Anna Brindle founded Lost Shapes in 2012 with a mission to provide highly ethical and none the less incredibly stylish screen printed clothing. She has also somehow managed to make her clothing very affordable and today she has kindly taken some time to tell us about her products.
What do you make and why?
I design and screen print bold and original images and typography on ethically produced clothing.
I actually did my degree in 3D design – and my approach to screen printing is still very constructional and physical, as I really enjoy the process of making.
After years of different jobs and bringing up children I got to a point where I really wanted to go back to making, and felt I’d developed the additional experience to handle the business side too.
I’d always found screen printing immensely satisfying,so I set myself up with some basic equipment to get back into it.
At the same time I was becoming increasingly aware of the injustice in the garment industry and driven to try to clothe my family as ethically as possible, and I wanted to make this achievable for others.
I was fortunate in being able to develop the business gently and organically, testing out on friends and family and building customers by word of mouth and people complimenting their t-shirts.
We know your products are great, you know your products are great but how can they know?
The best recommendation is the number of repeat customers I get, and the wonderful messages saying that it’s their favourite clothing.
I think I’ve successfully combined really comfortable, long lasting and well cut garments with exciting designs that have a bit more integrity than mass produced clothes.
It’s both of these things that make the tops so enjoyable to wear.
Whereabouts does your manufacturing take place?
The raw material comes from a 90% reduced CO2, fair wear certified factory in India, where sustainability and social responsibility policies are robust and well monitored.
All design, stencil making and printing happens in my garage studio in West Somerset. It’s all very low tech and genuinely made by hand, with individual attention to each product.
What is the toughest part of the product development process for you?
I love the development process: I’m always buzzing with ideas for both designs and products; I love drawing up designs, choosing which to go with, reluctantly putting aside ideas that are possibly too weird or niche; and the first print of a new design is incredibly exciting.
As I do it myself in small batches I have the flexibility to adjust and respond to customer interest.
It took quite a lot of searching and testing at the beginning to find garment manufacturers that I was happy to fully trust, and while I’m very satisfied with current suppliers, it’s still a struggle when it comes to expanding the range.
I’d love to sell knitted beanies to compliment the sweatshirts, but haven’t managed to find anywhere to source these with the ethical standards I’d insist on.
My biggest problem is probably tempering my enthusiasm for new lines (I keep buying more samples than I have time to launch) and new designs (I have a sketchbook full!).
It would take a big push for me to hand over the design and making, but I’d happily share admin, dispatch, accounts and marketing whenever possible!
Do you have any new products/ranges planned for the next year or so?
Always! I don’t do seasonal ranges like most of the fashion world, as I believe clothes should have a much longer life, and a design that looks good now will also look good in 3/ 6/ 12 months time. But I do release new designs or new styles throughout the year.
What products or people have helped to inspire you to create the products that you do?
My art teacher from school taught me to screen print and was pretty inspiring.
She retired a while ago, but I found her on facebook when I first set up Lost Shapes, and it still mattered to get her approval of my work.
She came to visit my stall at a market and she’s still rolling back the carpet to find space to make big prints in her living room – it’s quite compulsive!
I’m fed by all sorts of visual input – exhibitions, other artists or designers on instagram, and I love all the imperfect hand painted signs and posters you get around rural Somerset.
Computer perfection is boring, which is why I design and cut out everything by hand.
I keep on going because of the massive enthusiasm and loyalty of my customers – they are wonderful at sending thank you emails, photos, or coming to chat at markets.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know
I am a quiet revolutionary, and I believe (though I accept that most would think I’m talking rubbish!) that t-shirts are democratic art for the masses.
MTL – Yep I think that Katherine Hamnett would agree with that.
What do you wish we had asked you?
What keeps you balanced?
Lots of tea, BBC 6 music (I like to time my printing sessions to coincide with Radcliffe and Maconie), a bigger perspective that comes from my faith in God, being able to eat lunch with my husband, who also works from home, and my children – no, wait, they make me unbalanced!
MTL – Good question and great answer. Having also worked from home I know what you mean, although I find it hard to switch off from work without a physical gap.
Which product in your range do you personally use the most and why?
I use loads of them and so do my family!
We have had a few embarrassing occasions when we go out and realise we’re all five dressed in Lost Shapes – I don’t force them to, but they are pretty much their favourite clothes.
I’ve had my ‘Mosquito’ sweatshirt for nearly three years now, and still wear it a lot.
It’s so comfy, and the yellow dots are kind of happy. The tencel vests are perfect in hot weather as it’s so silky and breathable – I’ve been wearing my ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’ one mainly this summer.
Pretty much everyone I know owns an ‘Another Nice Day’ top of some kind!
Why did you name your products as you have?
The products names are incredibly dull and literal! I find that by the time a new range is produced it has a name in my head, and I didn’t want to get pretentious with it, so I stick with that. So we have ‘Bike By Window’, ‘Long Bike Shadow’, ‘Wander:Wonder Country /Town’…
Thank you Anna for making time in your day to do this interview with us.
For those Made to Last customers who like what they have heard then take a look at the full range of Lost Shapes clothing here.