Interview: Sarah Gamble

Sarah and Margarita run a wonderful shop called Adorned. Since the shop first started, it has flourished with now over 20k followers on Instagram. This shop is a mixture of sustainable, ethical and gorgeous boho. I was lucky enough to have a little chat with Sarah about the shop.

Hello Sarah! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Hello! I'm feeling fresh and awake this morning thank you.

Describe your style in a few words.

70s-loving boho rocker with a dash of tattoo-chick cool.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Ooh okay. Well I grew up in Nottingham, which is a really great city. I was a bit of an 'alternative' kid, badges on school blazer and bracelets all up my arm sort of thing, and if I wasn't hanging out at the Market Square or Arboretum on a weekend I'd be at home drawing and reading. I came with my mum and sister to Darlington at the age of 16, myself and my friends ironically call it 'Costa del Darlo' because it's not got a lot of culture. I did 5 A-Levels including Textile Art and Fine Art, then went to York to do Psychology. During that time I started embroidering garments and doing the odd bit of jewellery, which became what we now know as Adorned! Post-uni I came back to Darlo to live with my mum, and we're both moving to Nottingham at the end of October, so it's going full-circle!

I fell in love with your shop from the start. What made you want to start your own shop?

As a child I used to help my mum sell her costume and handmade jewellery at venues around Nottingham. When we moved up north she stopped doing that for a while, and then picked it up again around the same time I embroidered my first shirt. It was her idea for me to make some to sell, and as it went so well I just took it from there! It wasn't a conscious decision to run it as a full-time business, rather a hobby and creative break from uni, but by the time I'd finished my degree it sort of took over!

Why did you decide on Adorned as the name?

The definition of adorn, to make beautiful or attractive, sums up what we do! Now I'm not saying our customers are ugly, but we do hope they feel like festival-ready boho princesses when wearing some of our pieces. It applies too to the garments - I'll take a plain jacket and 'adorn' it, and make it even more beautiful.

Why is the concept of sewing and creating things by hand important to your work?

It's essential to what I do! Reworking, recycling and salvaging things all rely on a hands-on approach. And we don't charge the Earth for it either. In a culture of extremely fast fashion, we're taking a step back and saying 'Hey, you can get a similar product at the same price point, sometimes even cheaper, and you're doing some good to the planet too. Plus you're getting something either unique or limited edition.'

How does working by hand change your creative approach?

I have to often think about things I can do which I can replicate easily - my designs tend to be popular and I don't want people missing out! Further, I try to not make things too time-consuming. For example, I love hand embroidery / needlepoint, but it takes so long so I couldn't do it for the business.

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

It's a continual process! I learned to embroider when I was younger, but the majority of the techniques I use for Adorned I've developed as I go along. My next endeavor is to learn how to construct basic garments properly and basic pattern cutting! I'm a sucker for vintage fabrics that lay say in a box under my bed.

What equipment do you use for your work?

My two babies, my overlocker and sewing machine. I have drawers of paints, printing blocks, paintbrushes and my own designed templates. I have a beautiful vintage concertina sewing box for all my threads and embellishments, a set of cat drawers for all my beads and jewellery making materials, and then of course my laptop and SLR to make everything website-ready.

What tools or materials could you not live without?

Actually, my laptop, camera and Lightroom! Even when photographing sale items for my Depop account, I still like to ensure everything looks top quality. I can't be doing with bad quality photos! My overlocker is also a godsend when it is behaving itself!

What’s your typical working day?

It usually starts with me lying in bed doing a morning social media post and listing a few pieces on Depop, then packing orders. When it's super busy during sale time, or on a Monday after the weekend orders, that will take up a good few hours! I'll then probably either make or photograph some stock for online, before cycling to the post office, having a 'break' at the gym (if you can call it that), and then on an evening editing and listing more pieces. I try to fit in blogging 2-3 times a month too, so take myself off for a coffee in town to sit and do that! You need those little perks when you're working alone! Every now and again I'll take a day to do admin jobs, such as accounts and receipts, and right now I've just had to shut our ASOS for a few days so I can focus on making. And now vintage fair season is upon us, every other weekend I'll be on a train and out trading on a Saturday or Sunday in the North-East and Midlands.

What are you currently working on?

Magical veeeeelvet! And celestial pieces a-plenty, as well as the old favourites - sunflower painted dungarees. I'm also working on some beautiful silk painted flowers to adorn jackets!

Which area of your work do you find the most fulfilling?

To be honest, as I'm self-employed I put a lot of pressure on myself to work really hard all the time; I probably do more hours than I pay myself for and will put in 12-14 hours days 5-6 days a week. Even my 'days off' still consist of social media and messaging customers! But ultimately knowing that I've created this all from nothing and now live off it is a pretty cool feeling. Also, of course when I receive gorgeous customer photos from people around the world wearing my products, that's an amazing feeling too!

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

Initially it was Facebook, but with the way the algorithms have changed it's now hard to get any coverage on that. So Instagram is now our best platform, as well as Depop - collectively they have over 37k followers.

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

For a long time you're working for nothing, working just to cover expenses and try and grow! It's taken me over two years to get to the point where I'm earning a living, still nothing brilliant but it covers the bills :)

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram, Asos and Facebook page?

Plenty of maaaagical velvet and celestial pieces for A/W. I'd also like to expand our Fairtrade harem range, using male models and curvier girls for our bigger fit. And I hope to do more beautiful photoshoots; we took a break from doing them for over a year but they make all the difference.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to set up their own shop?

Be ethical! Respect your planet and peers.

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

I'm not sure about the best, but the worst I had was 'Why not get your embroidery mass-produced overseas?' And I was like 'Er, no! It's handmade, that's the POINT!'

Please follow these talented ladies on their Instagram 'theadornedduo' and their Asos page 'https://marketplace.asos.com/boutique/adorned' for wonderful clothing, jewellery and of course photography. 

Rhiannon BrittenComment