Meet Dafydd Upsdell – One of The Fableists

Dafydd Upsdell, One of The Fableists

Dafydd Upsdell, One of The Fableists

My name is Daf and it’s my turn to say hello and tell you a little bit about myself.

I began my career in the media industry way back in 2000 when I started working as a runner at The Mill post production house in London. Since then, I’ve worked for numerous companies and, over time, have made amazing contacts and lifelong friendships and to this day still can’t believe some of the things I have been lucky enough to be a part of and somehow still call work.

My involvement with The Fableists began down the pub whilst enjoying a pint – on this occasion with the one and only Matt Cooper. I can honestly say the job I had at the time was not very fulfilling and I was just going through the motions of getting up and going to work and not really thinking about what I really wanted to to do with my life going forward. I had always dived in and out of setting up small companies in an effort to make some money on the side but nothing really had ever taken off and (once again) I found myself sitting in the sunshine with Matt introducing him to yet another one of my “Derrick Trotter” business-type ideas. When I had finished (and after the signature Matt Cooper laugh), he took a deep breath, bought me another pint and said he wanted to tell me about something he had been putting together with Sarah, his wife – something they both thought was really going to make a difference.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Matt explained to me his ideas, the concept of The Fableists, the clothes they had designed and, more importantly, what he wanted the company to represent. As I listened to Matt (and got two more pints) I was blown away by how much work and time he had put into the idea and I couldn’t help but get caught up in his excitement and it was there and then I pretty much said that I wanted to be a part of The Fableists and get involved in the story.

So, as the months passed and as the Fableists grew, the more I personally got to understand the importance of what it meant to be an ethical and sustainable business and how important it was for us to position ourselves in this way. On a personal leveI I learnt about what it was to try and live within the sustainable boundaries of buying items such as clothes and food and as time has gone on I’ve realised it’s a very simple and fulfilling process to go through. Yes, I was fortunate to have Matt and Sarah point me in the right direction of where to buy clothes, for example, and why some companies were better than others but now I feel that if someone were to ask me how they would go about being sustainable, I think I am in a pretty good position to help them out through what I have learnt.

You see, that’s why I became a Fableist! If I can help someone understand and embrace sustainability in their life and they, in turn, pass this information onto others, then think of the potential as the story grows from person to person.

The simple truth of the matter is that we, The Fableists, are a company who strive to make amazing kids clothes that are bought because people think our clothes are cool, look amazing and built to last. The fact that we are embracing sustainability at the same time is our way of showing that all of this can be done whilst maintaing the highest possible environmental, social and ethical standards.

I love being a Fableist and I think you will too.

Daf

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Dalhousie University Recognises Alumni Who Are ‘Building a Better World’

dalhousie thingSeveral weeks ago, my alma matter – Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada posted an article about The Fableists. It was part of their ‘Building a Better World’ series, in which they profile past students who – they feel – are making a positive contribution to the world around them. I was then invited to their Alumni event in London, where they presented me with a framed photo from the article and certificate for being an ‘Ethical Outfitter’.

I was honoured to be presented with my certificate at the same time as Dr Nancy Lane, who earned a MSc from the same university in 1960, receiving the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the top marks in the final exams. This helped her gain the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire scholarship and earn entrance to Oxford University. A true trail blazer, Dr Lane was one of the few women doing graduate studies at Oxford at the time (or at any university, for that matter). Female colleagues were particularly scarce in the science department. She went on to complete post-doctoral work at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Yale University and was then hired as a lecturer at Cambridge University, where she has been ever since. Her area of expertise is cell biology.

dalhousie thing 3

Dr Lane also campaigns to get women to pursue scientific studies. Feeling that her gender is under-represented in the fields of sciences, she travels the world hoping to encourage young women to follow in her footsteps. To her, science is not a career, but a calling.

To say that I was humbled to be in Dr Lane’s company is an understatement. At the same time, I was proud to receive my recognition and delighted that ethical fashion is something that is seen as helping to ‘Build a Better World’. We hope that more people will begin to see the importance of informed buying and start to make changes in their own purchases and lifestyles.

Sarah

Meet our R&D Gal, Ruby Griffiths

Ruby Griffiths, Fableists

Ruby Griffiths, Fableists

My name is Ruby and I do research and development. I am quickly going to tell you a bit about how I ended up here. My journey began around age 15 when I had to choose what I wanted to take for my A-levels. Going to an art college in London studying business, sociology, psychology and philosophy was an interesting experience considering I had chosen the least artistic subjects – this is probably because I am the least artistic person I know.

Yet it was here where my deep love for psychology began to blossom and I decided that I wanted to carry on with further education studying just this. Before embarking on this adventure, however, I took a gap year. I wanted to work and earn some money but I also wanted to go away and find new experiences and new challenges (despite being so young!). I have always felt a deep desire to help people in some way or another and so I spent 4 months in Arizona at a mental health clinic where I provided a helping hand.

Not only did it open my eyes to the array of methods to try and help people, but it was the beginning of my understanding of sustainability and what it means. Daily life wasn’t simply centred on peace of mind but also about looking after your environment and culture. There were vegetable patches where the patients would cultivate their own food and they were made to participate in equine therapy. Equally, there were numerous discussions of caring for our environment and creating a caring culture. This opened my eyes to how the environment touches everything and it impressed me that it was a big part of treatment.

After this I took my degree by the horns; I had been accepted into Royal Holloway University to do a bachelor of science in Psychology. Here I decided to hibernate behind my books for the next 3 years. When I finished I started to search for a career – I wanted to point it towards caring for the world in which we live, in some way.

I was lucky to have Matt come along just as the search had begun to look fruitless. I had been told before our first meeting to read a book by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shows, called ‘Start Something that Matters’. It’s an incredible story about a man who goes to Argentina and comes home with an idea and a dream and turns it into something spectacular. So going in I knew he wanted to create a children’s clothing range that made a difference but I had no idea how he was going to achieve this.

When I arrived and Matt turned up he sat down, talked with me a bit about the book and then took out his tablet from his bag. Here he brought up 5 sketches he’d done himself of what he wanted his collection to look like. There were so many ideas in his mind but hardly a business plan. But what Matt captivated me with was his story (or ‘fable’ as The Fableists would say) about sustainability and how to get children and parents excited by it.

This is not an easy message to get across to people, but in one meeting Matt had hooked me, and so began our 10 month journey that had led us here. I have been able to watch a wonderful transformation as a man’s brilliant idea has been put into action. In a mere 10 months so much has happened and everyday I learn more and more, I have been privileged to be involved in such a unique and special project.

Meet Creative Director Andy Fowler of Brothers and Sisters

Andy Fowler from Brothers and Sisters. A Fableist

Andy Fowler from Brothers and Sisters. A Fableist

My name is Andy Fowler.
I am founder and Creative Director of Brothers and Sisters.
We are a bunch of 55 creative boys and girls in Clerkenwell, London.
As well as doing advertising for brands, we also like to create our own brands, platforms and products.
In many ways this is what inspires us and gives us the freedom we crave.

We love working with clever, inspiring people with great ideas.

Recently we launched My London Story – a beautifully emotional, location based storytelling app, with our friend Greg Williams the Executive Editor of Wired magazine.

I first met Matt from The Fableists about 9 months ago.
I love people who are full of spirit, ideas and belief.
Matt has truck loads of all three.
We got on like a house on fire – both entrepreneurial, creative people more interested in making a difference and doing interesting creative things than making money at any cost.

I have three kids: Missy 7, Sonny 4 and Goldie 9 months – and I share Matt’s frustration in the difficulty of finding clothes for them that are individual, beautifully designed and ethically produced in equal measures.
It’s either high street tat which I would never dress myself in, so I’m damned if I’m going to dress my kids in it.
Or, more likely, vintage from eBay or boutiques or small designer kids brands.

There’s no-one on any sort of scale proving it’s possible to marry the cool factor with the sustainable factor – until now.

Matt didn’t have all the answers when we first met but I could see in his eyes that he believed.
Belief is everything.
When I first met my Malian friend Ballo and he told me he believed he could make a difference to the quality of teaching in Bamako, the capital of Mali, by launching an independent teacher training academy – I saw the belief in his eyes.
So, Brothers and Sisters raised funds, made some flying visits and started a love affair with North Africa that will never die.

I hope our commitment to The Fableists is just as everlasting.
This is something to believe in, to get behind, to throw ourselves into.

We are going to throw all our creative skills at this – by telling the fables behind the brand – in films, in look books, in whatever media the stories are best told.

It’s going to be a hell of an adventure.
We want you to come with us.
Together we can make the first truly cool and sustainable clothing brand for the next generation.
For the future of the planet, for the future of the little people.

Meet our Designer: Kate Williams

Kate Williams, Designer at The Fableists

Kate Williams, Designer at The Fableists

I’m Kate. I became a Fableist after meeting Matt and hearing the brand’s journey and intentions first hand! After some years of working in the fashion industry, surrounded by fast fashion and seasonal trends, I found the concept refreshing. We share the same vision that clothes should be bought and made to last.

I am a multi product garment designer with a specialty in men’s and children’s design. Over the past few years my personal buying habits have changed. I’ve moved away from really on trend garments and prints and become drawn to cool, classic pieces that are well made and have the potential to become long serving additions to my wardrobe. I have garments that I saved up for that I love and that make me feel good every time I wear them. Now, getting involved with the Fableists, I not only ask myself, ‘Do I love this garment?Is it good quality? Will it last?’ but also, ‘Is this a responsible brand? Should I buy it?’

While The Fableists brand is built on sustainability, the look is equally important – something that really drew me to the concept. Influenced by a love of utilitarian work wear and vintage garments, combined with directional graphic design, this is a look that I’m really passionate about and that you can buy knowing we have considered sustainability right from initial concept. It’s a group effort and I’m looking forward to our future collaborations!

Matt, the Founder on Why he Launched The Fableists

Matt Cooper, Founder of The Fableists

Matt Cooper, Founder of The Fableists

I’m Matt Cooper, and I guess you could say I’m the guy who started this thing and I thought I’d tell you why.

I have been lucky enough to spend 25 years working in the advertising and production industries. Starting in an agency dispatch department, I have worked in a number of companies in various fields within the advertising world. I have been able (along wife my wife, Sarah Cooper, who runs this blog) to create a few things within the advertising world that have become interesting global businesses. Along this journey, we have worked with and met some of the world’s most celebrated advertising people, from top creatives to world class directors and been inspired by their creativity but also how they so often put their ideas and talent towards good causes.

It was while I was in India on business that the journey towards launching The Fableists began. I fell head over heels in love with India and started to read about it. For several years, the only books I would read were based in India, about the history, the culture, the people. You could say I got a little obsessed! As part of my personal study of India, I read about child labour and grim factory settings. This made me start to look more deeply in to the garment industry in general. I became interested in the whole process of making clothes and was shocked to discover what heavy chemicals are used to grow the raw materials we make clothes from and in the dyes we use. I was horrified to learn that farmers in India were exposed to these chemicals and that it was making them and their families ill, that Indian farmers in their thousands were committing suicide in order to escape the cycle of debt in which they were finding themselves because they weren’t getting a fair price for their crops. On top of that, as a lifelong asthmatic and father of one eczema sufferer, I couldn’t believe that this could be partially caused by the presence of chemicals in the clothes that I was wearing; that I was clothing my children in. I wasn’t entirely naïve to the slightly dodgy by-products of the fashion industry but this was a wake-up call.

So, I made some changes to the way I buy clothes, and my family buys them. I started talking to people about sustainable clothing. I spoke to some clothing designers about ideas, I spoke to people in the ethical and sustainable fashion world, I spoke to the contacts I had in the advertising industry… I was probably kind of annoying! I was like a dog with a new bone and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I believed we could do something to make some changes and that we could do them now, rather than waiting for some deadline a decade (or more) away. In trying to make changes to how my family consumed, I found that there weren’t any sustainable clothes for kids that suited us. I thought: ‘We could make them. Why not? We’ve started businesses before!’ Between my passion for buying sustainably, my desire to create some cool kids’ clothes, and my connection to the creative world – I had a bit of a light bulb moment. We could do two things: create a lovely but edgy kids fashion brand that would appeal to this trendy crowd (and others) and work with those brilliant creatives to help us create the brand and get it out to the rest of the world and help spread a very real, positive story – minus any b*llshit. And bang! We were off.

What we wanted to do was simple. First of all, build beautiful, design-led clothes that would be affordable and sustainable. And secondly, allow you – the buyer – to find out everything about who produced them, designed them, packed them, shipped them and helped us along the way. Really we were creating our own mini movement to push out to the world. We know you want to make good choices and we’re offering you an easy, stylish way of doing just that.

We built the brand and started to put a team of people together, all of whom we met through business one way or another, to build on our mission to change the world, one design at a time. That beautiful line and simple mission statement was dreamt up our agency partners Brother & Sisters. You can read more about them and why they have gotten behind this project in the Our Story section of this blog. We are also working with director Olivier Venturini of global production company Great Guns to create documentary style films about amazing kids who are true Fableists. We are in the process of creating a beautiful brand film, written by the team at Brother and Sisters and animated by Oscar-winning visual effects company The Mill. The Fableists are many!

What started with a small idea has now launched as a brand and we are both excited and extremely proud of what we have achieved. This business is and always will be a collaboration of creative folk doing what we think is right and giving our customers what we believe they want – amazing clothes that will stand out from the crowd (and last) and for the business to be totally sustainable. We want you to hear our whole story as it unfolds and you can always find out more about The Fableists on this blog.

This is a passion for us. It’s become a lifestyle and it’s certainly helped me make more positive choices in the way I buy. We hope it will do the same for you.

We hope you like where we are going so far and hope you’ll pick up some of our clobber for your own lovely little punks.

We are always eager to hear from you, so please be in touch.

Viva La Fableists!

Matt Cooper

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

Sarah Cooper of the Fableists (she's the one in the middle!)

Sarah Cooper of the Fableists (she’s the one in the middle!)

Before we take this relationship any further, I thought I’d better let you know who the gal behind the blog is. I’m Sarah Cooper and I’m a Canadian living in the United Kingdom. I am here legally! I’ve got a British husband and children and a hard earned British citizenship, too. My husband, Matt, and I are launching The Fableists together. We have both worked in and around the advertising and film production/post industries for many years and really wanted to create a company that we could feel passionate about and that would inspire us every day. We want to set an example for our (four) children and build something that they are proud of and that we can all learn from.

We have the brood to clothe and we are fussy about what we buy them. Do the clothes make the kid? Well, they certainly can get in the way of making the kid! We want ours to look super sharp but also like kids. It’s important that they are free to move and can put their own stamp on their look. We want them to be strong, independent, confident characters who use their amazing minds and question anything they think isn’t right. We hope they will be responsible and aware by the time they leave our nest.

We are not perfect. But we are making changes to the way we consume. It really is crunch time, now people. Sustainability is a bandwagon that we all have to get on.

Join us on the journey.

Sarah

Meet our Creative Partner ~ Brothers and Sisters

Planning Meeting at Brothers and Sisters

Planning Meeting at Brothers and Sisters

We want to share our whole story with you and an important part of story of the Fableists is its characters. All of us share some common ground in that we have been connected to the advertising and film production world. We have been very lucky to spend much of our working lives in a creative environment, where collaboration is just part of the job. Over the years (too many to mention!), we have met, worked with and been awed by some amazingly talented people. Starting The Fableists didn’t spell the end of these relationships, it meant another opportunity to work with creative people we admire. We hope that through creative collaboration, we can help make some positive changes to the world in our own little way.

We are keen to get our ‘threads’ and story out to the world and shared our ideas and plans for The Fableists with a few advertising agencies. A chance meeting with Andy Fowler and Juliet Haygarth from Brothers and Sister in London grew into a friendly chat, that lead to further conversations. Our shared passion for the ethos behind The Fableists and their creative input and brand-building knowledge resulted in our partnering with them.

We knew straight away that Brothers and Sisters were the ideal partners for us. We couldn’t work with just any agency, it had to be one who really understood what we were trying to do. Sure, we are growing a business, and that is what all ad agencies are built to help with, but it’s not just any business. A sustainable business works on a triple bottom line model, in which the same emphasis is given to environmental and social impact as is given to profits. And you need to have partners who are 100% behind that goal.

Brothers and Sisters is one of main characters in our story. They are building the image of The Fableists and keeping us on track to bring our plans to fruition. We met with the team today, and had a cracking meeting to discuss our next steps. Photographed above are Matt Cooper, from the Fableists, planner Sophie Davies, Managing Director Juliet Haygarth and Andy Fowler, Executive Creative Director.