From Hobby to Sustainable Small Business – Interview with Lydia Stevens

At only 20 years old, Lydia Stevens has gone from being a model, to working as cabin crew on British Airways and now as a university student and environmental enthusiast back in her home in Perth, Australia, she’s turned a beautiful talent for sewing into a sustainable small business under her new brand PurpleCloth.co

Keep reading for a story about charting your own path, pursing a passion and trying something new despite the odds. She also shares her tips for starting a small sustainable business.

I believe that in sharing human stories, we could reconnect to our collective consciousness and uplift each other in our common journeys.

This is what these interviews are about – conversations with normal people from across the globe, in various stages of life, pursuing different passions – sharing stories of life.

I’ve known Lydia (L) for almost two years now, having crossed paths with her while we lived in London around the same time, and she’s nothing short of marvellous.

When you read this conversation, imagine what would have been, to a passer by, two enthusiastic girls sitting across from each other in a swanky vegan cafe in London under the autumn sun, sharing a large plate of hummus and chatting about all things sustainable and Abba.


V. What’s something about yourself that you want people to know as soon as they meet you?
L. Probably that I’m environmentally conscious


V. When did you develop a passion for sustainable fashion & second hand shopping?
L. When I was 17 I was involved in Eco Fashion Week Australia so I was exposed to loads of sustainable brands.

I really loved the eco conscious message and the designers’ passion for sustainable fashion. Some of the designers were using fruits, veggies and spices to dye their fabric, for example purple carrot, blueberries and turmeric.

It was around this time I got into second hand shopping, I remember being in a really quirky/retro op shop in Adelaide and I found some amazing jeans and a pink lace jacket, from then on I was hooked. 


V. Where did you learn how to sew?
L. In high school I was in textiles class for a semester which helped me to understand the basics of working with sewing with a machine.

I’m primarily self taught, and have used plenty of youtube/tiktok videos to learn new techniques. I’ve still got a lot to learn!


V. And how old were you when you got your first sewing machine?
L. I was 18, my parents bought it for me as a christmas present!


V. Tell me about PurpleCloth.co! Where did the idea come from? What’s the idea and message behind it? Talk to me about the designs and the pieces and your inspiration? 
I had no idea what to call my brand but I wanted it to have something to do with my name so I did a google search and ‘Lydia Seller of Purple Cloth’ came up.

It’s a biblical story about a woman who made and sold purple fabrics in Turkey.  I thought it was a nice story with meaning behind it and the name fit well for my brand!

The idea behind it is that one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure, so all of what I make is upcycled from second hand items. 

Because I’m using second hand fabrics my designs are largely influenced by the fabrics I’m able to find, I think that’s what makes it more exciting.

I get a lot of inspiration from pinterest, costumes I love in movies, and also from the fabrics themselves, and what I think would be comfortable as well as stylish.

My style is quite eclectic, I love bright colours and bold patterns, but more classic styles and subtle designs can also be beautiful too so it is quite a mix.

I’ve been making quite a few little shoulder bags lately as well which seem to be quite popular. Here in Australia the weather is relatively warm at the moment so that’s another factor that comes into what I’m making. 


V. What makes PurpleCloth.co a sustainable brand?
L. Everything I make is upcycled from second hand and thrifted materials including curtains, bedsheets and pre owned clothes.

I use reusable compostable mailers from Hero Packaging to ship items which are made out of cornstarch – plastic waste is a pet peeve of mine so I was so pleased to find them. 


V. What was your process to get started with the brand? Do you have some tips for anyone wanting to start a sustainable brand/business?
L. To start with I hadn’t planned on making it a business, during quarantine I decided to have a play around with my sewing machine and started to make a few little sewing tik toks.

Quite a few people saw the videos and encouraged me to make it into a small business. Luckily my sisters were keen to help me out with modeling and photography so we did a couple of home photoshoots.

I’m currently using Depop to sell which is a good way to reach young people, and then I’ll hopefully set up a website if it really takes off.

For anyone wanting to start their own sustainable brand I’d suggest doing it in something you’re really passionate about so that it can be a hobby as well as a hustle. 


V. There’s a little bit of a stigma around second hand or charity shop shopping: that it’s pieces that people have worn before or there’s the questions of inclusivity. A lot of second hand shops tend to not have bigger sizes which means that it’s not very inclusive. 

How do you think we can change the stigma and try and make second hand shopping (ie sustainable shopping) more available for everyone?
L.Yeah you’re right, some people are still turning their nose up at second hand shopping which is sad. All my favourite pieces in my wardrobe are from charity shops.

Shopping second hand makes nice/designer clothes more accessible for students or people who haven’t got a huge budget, and gives you the opportunity to find unique pieces that nobody else owns.

Also different styles are always going in and out of fashion it can be hard to keep up with trends, but charity shops usually have a bit of everything including loads of vintage fashion.

The more that  people are educated about the environmental impact of fast fashion hopefully the stigma will break down. I think sustainability and buying second hand needs more endorsement from celebrities and influencers so that it’ll become more mainstream. 

Apps like Depop or facebook marketplace are also great ways of second hand shopping too, particularly in finding larger sizes because you can narrow down your search rather than spending hours rifling through the racks in an op shop.

It’s also especially hard to find larger sizes when ‘oversized’ is in trend. The more that people donate instead of throwing clothes in landfill will increase the size range available in second hand stores. 


V. Where can people find you and your pieces?
L. At the moment I’m shipping within Australia but I’d love to ship globally too.

My instagram page is @purplecloth.co. I’m mainly targeting younger women at the moment, but I’m more than happy to make custom pieces.

I’m still studying at uni so it’s more of a hobby for me at the moment but in the future I’d love to be my own boss and contribute to sustainability in a more significant way. 


V. What are some other sustainable practices you implement in your life and would encourage people to look into?
L. Being Vegan! My advice to anyone wanting to make the change would be to take it little by little and don’t deny yourself a craving or you might start to resent it. 

I’d encourage others to use reusable bags (or make their own), makeup wipes (I use the face halo), and reusable food wrapping.

We also have a compost bin in the garden which turns all our fruit and veggie scraps into soil.


Follow PurpleCloth.co and check out Lydia’s beautiful pieces:


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