In conversation with

Lydia Bolton

Founder and Designer at Lydia Bolton



Her designs have been on-stage at Glastonbury and she’s reworked Manchester United’s 2022/23 adidas kits. Lydia Bolton is proof that speaking the same language as your customer is powerful. It’s helped take her brand from Instagram account to international business. Lydia’s eponymous brand upcycles unwanted textiles into covetable womenswear, and her sustainable luxury ethos has caught the eye of big names like Nike and River Island. We spoke to her about staying true to brand values, the importance of partnerships and how contributing to change doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Question and Answer

After working in fashion for a while, you realised how unsustainable the industry was. What stories motivated you to start your brand?

It wasn’t necessarily connected to the work I had or the company I was at really, it was more about the stories of the dark side of fashion and realising there are other places in the world covered in unwanted textiles. It made me question whether I wanted to continue doing and contributing to that.

What is your brand purpose? How did you get there?

I knew I wanted to do sustainable fashion so I left my job and studied an online course at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, where I learned a lot about production and waste. I was really drawn to this huge amount of waste, and knowing my skills, I knew I could use them to contribute to a solution to the problem.

Talking about my brand purpose, in the course they encourage you to have a mission statement. Mine was ‘remaking second hand textiles’, so it kept growing from there. The timing was perfect for me because I received a message from a singer who requested an outfit for performance on BBC introducing stage at Glastonbury, and they loved the idea that my focus was with second hand materials. This allowed me to put my idea into practice and to apply the thoughts into making something. It naturally progressed from then and more opportunities came in.

A lot of your work is connected to storytelling, especially the process of transforming a discarded piece of clothing into new items. What does this mean to you?

The storytelling aspect is so important because we know we all should be more sustainable. But with stories we can engage on the why, and people love being part of the process. Sharing what that item used to be and how I’m transforming it, it’s something my audience enjoys watching. It also helps you understand the journey of the item.

“Contributing to change doesn't have to be overwhelming. My brand is about empowering and showing people how to do it so they remake it themselves.”

You work with some of the biggest brands around. In order to work with you, what criteria must they meet?

The project needs to be centred around upcycling and using dead stock or second hand materials. It should also encourage educating people on the topic and motivate them to do it themselves, giving them some upcycling skills they can put into practice in the future. In the workshops, people usually bring something old they already own, or the brand offers some dead stock to use.

What are you trying to achieve when you run a workshop with the likes of Nike and Reebok?

Contributing to change doesn’t have to be overwhelming. My brand is about empowering and showing people how to do it so they remake it themselves. These partnerships help me share some of my skills and give me access to new audiences who might be a bit sceptical about upcycling. Also, everyone has a fun time at the workshops, so it’s a positive experience for them. Sustainability and upcycling can be fun and encouraging!

Many brands call themselves sustainable but aren’t doing anything to make a difference in the community or the environment. What would you say is key for brands to do today to truly contribute to that space?

I think it’s hard for big brands because they are so established. But authentic and honest access through partnerships and working with collaborators who are sustainable and true to their values is always a step forward, to build conscience, and inspire change. Also investing in campaigns that are truly honest and sustainable, and working with sustainable consultants to be as conscious as possible within their own practices.

I don’t expect them to be perfect or instantly change their way of operating. But make an effort, and be honest throughout the journey. Even 1% of change would have a huge impact coming from a global brand.

What’s the biggest change in consumer behaviour you’d like to see?

I’d love to see us changing the view of how disposable everything is. We have such a wasteful culture, from food to fashion, that we forget the whole journey of the product. A ‘cheap’ top, made from polyester – which is basically crude oil running in the planet, is worn three times and then thrown away. The thing not many people know is that this top will be on the planet for 200 years because it won’t degrade. We need to be more conscious of the impact our decisions have on the planet.

Lydia's Storylist


  1. Sustainably influenced
  2. The happiness lab with Dr. Santos
  3. The Business Class: Money Minutes with Sharmadean Reid

Digital platforms

  1. Future Vvorld
  2. Hello Hubbub
  3. Are you Mad?

More from The Journal

InterviewNatasha Collie

Natasha Collie

Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK

At the start of the year, Ladybird Books approached Sonder & Tell with a dream brief. In 2021, a year that’s been particularly challenging for...

InterviewTatton Spiller

Tatton Spiller

Founder Of Simple Politics

Talking about serious issues doesn’t mean defaulting into a serious tone of voice, or using complicated language. If anything, accessibility, clarity and a touch of...

Interviewloïs mills

Loïs Mills

Brand & Community Manager at Homethings

Creating a tone of voice from scratch can be challenging. But a blank slate to work from also mean there’s room for something a bit...

Previous Story
Lisa Harris & Alexandra Hayes

Co-Founders at Harris & Hayes

Next Story
Nikita Jayasuriya

Head of Europe at The Mills Fabrica