Drapers meets Riley Uggla, the woman behind the ethical and sustainable brand Made by Riley, to talk business, charity and the rising popularity of brands with a social mission.
When Riley Uggla founded Made By Riley in 2015, her mission was to create a clothing label that both looked good and did good. Part of the profits from all sales of the brand’s premium loungewear goes back to the charities that help to create them. So far, the brand has worked with Human Rights Watch, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Action Aid, Trekstock and the NSPCC. Drapers caught up with Uggla to hear about the realities of running the business, her passion for all things sustainable and the ever-increasing appetite for brands with more than money on their minds.
How did you come to set up Made By Riley?
I wanted to help make giving back a part of people’s day-to-day life, and show people that small actions really can make big differences. I have always had a really relaxed “off-duty” style, so starting a conscious and ethical loungewear brand to use as a vehicle for promoting giving back was a natural progression.
What’s your background? Do you have any fashion experience?
Before I set up Made By Riley, I was studying fashion business at Istituto Marangoni at its London campus in Shoreditch.
Made By Riley
How does the business work?
Made By Riley partners with a variety of charities and collaborates on a T-shirt or sweatshirt design that features an uplifting slogan. A portion of all proceeds are then donated back to each charity. Beyond that, we hold charity events and use our social media presence to increase awareness for the charities and raise additional funds. The idea is to create a platform that promotes making giving back part of your daily life and promoting others to do the same. We want people to align their actions with their values.
Made by Riley
What’s the best thing about your job?
Working with my team in London. We have amazing people working at Made By Riley. Everyone is fully engaged and behind the ethos of the brand. My business partner, Rayna Barasch, and I have an absolute blast working together. Having a partner in crime who sees the world the same way as I do is imperative and makes running this business so much fun.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in day-to-day business?
Production. It is never as straightforward a process as you would like, but our factories are amazing – the quality is wonderful and everything is made ethically.
Why do you think brands with a social mission are becoming more popular?
I think people are tired of consuming for consuming’s sake. People want timeless pieces that are not beholden to the cyclical nature of fashion. And people want to give back, but are busy and sometimes just need to be shown: “Hey, here is an easy way to make a difference.”
How do you decide on the slogans on each T-shirt?
I work really closely with the charities. We spend a lot of time talking about their mission and then out of those conversations I create a slogan that is meaningful and appropriate to the charity, but remains subtle.
Made by Riley
How would you describe your own style?
Conscious, relaxed, effortless and feel-good.
Who are some of the women that inspire you in your work?
Stella McCartney. She an incredible talent and visionary. She aligns her every action as a business woman with her core values as an individual and gives other people the opportunity to do the same. Looking at her business, there is such a strong ethos running through. I hope to create a brand in which my own values are at the core as well.
What’s been the highlight from Made by Riley to date?
Hosting our Trekcycle event in May ago for Trekstock, a young adult cancer support charity that we work with. We raised nearly £20,000 with a sponsored indoor cycle ride. Even more importantly, we raised a huge amount of social awareness for Trekstock. It makes what we are doing so tangible and easy for others to understand the ethos.
Favourite clothing brand
Victoria Beckham. Her clothing fits any woman’s body amazingly, and is so chic as well as super-effortless.
Favourite place to shop
Matchesfashion.com. It has a great edit.
Last fashion purchase
Golden Goose Deluxe sneakers
Last book you read?
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Last film you watched?
The Fate of the Furious
PR intern at Alexander McQueen
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
I love exploring and finding new places and thing to do. Saturdays are usually spent with friends checking out new galleries or fun restaurants. On Sunday you will definitely find me at a work out class in the morning and having brunch with my friends and family.