Inspired by the handcrafting skills of her mother, Lea Wieser formed arkitaip, a fashion brand that makes crochet and woven garments with a drive to produce ethically and be as environmentally friendly as possible. What’s it like being a mother and daughter duo going into business together? Well, let’s meet Lea and find out.
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I live just off Broadway Market next to London Fields in this sweet, little house tucked away from the city’s hustle bustle. I’ve only moved to the area a couple of months ago but it was always my dream to live there. My first two years in London I’ve spent moving around between King’s Cross and Shoreditch, however, growing up in a city like Vienna, which is very green and tranquil, I’ve really missed having nature around me. To me, London Fields is the perfect mix of both worlds – you have Victoria Park and the canal just around the corner, while Shoreditch and Central are just a stone’s throw away. What I love most about living here is that I now wake up to birds’ chirping instead of cars and of those annoying sirens.
Tell us what inspired you to set up arkitaip?
Funnily enough, my background is in journalism, so quite the opposite of what I’m doing with arkitaip now. I’ve always been extremely interested, if not to say activist about the detrimental effects the garment industry has on the environment, so at some point I decided, instead of criticising things from the outside and pointing fingers, to actively seek for a solution. My idea was to create garments which are beautiful, timeless, made to last and produced in an environmentally and ethically responsible way. Ultimately, my aim is to inspire people to consume more consciously and reflect upon their purchasing choices. At the same time, my mother’s amazing crocheting and knitting skills where always a reminder of how much time and effort go into the creation of a single piece of clothing – and how much more valued and appreciated craftsmanship should be. Finding an image of my mum in her twenties wearing one of her hand-made crochet bikinis sparked an idea: to persuade her to make me one. Only when my friends wanted one too, my initial motivation organically grew into something bigger, something a bit more meaningful and the result is arkitaip.
You run the brand with your mum – what’s it like being in business with family?
Not easy – that’s for sure! No, jokes aside, it’s great. The level of trust is incredible – and you know what they say, blood is thicker than water. Knowing that we can rely on each other no matter what is incredible. Plus, knowing each other inside out allows us to focus on the things we do well, while complementing each other in those things where we lack of something.
Our deal was that she’d be responsible for designing and crocheting our swimwear and crochet tops, while I would be the one taking care of everything else. But of course it’s not as simple as that as the borders between tasks are often being blurred. Not only has she advised me in the design process of our wovens range, but she has also consulted me while I was, let’s say designing the website, or writing up the copy for arkitaip.com. I see my mum as an amazing mentor, advising me in everything I do – inside and outside of the realms of our business and I think I can speak in behalf of her when saying that our skills truly complement each other and working together has brought us even closer.
Sustainability is a big part of arkitaip, how do you go about making sure the brand is environmentally friendly?
Using carefully sourced European linen as our primary material for all our garments allows us to keep our carbon footprint as small as possible due to shorter transportation routes. Plus, linen is known for its extremely environmentally friendly features (doesn’t need a lot of water and little to no pesticides to prosper, plus it doesn’t compete with agricultural land), and is a very durable and strong material, which lets us keep our promise to make garments which are made to last. For our swimwear, we use recycled linen yarns and a lining made of ECONYL®, a fabric made of recovered ocean debris. In order to not only create environmentally friendly, but also ethically produced garments, our production is based in Europe, which allows us to ensure fair wages and working hours. We are now working together with a very small sewing studio based in Porto, which only employs seven women and is run by a mother and her daughter (I know, what a coincidence). There we produce our wovens-range – all our crochet wear is handmade by my mum in Austria. Equally, we want to make sure that we close the loop of our garment’s lifecycles by directly asking our consumers to send them back once they feel like they don’t want them anymore (we cover the shipping costs). We then want to ensure to recycle or upcycle them accordingly.
You’re based at WeWork, how have you found the space and also the community?
When I first started out working for myself, I worked from home, naively thinking that this would be ideal, before quickly coming to realise that it’s actually difficult to focus when you don’t have a dedicated workspace (especially given the fact that I was working from my kitchen table and not getting distracted by the proximity of the fridge was sort of impossible). Plus, you are in your own bubble – which can make you feel super lonely after some time. That’s why I’ve decided to find a space, which would not only allow me to concentrate better, but to also connect with like-minded people and share ideas and experiences.
What’s your favourite piece from your collection and why?
Mhm, I would say the lisl kimono because of its versatility. I love wearing it as a morning robe or over a bikini on the beach. Equally, it goes great with a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt and some cool boots. I also love the soft drape of the fabric and the woven details on the sleeves and hemline, and it reminds me of my amazing granny Lisl, who the piece is named after.
Describe your perfect day in London.
My perfect day in London starts with a run in the sun in Victoria Park or an early morning swim at the Lido (going early avoids the crowds!) Then, I’d grab a coffee and a bite at Climpson and Sons or The Bach on Broadway Market, and either sit in the sun on London Fields and read a book or stroll along the market. In the afternoon, I love exploring a cool exhibition that’s on or a vintage market – always on the hunt for new inspiration – before I’d head for an afternoon beer at Netil 360’s rooftop bar to meet up with friends. To round a perfect day off, I’d either go for a cheeky bit of dancing to Oval Space or Village Underground – or go home, cook some dinner with friends and take it easy.