Since Em Roberts started her label Bird + Wolf last year it has grown globally with customers as far as Australia and New Zealand.
Growing up just outside London, Em’s mother owned a boutique which she worked in at the weekends. As well as new labels the boutique sold second hand designer clothes.
“Selling the second hand designer clothes was basically a form of sustainable fashion, although I didn’t really think about it in that way then” Em reflects. “Bird + Wolf is a sustainable and gender neutral label. We give life to ex-army apparel. Each piece has a distressed look that gives it character and comfort and, in our mind is ‘perfect in its imperfection. I also do believe the quality and durability of army apparel surpasses the level of a large percentage of todays factory made clothes.
A self-confessed tomboy Em says ‘Ever since I was a child I was baffled and annoyed that mens and womenswear was separated. I got that men and women are built differently but to be dictated which type of clothes to wear kind of got to me.
Why couldn’t I go into the mens section and buy that cool shirt or that jacket? I felt as a teenage girl people would be looking at me weirdly. Why couldn’t all the clothes be in one section?’ Why do we have to be told what certain genders should wear? That is why I love the fact that all our clothes can be worn by everyone. All our clothes are gender neutral’
Bird + Wolf embellish strong messages on their jackets and boilersuits such as ‘I HAVE NO DESIRE TO FIT IN’ ‘GO YOUR OWN WAY’ and ‘HUMAN’. One of their bestselling wording is ‘BE KIND’.
‘I am a great believer in being kind. Growing up in the 80’s and working through the 90’s I saw that to be a successful woman in business meant fighting your way up the ladder, often stepping on others to climb up. That mentality is changing now. I have been utterly overwhelmed by the support and kindness of people, especially women in building this brand. I know a lot of fantastic independent brands run by incredible women who believe strongly in an empathic ethos in their business.
Em used to run her own PR agency working with a variety of brands from high end jewellery to wildlife charities. ‘I helped brands focus very much on their story and the core of their brand, to ensure authencity and trust. I think a relationship between a consumer and a brand is very integral to long term success.’
However, after a few years of working in this field she became dispassionate.
“I lost the ability to write positive things about brands I knew didn’t really give a damn about their customers. The humanistic element seemed to be missing so much”
She took some time out to re-evaluate her path. It was one day in Harrods last Autumn that things changed. “I was wearing a camo jacket that I had kind of pimped up and long story short an Arab lady bought it off my back. She wanted that jacket and she was going to have it!”
Pretty much from then Bird + Wolf was born. ‘When I was searching where to source army style jackets I was looking as far as China and beyond. Suddenly, I realised the answer was almost staring me in the face. Use the real thing – ex army apparel. The sustainability factor was a no brainer. As someone who buys a lot of vintage and second hand clothes to utilise clothes that were already there seems to me to be a very ethical and sensible thing to do.’
‘Bird + Wolf are, like many contemporary labels, debunking the idea that men should wear menswear and women should wear womenswear. All our range is gender neutral.’