We meet Hertfordshire-based Rebecca Page, named as ‘one the 100 female entrepreneurs to watch in 2021’, to discuss her alternative to fast fashion
It was a couple of months ago now, but congratulations on your recognition at Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards. What did that mean to you?
Thank you so much! It was such a big deal to have an acknowledgement of what we are doing! It’s the first award we had entered, and I feel so grateful for the support.
It’s lovely to hear about someone who had a passion as a child to then go on and do great things with that passion as an adult. Did you have any inkling as a child that one day sewing would be your career?
I didn’t have any idea. I wanted to have my own business right from when I was little, but had I no idea it would be in something I loved so much. I think I thought back then that all businesses were people in suits rushing about in the City. To get here and discover you can create anything you can imagine, in any way that suits you and your personality best, is amazing.
How did you come to picking up sewing again as an adult?
I’ve always sewed off and on. But it was when I had children and I wanted to start making cute things for them that I really got into it again. When I was tired after a night up with one of the kids, it was something I could disappear into and just enjoy the process. Something that was just for me. I’d put the kids for a nap or set them up with an activity and design a dress or sketch an idea. Getting that me-time (if even just ten minutes!) and doing something that was creative was an amazing way to recharge.
What inspired you to carry this into your own business?
One of the reasons I started Rebecca Page (RP) was because traditional store-bought sewing patterns didn’t fit me. I’d have a vision of what I imagined a dress to look like, then the bust was too small, or the hem too long. Post-partum I decided I’d had enough. Patterns not fitting common body issues felt like body shaming at a time when I wanted most to feel like myself and look good. So I drafted my own. Also making sure to write comprehensive instructions that worked for everyone from beginner upwards (traditional sewing patterns can be intimidating, and hard to follow). I published my patterns and discovered a whole world out there which felt the same. This was a community thirsty for connection, compassion and to be able to share excitedly with others and spread that love of making.
In one moment reading a post from someone who learned to sew from our patterns and discovered a joy that uplifted her in an extremely difficult time, I knew this could be big. A business that made a difference and brought people joy.
How have things changed in the three years since you launched?
It’s certainly evolved way past what I ever imagined. Our core business is sewing patterns. Our patterns solve fit issues with extensive, unrivalled fitting advice. Custom-fit digital pattern blocks, and our proprietary fitting technique library, are helping customers personalise for their individual size, shape and style. And our pattern instructions challenge traditional, old-fashioned competitors by creating unique, beginner-friendly tutorials that actually teach you to sew as you make them.
We also have online events that bring together the community, with educators teaching techniques and community members sharing their makes. We now have a community of nearly 800k makers, 300+ brand ambassadors, 150+ educators and an in-house team of over 60 across 11 countries!
How do you aim to offer an alternative to fast fashion for the consumer?
Much about today’s fashion industry is extremely troublesome; excessive energy use creates garments that we have been conditioned to buy cheaply and dispose of readily. Clothing production is increasing at a frightening rate despite the fact these practices are simply not sustainable. And exploitative working conditions in the fashion industry are well documented, yet sadly still the norm in many areas.
Combine this with global trends towards slow living, creativity for mental health and upcycling/refashioning rather than disposability, there is a clear demand for a different way. Gen Zs and millennials are flocking to sewing and crafting in their masses, driving this momentum.
My “lightbulb” moment hit me when I was thinking about the environmental challenges of the fashion industry and how to also empower our community economically – many of whom are young mums with childcare concerns, people ready for a new challenge, and retirees wanting a purpose and passion.
I came to the realisation that there is a huge market opportunity of customers ready and wanting to purchase in a more sustainable, local way; plus makers without employment, wanting to utilise their skill and work from home in a way that makes a difference – yet there is nothing to bring these two sides of the market together. One of our innovations is building the marketplace, bringing these together to challenge the current way of buying fashion.
When we are talking about local micro-entrepreneur makers, how do you find them?
Our RP community is now nearly 800k makers around the world. It’s growing at such a pace and we’re expecting with the trends for getting creative that it’ll keep growing. Most people find us as their friends share things on social media that they’ve made.
What has the reaction been like from Hertfordshire locals to what you are trying to do?
I think really great! A few of our makers live locally and it’s such a delight when we catch up with what each other are making. With the pandemic, it’s been hard to see people in person, but I would love to have a local maker meet up in future.
How long have you lived in the county for now?
My husband grew up in Letchworth and his family all still live locally so when we were planning to move out of London, Hertfordshire was the obvious option. I think it’s been about ten years now.
What do you love about living here?
The beautiful countryside and the people. Herts people are so warm and kind. There is also such a wide variety. You can go into town and be in amongst the bustle and activity, having dinners out or doing activities… or you can escape out into the country and walk in gorgeous nature, being silent with your own thoughts. There’s something for everyone!
You have come so far in a short space of time, but are you already looking ahead to what’s next for your business?
Always! I love to celebrate each achievement and live in the journey, but I also love to dream and plan for what’s next. What I see as the future is many more people learning to make and sew for themselves, and those who want to turn their hobby into employment, being able to make for others.
I’m extremely passionate about moving away from fast fashion towards a more sustainable future. Sewing and crafting plays a huge role in that in my mind. I also truly believe that every person has the right to clothes that fit their personal shape and style. To really bring sewing and crafting to the masses though, there needs to be a tech transformation in the industry, and that’s where our learning, membership and online marketplace fall into place.