Grace Beverley, founder of We Are Tala, makes affordable athletic-wear from upcycled materials and recycled water bottles. The pieces are designed to make everyone and every BODY feel comfortable and empowered. We asked her about her journey from social media influencer to sustainable fashion entrepreneur, and here’s what she had to say.
1. How did you get your start as a social media influencer?
I started my Instagram to keep myself accountable because I just couldn’t work the gym out. I really wanted to get fitter and healthier after a few years of doing the bare minimum but wanting more, but I just couldn’t stick to it. I started my Instagram with an anonymous name and didn’t show my face until I had 10k followers, also blocking every single person I knew so they wouldn’t find me – I definitely didn’t ever think it would become what it is now!
2. what led you to go from an influencer to a fashion designer and starting your own sustainable fashion brand?
I only graduated from Oxford University in June 2019 and prior to that I worked in tech business for a year. I was particularly inspired to start TALA because there weren’t any brands that I felt I could feasibly work with and happily recommend to my audience whether because of their production practices, or, if they had good production practices, the price points weren’t realistic for my student audience. It made sense to me to start something myself! I’ve also always been a lover of activewear and definitely knew what made a good pair of leggings, so I was very excited to be able to bring all that knowledge together with our selling points of ethics and sustainability.
3. Why did you decide to get into sustainable fashion?
I began conceptualizing TALA just over one year before our launch in May 2019, after I realized that there weren’t many activewear brands that I could comfortably support, whether because of their sustainability, price point, or inclusivity. I decided to have a deeper look at the types of brands out there and realized there was a huge gap in the market both commercially and morally for a company that matches the prices of similar activewear companies, but was sustainable and ethical. So, we got to work on TALA, wanting to produce high-performance activewear from upcycled and recycled materials. We were able to launch in May of 2019 and since then have sold 80,000 products and saved over 3 million litres of water. For me, there just isn’t any space or reason for people to be starting unsustainable businesses anymore — it wouldn’t make any sense at all!
4. what makes TALA sustainable fashion?
There are lots of different considerations with sustainable fashion, our garments are produced and hand-finished in Portugal where a number of steps have been taken to make sure every step of the process is as sustainable as possible. By using recycled cotton in the hoodies and joggers, TALA saves 4817 litres of water per tonne of recycled cotton used compared to cotton grown. Often ‘sustainable’ brands still use plastic packaging and labels, but TALA products are created differently. Neck labels for all products are made from 100% up-cycled Nylon and bags are 100% recycled plastic, which would otherwise have been disposed of. We think through every stage of the process and ensure it’s as sustainable as it can possibly be!
5. When did you first become interested in sustainability?
Over the past 3 years, I’ve gradually made the change from omnivore, to pescatarian, to vegan, to vegan business owner, to sustainable and ethical business owner — it certainly hasn’t been overnight. I think ignorance was one of my weak points, knowingly too. As soon as I started to actually confront this head on I was able to start making small, manageable changes to my lifestyle. I think it’s so easy to look at someone and everything they do for the planet and see it as overwhelming, but 3 years ago I was eating meat at every meal and using single-use coffee cups for ignorant convenience, and now my businesses are up for sustainability awards. We all start somewhere, I’m still far from perfect, but every little change really does matter.
6. what has your journey been like as a designer — from both an aesthetic and social responsibility standpoint?
Really challenging, but incredibly rewarding. It is amazing seeing my vision come to life, especially after such hard work. Trying to find a balance between the aesthetic and sustainability was the biggest challenge, but I think we’ve nailed it!
7. what is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Set small goals and keep on pushing through. If you think of the bigger picture you’ll always be overwhelmed and all your goals will feel too large. Prioritize and schedule like your life depends on it and take it day by day. The only thing that can stop you getting where you want to be is yourself!
8. do you feel like marketing yourself as sustainable has helped or hindered you?
I think it is less about helping myself and more about doing the right thing for the planet. It’s been a slow and steady process, and I am still learning now. I think a lot of people expect the changes to happen overnight, and so there has been a lot of criticism, for example, when somebody sees a takeaway cup in my Instagram story, but I know that I am doing everything I can, and that is all that matters. With TALA, I couldn’t just sit back and remain nonchalant about the fast fashion industry any more, I was in a position where I could do something about it, so I went for it.
9. What are your thoughts on today’s fashion cycle?
In terms of the sustainable fashion industry, I have high hopes. I think the rise in sustainable brands and change in consumer habits are really scaring some of the big fast fashion brands, and truly hope for change, no matter how much competition it creates for us. I hope that fast fashion brands can move beyond greenwashing with recycled collections when they incinerate their old stock, and that they stop talking about female empowerment when the 250 million women worldwide are living in horrendous conditions being paid far less than our minimum hourly wage per day to make their clothing. I think people are really starting to ask questions and vote with their money, and seeing through some of the BS — long may it continue!
10. How does your brand manage waste and how can other brands begin to manage their own waste?
Our pieces are already made from upcycled materials and recycled water bottles, and then any waste we produce from manufacturing is recycled back into our products — for example, our headbands!
11. What Are some of Your Hobbies/Things you do for fun?
I’ve recently re-homed a puppy, so a lot of my free time I spend looking after him. I also love pottery painting, any artsy activities and love a good boozy brunch with the girls.
12. What is your favorite thing to wear?
It depends how I’m feeling, where I am going and what I’m doing. If I had to choose, I would say our Nova Trackies and Venus Hoodie. They’re so comfortable and the outfit can be styled up or down depending on what I’m doing, I’d say it’s the only loungewear set I’ve owned that I can dress up in the same way and feel so put together in.
13. How do you wear your values?
I wear a lot of TALA, I wouldn’t create clothing that I wouldn’t wear myself, so you can pretty much guarantee I’m wearing something TALA every day! I also have recently discovered some incredible charity shops and second-hand stores, so I’ve got a lot of amazing pieces from there. I love investing in quality, hand-made pieces, and repeating outfits is something I’m definitely not afraid to do.
Images: We Are Tala