Interview with PHAEDRA clothing maker - Deva O’Neill

Deva makes simple, sustainable clothing for everyday wear. Each piece is created using natural fabrics. Her studio is part of a network of rooms that reside in an old shoe-making factory in Norwich, Norfolk. PHAEDRA is a one-woman business which began in the summer of 2015.

How have you transformed your idea of making clothes into a business?


I'd been considering starting my own project for a long time whilst working part time jobs, and a really lovely studio-shopfront came up right on the high street opposite my flat. I felt it was a sign and just dived right in and made my first collection. I've had a lot of lucky breaks and things really just seemed to fall into place in the beginning, 5 years ago. I started really small, just a few designs- I've always made everything to order which kept my initial start up costs really low. I worked part time alongside PHAEDRA for a long time, and lived in a caravan on a farm in the early years so my cost of living was much lower than normal; it gave me more freedom to take business slowly and more organically. It was also a case of right place at the right time, people are more and more interested in slow sustainable responsible fashion and I realised I was offering something not a lot of UK-based makers were making. PHAEDRA has gone from strength to strength since!


Why is it important to you to be your own boss?


Being my own boss gives me wholehearted freedom. From day-to-day seemingly small choices, like being able to come and go as I please, to the larger picture – I feel empowered and strong, rooted in my own choices and unyielding in my vision. I was lucky enough to have a job before as a baker where I could be wholly myself, but I know a lot of folk who don't have that luxury. I feel very lucky.


What influences/inspires the names, colours and your creativity behind your branding?


I studied Creative Writing at university, and before really getting into sewing the main outlet for my creativity was poetry. I've always been inspired by Greek Myth, complex and evoctative early stories of women, each one holding hundreds of different myths about her, her name coming up in stories again and again and told in different ways. One woman living many multiplicities and complexities. It felt very fitting to pay homage to that in my own naming. The stories are always rooted in landscape too. I was living rurally in Cornwall, immersed in the landscape of the sea – Gorse, Lichen, Slate and Granite, Crocosmia, the changing colours of the water and sky. I was wholeheartedly in love with that landscape, I still am, and it heavily influenced my colour scheme and clothing design – loose, practical every day clothing that holds the entire landscape within it, clothing you can wear whilst moving around in such a landscape.


When do you know that you need to take a break and what does that look like?


My energy for creating and sewing ebbs and flows week by week, month by month, so I tend to work quite organically depending on how I'm feeling. When I feel at my most energetic is when inspiration tends to come in, and I utilise that to come up with new ideas and create new garments. Day to day, I'm a bit of a workaholic. I barely stop when I'm working in the studio as I get so obsessed, so I tend to work short days so my body doesn't become exhausted. I practise yoga and walk a lot in downtime to come back into my body that works so hard at the sewing machine all day. I run a choir and sing too, mostly eastern european music, and this gives me a different kind of creative play which is refreshing. I'm also lucky enough to be able to take time off when I like, to go adventuring, and its important for me to do so to sustain creative energy for PHAEDRA.

I know Deva through high school and a beautiful friendship with her sister Alice. She has an infectious laugh and a beautiful outlook on life. As I try to make a shift towards buying sustainable, low-impact clothing it really is a lovely thing to know that I can buy unique items from a friend I know and trust.


Visit Deva’s website PHAEDRA CLOTHING and follow her journey over on Instagram.

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