small Portugese factory for several years and called upon the owner to create Fferal’s designs. Helen knew early on she wanted to work with Fernando, primarily because his staff are treated fairly and are paid a living wage. The team knit sustainably sourced cotton for all of Fferal’s loungewear and t-shirts, and they’ve utilised deadstock fabric (rolls from a discontinued range of garments, otherwise destined for landfill) for Fferal’s beanies
and neck gaiters. Any leftover fabric is recycled for soft furnishings filling.
After the success of the past year, Helen has been able to expand her collection. She says; “I’m delighted to be able to bring more business to Fernando’s ethically run factory. In the pipeline are new printed T-shirt designs, cotton lounge shorts, and more colours added to her T-shirts and lounge pants. Watch this space…”