Notting Hill is a community that really knows how to come together, and Riley Uggla is a local designer who channels that vibe into her philanthropic fashion brand, Made by Riley
It’s an inspiring and warming thing to meet someone who places other people and the notion of giving at the centre of everything they do, and 22-year-old Notting Hill local Riley Uggla is one of those people.
From a young age she has been focused on philanthropy and used her passion for charitable causes to, quite impressively, become a fashion designer at the tender age of 19 when she established Made by Riley, a luxury loungewear brand that’s ‘good for the soul’.
Collaborating with charities on its ‘Gives Back’ pieces, it donates a percentage of all profits received from this collection to its partners. It isn’t just about donating proceeds either, it’s also about raising social awareness and changing the way that people think about how they can give back – particularly through the power of social media.
Through its charity partnerships, Made by Riley strives to help make giving back a part of your day-to-day and encourage you to be active about causes you are passionate about.
‘I grew up in quite a philanthropic family so I guess giving back was always a part of my upbringing,’ says Uggla. ‘I graduated from college and started studying at the fashion business school, the Istituto Marangoni in Shoreditch, and pretty much went straight into setting up Made by Riley when I graduated.’
I grew up in quite a philanthropic family so I guess giving back was always a part of my upbringing
So where did the initial inspiration come from for the brand? ‘The idea started when I was 17 as my mum has a school in Zambia called Zamcog, which houses and educates street children,’ she explains.
‘I documented a trip there when I was 17 with photography and then when I got back I made it into a book, sold it and donated the proceeds to Zamcog. Following the success of that, I designed four unisex t-shirts and did the same thing. It was the start of the thought process.’
In its first season, Made by Riley teamed up with Human Rights Watch, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Action Aid, Zamcog, NSPCC and Maggie’s. Since then, it’s honoured to be working with cancer charity, Trekstock, and conservation charity, Space for Giants.
All quite impressive for someone who has just turned 22. But for Uggla, despite her modest attempts to tell me otherwise, it seems to be something she takes in her stride. She lives by the notion that she has the power to change, and it truly shines through.
‘I would still say it is quite daunting!’ she laughs. ‘But I started with a small collection and tested the waters. I have an amazing team that I work with, we all bounce off each other and that has massively helped me overcome any nerves.’
Uggla goes on to tell me how fortunate she was to find a business partner in Rayna Barasch, a passionate businesswoman with over a decade of experience in the fashion industry. Having worked at Diane von Furstenberg and Ralph Lauren before establishing her own fashion consultancy, she was inspired by Made by Riley’s unique ethos. ‘She has been such an amazing mentor for me,’ smiles Uggla.
I’m such a tomboy at heart and love putting my sneakers on with a really comfy but stylish jumper. It’s nice to be slouchy, but smart
Surprisingly for someone making such leaps in the fashion world, Uggla didn’t become interested in fashion until her late teens. Instead, philanthropy came first, and fashion followed. Made by Riley was therefore always going to fall into the loungewear category, as Uggla wanted to reflect her easygoing approach to life.
‘I’m such a tomboy at heart and love putting my sneakers on with a really comfy but stylish jumper,’ says Uggla. ‘It’s nice to be slouchy, but smart. In terms of the design, this is my inspiration.’
There’s a nice parallel between the idea that Uggla is focused on giving back to local communities, something that is happening everyday with the market vibe of Notting Hill.
‘Absolutely,’ she smiles. ‘There is that nice laid-back feel too, which is the ethos of the brand, so it works really well for our pop-ups. I enjoy being able to walk to work, but it’s more than that, I love that it has such a sense of community with a village feel. Everything feels very local.’