Designer and Lowie Founder Bronwyn Lowenthal on her sustainable approach to design and fashion, at her home in Herne Hill
Sitting down with Bronwyn in her Herne Hill garden flat, she immediately asked me, ‘how can we make the construction industry more sustainable? There’s so much waste, you must have noticed the things outside my front door when you arrived that I just don’t want to throw away, how can I recycle that or put it to good use somehow?’. A big question, but really I expected nothing less from the founder of a beautiful sustainable womenswear label with an unwavering appreciation for the environment.
Her home is laden with patterns and interesting things to look at, that are all carefully placed or hung on calm white walls. But more importantly, the home she has built over the last 13 years completely reflects her commitment to sustainability, recycling and good design. There was a story of reclamation or up-cycle behind each item that eagerly grabbed my attention.
‘I love living in Herne Hill, it’s like living in a little country village but having London on your doorstep. I’ve been here for more than 20 years now, and I find everything about it really wonderful. Especially the community; my garden backs onto Brockwell park, and there’s no fences between this row of houses that we are part of which creates a really friendly atmosphere. We have bonfires together a lot, and it was great in lockdown as we could all chat to each other easily whilst remaining socially distant. It’s also really nice for people who use the flat through Airbnb as they meet new friends and can socialise through the gardens during their stay.
I bought this flat mainly because of the garden, it’s huge and characterful. And because of the lack of fences, you basically have 5 gardens in 1! I’d much rather have a big shared garden than a small private one. It’s also really nicely set back from the main road, with a lot of greenery at the front, so you get the benefits of living on a key transport route without the downsides of it being noisy or invasive.
I’m Australian so I’m used to having a lot of open space both inside and outside, and when I walked into this flat it felt so open. I like having clear areas internally where there’s nothing, no clutter or mess, that you can then adapt depending on what your day looks like. For example, this big open space in my living room can be used for yoga if I feel like it, without the faff of having to move things around.
The chairs in my living room were going to be thrown away by someone so I snapped them up, but I really enjoyed reclaiming the paving slabs from the pavement outside when the council came to do work to replace them. The were pulling up the slabs to take to landfill, so I asked if I could have them instead. They did actually say they would give me some of the new ones that they weren’t using, but I wanted the old! They now lie proudly in our garden as a nice patio. But it really made me think that councils and big developers need to take more responsibility for their waste. They should advertise building materials like paving slabs that would otherwise be put in landfill, to see if anyone wants to come and use them for something.
Textiles craft and vintage pieces are really present in my house, and are always an inspiration for the design and products that we bring out through Lowie. So it made total sense to open my first shop in Herne Hill, close to my home, because my business and the way I live are so connected. The shop started as a pop up, I asked if I could stay a bit longer and I was there for 8 years!
I consolidated the two shops and office space all into one brilliant new shop space on Half Moon Lane over lockdown, and opened it in April 2021. I felt that I had a clearer vision of what I wanted this shop to look like having opened and run two previously. I love having the courtyard garden at the back, it’s really special and is a really nice space to have sample sales or other events. I’m Tasmanian, and the weather there isn’t too different from the UK, so we’ve used Tasmanian plants out there. What’s also really nice about having our office, studio and shop all in one is that the designers get to meet the customers who are wearing their clothes, and vice verse.
This new space was also the result of having long covid, which meant I really had to choose carefully where to put my energy. It really meant picking the good bits from my business, and getting rid of things we didn’t need, and making things easier, hence this beautiful new consolidated space. I’d been wanting to get off the hamster wheel for years, and that’s what covid gave me, a chance to change things up. My long covid coach asked me, what has covid given me? And it made me think about the positives, and re-evaluate my life and pull out the important things that make me happy.
My focus now is on really engaging the Lowie community, sharing stories and inspirations and spreading the word about the everlasting love for your garments. And I want to continue designing fabulous pieces that make people happy!
We love colour here, the hand craft elements, and the interesting print. And of course, knitwear! We try and get elements of craft in every range, for example hand stitching and crocheting. I’m inspired by traditions and I love translating these into cool clothes that everyone enjoys wearing. Everybody wants to feel good, and if I can make clothes that make people feel their best then that makes me happy.
Our 20th Birthday is coming up in September so we are busy planning everything we want to do around that, including a party at the shop of course!
I also really want to talk more about longevity in clothes, and how we can avoid impulse buying. Buying real high quality clothing that you will love forever means less will end up in landfiill, and we can do our little bit for the planet. I also think repairing things is so important, that once damaged is not lost. That’s why at Lowie we offer a free repair service for all clothes our customers buy with us, to help them stay in wardrobes and be loved forever.