I’m very excited to introduce you to the lovely Rachel Warrillow who owns the fabulous vegan millinery that is Warrillow Studios. Enjoy!
How did your vegan journey start?
It first started on Facebook, when I saw a really upsetting post; I can still picture it now. The same day I decided to give up meat, and became pescatarian. I started to feel a bit better about myself, lighter almost, and didn’t miss meat in the slightest, but my eyes had been opened… The more I learned, the less I wanted to eat animal products. I think I was slightly resistant to the idea, imagining it would be really restrictive. When I embraced veganism wholeheartedly though, I never looked back. I have never felt so healthy and so full of energy.
Then there was my millinery work. I never did use fur or leather, but all of a sudden, using feathers, silk and wool seemed so wrong. I think it’s all too easy to disassociate where these things actually come from when they are dyed lovely colours and manipulated into flowers etc. Again, I did have a slight worry that it would restrict my creativity, but I think it has actually had quite the opposite effect, making me look for and explore new ideas and materials.
What made you want to set up your own business?
I think it’s in my blood! The creative mind-set doesn’t lend itself to being employed by others either!! I love the variety that comes from running my own business, so many skill-sets to learn and build on and challenges to meet, so I’m more than happy to figure all that out to be able to design and make. The same way as actors needing to perform, being creative is something that I HAVE to do in order to be happy and healthy!
Setting up Warrillow came directly from my vegan journey though; I realised just how prolific animal products are within millinery, and how hard it actually is to find hats with no feathers, silk, wool… I was amazed how many milliners still use animal fur, considering it ‘luxurious’. I wanted to have a brand that people could come to, confident that everything was vegan and still have friendly service, high quality products and fantastic design.
What’s your top tip for someone who wants to start an ethical biz?
Give yourself enough time! It took me a lot longer than I thought to find the right products and suppliers for us. As well as Warrillow being vegan, I wanted to be as ethical as possible in every way possible, so we wanted recycled packaging, organic cotton etc. etc. I had a lot of reading up to do, lots of emails to send. One thing I discovered is that generally, for businesses who have an ethical practise they will want to shout about it and share their story with you because they are understandably proud about it. Those who don’t take care to choose ethical options will probably not return your messages!
Who’s been your biggest inspiration?
Two businesses I have taken a lot of inspiration from are Votch, and Matt and Nat. Their products are beautiful and high quality, with a conscience and a story. I love the fact that they show we don’t have to compromise on any of those things to have beautiful, practical, cruelty free products. Matt and Nat especially are always looking for new and innovative materials too, not settling for staying the same, it’s an on-going journey for all of us.
What’s your favourite vegan meal or recipe?
I’m so busy all the time I don’t really have time to cook a great deal at the moment, although I do love good food. I have really enjoyed exploring Vegan fairs and food festivals to try new things and vegan alternatives. I’m really lucky to have a dedicated vegan shop within a few minutes’ drive from home. I love vegan pizza, and I love vegan ice cream – far more than the dairy packed originals! The Walnut Tree Kitchen do some wonderful ready meals, and as a real treat I do love the choc chip cookies from The Little Vegan Cookie Co. Other staples in my diet are hummus, falafels and fruit!!