Yesterday’s (22/04/21) Earth Day meant my social media was flooded with brands, businesses and individuals promises and efforts of sustainability. It was great to see how many of us are all making efforts and small (or sometimes large) changes in our daily lives to help leave just a bit less of an impact on the planet.
But as we all know, Earth Day needs to be every day if we really want to make a difference and for some, it really, really is. I’m so pleased to be sharing with you a small business who I discovered over the last year who really is making a difference with the way that they operate. Meet Natalie of Newt London, a clothing and accessories brand where everything is made from recycled plastic waste. Their impact is as bold as their prints… I hope you love Newt London as much as me.
Newt London & PARROT London (there’s a theme here…) are SO excited to be offering our customers 10% off this weekend using the code NEWTPARROT10
Hi Natalie, thanks so much for taking the time to be a part of PARROT Talks. Can you start by telling us a bit about who you are, where you are based and what you do?
So pleased to be part of PARROT Talks! I am the founder of Newt London, a direct to consumer brand turning recycled plastic waste into men’s and women’s casual shirts and accessories. Our bold prints and comfy cuts are designed to turn you into your weekend self, whatever the day of the week. I’m based in South East London.
How did Newt London come to be? Can you tell us a bit about the brand?
I started Newt in early 2020, four weeks before our first national lockdown. It was definitely a challenging time to launch a new business, but the bold, mood-boosting prints were resonating a lot with customers who were looking to bring as much positivity into their lives as possible during difficult times. We launched initially with our range of casual shirts made from 100% recycled bottles, and accessories made from off cuts. We also launched our reversible face masks very early on in the pandemic – they’ve been incredibly popular alongside our headbands, scrunchies and snoods. Everything is made in London, and the fabrics are all made from recycled plastic waste. Whilst sustainable practices are at the heart of Newt, our equally important mission is to design clothing that turns you into your weekend self, whatever the day of the week – whether that’s through a pop of colour with a scrunchie, or putting on your bold printed shirt ready for a day at work.
Do you have a background in fashion or print? What made you decide to start a clothing brand?
I’ve mainly worked in consumer facing small businesses and start ups in either operational, innovation or strategy roles. I’ve always loved wearing bold prints, and shirts in particular, so as is often the case with this kind of thing, I initially just wanted to design things that I wanted to wear. A big part of the design inspiration has come from my grandmother, who’s nickname is ‘Yammy’. Yammy has been a lifelong artist and she still effortlessly designs and creates things everyday. Our signature print, called ‘Yammy’s Dancers’ is based on a sketch Yammy did for a mirror design in the 80s – it features two carefree 1920s figures dancing the night away. I love it because it encapsulates that spontaneous weekend feeling I get when I wear Newt’s bold prints.
Do you work on Newt London full time? How did you know when it was right to take the plunge and focus solely on Newt?
I work on Newt full time, although from time to time I also work on some consulting projects on the side as well. I didn’t really decide to take the plunge – I was pushed into it by the pandemic! But as is often the case I am so pleased I was forced to go full steam ahead with Newt as it’s grown faster than I could’ve ever imagined in its first year.
What are the elements of running your own business that you love the most, and which bits do you find more challenging? I know I have some jobs which can stay on my to do list for months and months!
I love the variety that running a business brings. I’ve always liked to do lots of different things across operations, marketing, strategy and more creative things as well. I love the design side, but also equally enjoy looking at data to make operational decisions, so I get to use both sides of my brain. The thing I struggle most with is being disciplined about working days and hours, and also get too obsessively perfectionist with really tiny things because it’s my brand – I think these are pretty classic challenges for business or brand owners!
As you know, I am a big fan of all of your prints! Do you design them yourself and where are they made?
I design all the prints at the moment, with the exception being the ‘Yammy’s Dancers’ print which I’ve mentioned above. Everything is designed by me in London and then printed using zero-waste sublimation printing in Worcestershire.
Sustainability is at the heart of your brand ethos and products. Can you tell us about how Newt is sustainable and why these were decisions you made when building your brand?
I’ve tried to make considered, low-impact choices at every stage of the supply chain – if you’re starting a new business now, I think you have a duty to build in sustainable practices from the very beginning. I was really keen to make Newt’s products from things that ‘already exist’, rather than cultivating new crops or materials. There are enough plastic bottles lying around in landfill or in the ocean to clothe every single one of us for the rest of our lives – so I thought recycled plastic would be a great place to start! All Newt products are made from recycled plastic waste, and all the brand and care labels that are sewn into the products are also made from 100% recycled yarns. The products are sent out to customers in either fully recycled, or recyclable packaging (and in most cases, both), including the swing tags and the tape we use to seal up the mailer boxes. Our shirts use buttons made from Corozo nuts – these grow naturally on trees and are only used when the nuts fall from the trees. They’re fully biodegradable and look beautiful too.
Newt has survived a year of a global pandemic! How did you get by and make it work? Has the business thrived during the year or has it been more challenging than you’d expect?
The first year has actually been amazing. There was so much uncertainty and so many operational challenges brought about by Covid before we’d even really got going (including factories closing etc), but it equally felt like a bit of a ‘sink or swim’ moment when the first lock down happened, and I felt even more motivated to make it work. I would say the business has thrived this year, but it definitely has taken continuous, non-stop hard work and a lot of faith to get through the 12 months. Whilst it’s been an incredible journey to date, it’s been pretty exhausting, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having my first full week off work in 18 months in July, fingers crossed!
PARROT Talks is all about championing small businesses – can you tell us some of your favourites?
I’ve discovered so many amazing brands over the last year, including Parrot! But here are a few:
And finally, what can we expect to come next from Newt London?
I’m working on some new prints, as well as our first print collaboration. There are also a couple of new product categories in the pipeline, but right now I can’t give away any more than that – other than they’re made from recycled materials of course!