Founder & Designer
LEILA VIBERT - STOKES
Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what made you start the business?
I grew up in rural southern France, a really beautiful and uninhabited part of the world. I moved back to London in 2004 to study a degree in fashion design, and after graduating specialised in digital textiles. I was incredibly lucky to get to work as a print and textile designer, travelling the world selling my creations and designing pieces for some extraordinary New York and Paris brands.
After ten years working as a print designer for the fashion industry, as cheap fast-fashion flooded the market, I started to become disillusioned with the relentless pace of the fashion industry as well as its horrific environmental impact. The fashion industry is in such a state of uncertainty, I got bored of having to design less and less interesting work, for less and less money. After a sales trip to Shanghai, upon my return, I could still taste the toxic smoke from the polluted air and knew it was time to do something about it. At the same time, we were all becoming increasingly aware of the effects climate change was having on our immediate lives.
At the same time, having hit 30, I was spending more money on my home than my wardrobe and found it incredibly difficult to find pieces that fit my more-is-definitely-more aesthetic and were made sustainably. I knew I couldn't be the only maximalist out there who cared about our planet, and it became really clear that I needed to make some bold, colourful and truly sustainable homewares. And that's why I started this business!
What inspires your work?
My work is inspired by two core elements - colour and the oddities of nature. Our surroundings can be so grey, from the weather in the UK to the concrete and glass of the buildings, to the blue jeans and black jacket uniform seen on the street. Bringing colour in can often feel quite daring, almost punk in a sense, especially when it is mixed with a bold sense of fun. That is what has always drawn me to it. I always feel like I am giving two fingers up to expectations when I wear something very colourful, and that is a feeling I want to inspire in my customers. A sense of confidence, a sense of daring.
And nature is just so transfixing, it is impossible to not be inspired by it. I particularly love the strange and unexpected creatures, like cuttlefish, crabs etc, they feel particularly otherworldly ... I also love any artists or designers who evoke a sense of freedom, that feeling of irreverence and fun, not taking yourself too seriously but taking your work deadly seriously. Spanish artists like Dali and Gaudi, fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Galliano etc3. What is the most important thing for you in your business?
Ideologically, the most important thing is to inspire my clients. A lot of people buy my pieces to bring a dash of fun into an otherwise quite neutral room and say that daring to buy something so unlike everything else they have has boosted their confidence in other areas.
What is the most important thing for you in your business?
In terms of running the business, everything I have created focuses around how my products look. I am a designer by nature, so for me, the most important aspect is making sure my pieces look beautiful, evoke joyful feelings, give a sense of freedom and expression to my customers. Yes, it may be just a cushion but that doesn't mean it can't make you feel incredible. I start with the design and then decide on the materials afterwards, instead of finding the most ethical material I can then think about what I can make from it. This doesn't mean I will compromise on manufacturing ethics, but I would rather scrap product than compromise on how it looks due to limitations from a material.
A little story or an anecdote you would like to share?
I grew up in one of the most uninhabited areas of southern rural France, with my nearest neighbours about 3km walk away. To get to my house you had to go up a 2km dirt track through deep forest. In the winter, you would get snowed in with 3 feet of snow and in the summer it would be 40degree heatwaves. The fields were full of thousands of butterflies, crickets would jump out from under your feet, crayfish swim in the streams - it was nature at it purest and most rugged, barely affected by the passage of man. A truly magnificent place to grow up.
I now go back every couple of years to visit friends and be reminded of the astonishing beauty of the place. It is quite rare to return to the exact same spot every few years to rediscover a landscape that is so incredibly familiar. All the small changes and evolutions become jarring and jaw-dropping. The fields of butterflies are no more, the streams I went swimming in as a child are now drying up, the grass that was green up until June is now brown from May onwards. The local Pyrenean ski resorts have shut down, as it no longer snows over the winter. And last autumn, the region suffered devastating and deadly floods that destroyed several centuries-old villages, the ground too dry to absorb the heavy rainfall
It is the most graphic confrontation I have had with the realities of climate change - experiencing first hand the changes and effects our lifestyles are having on a nature that was thriving twenty years ago. It became impossible for me to ever envisage creating a business that didn't have sustainability at its very core.
This #worldenvironmentday, with the Cheeto in Chief in the White House denying climate change and our own UK government's disastrous policies, it is down to individuals to take action. It may not seem like much, but small changes all add up.
Based In: London, United Kingdom
Product Range: Bold and colourful Home Accessorise