Natasha Rufus Isaacs and Lavinia Brennan are supporting women affected by human trafficking and the sex trade through their luxury womenswear and accesssories label
As ethical fashion becomes ever more prominent with celebrities such as Livia Firth and Emma Watson championing sustainable brands, many of us may find ourselves pondering how an item found itself in our wardrobe – but Beulah founders Natasha and Lavinia have gone one step further, not only supporting workers overseas but also giving them the chance to build a livelihood.
‘We first went to India because I’d heard about human trafficking and wanted to volunteer and find out more,’ says Natasha, from Beulah’s Elizabeth Street boutique. ‘I’d just left my job and Lavinia had just left university so we went to Atulya, an aftercare home in Delhi and volunteered with a local production line where we spoke to women about what they had been through.’
The duo began investigating how they could use their skills and contacts to assist the women they had met. ‘We decided to make it a fashion based project as embroidery was something the women could do,’ says Natasha, who previously worked at Sotheby’s following a History of Art degree. ‘At the time we both found it hard to buy dresses that were easy to wear; simple but classic. ‘We began by setting up in Lavinia’s mum’s basement and started selling from there. We were lucky enough to be stocked in Harvey Nichols.’
With demand growing, the duo joined forces with Freeset, a large organisation in Kolkata who support those who have been trafficked or were working in the sex trade. Employing over fifty women in the last two years the charity teaches them the skills they need to earn a wage.
‘Our first collection was received really well and we learnt a lot,’ says Natasha. ‘Now we have a proper design team in place who help us produce a distinct look. We opened up a boutique on Elizabeth Street in September for those who don’t want to buy online. We’re also working on a more bespoke range and are hoping to launch our bridal line in September.’
And with ethical fashion always at the forefront of the brand, it’s no surprise the two are focusing on sustainable style within the business as well as their own wardrobes. ‘I’m far more conscious of where my clothes have come from when I’m shopping,’ says Natasha.
Not content with their charitable work, in 2013 the team set up The Beulah Trust, reinvesting 10% of all accessory sales, and proceeds from special events back into charity projects. ‘It’s a facility for charities both in India and in Britain,’ says Natasha. ‘We’re looking to launch an embroidery course in India as just one of the ways of helping to train local women.’
With a shop to keep them busy and an impending bridal line, it’s shaping up to be a hectic summer for the duo, so what happens next? ‘We want to expand the range, open a flagship store here and perhaps launch in the US,’ says Natasha. ‘Who knows where it will go, but we want to grow it big.’ We don’t doubt it for a minute…
57 Elizabeth Street SW1W 9PP; 020 7730 0978; beulahlondon.com