In the heat of the summer, there is nothing better than wearing soft breathable linen. Particularly if it’s cut into cool garments, that have an ethereal yet edgy quality. Enter Ren London. Ren is a London based company which launched their first hand printed linen range back in 2015. They later went on to develop a women’s wear range that embodies ease, simplicity, and wearability. All of the products are made mindfully in the UK exclusively using natural fibre fabrics.
Lou caught up with founder Ren Valuzyte, to ask her about the beginnings of the brand, the story of her grandmother and her latest shoot in Marrakesh.
Please can you tell us a little about you, and your origins in starting Ren London?
I’ve had a bit of a mixed upbringing between Europe and the US. I now reside in London’s east end which is where I run my little textile business from. I’ve discovered my love of linen about 3 years ago and with the help of my grandmother, who spent close to 40 years working in a linen mill, I bought my first fabrics and began block printing them with simple geometric designs. As my business grew I also expanded into womens wear and now produce slow fashion pieces from linen and other ethically sourced, natural fibre fabrics.
Did you always want to work in fashion, or has your career evolved?
I’ve always loved clothes, but didn’t see myself in that world until I realised that I don’t have to follow a
traditional path in fashion and can just design clothing that’s accessible, beautiful and mindfully made.
How was it taking that initial step in starting your own business? Did you have a back up plan? How did everyone react?
I left my office job in property management to pursue wood turning, which eventually led me to textiles in a very roundabout way. I just needed something, anything, to pull me out of the stagnant work environment and I’m glad I took the leap. I was quite anxious making such a big change and it certainly would’ve been a hell of a lot easier financially had I stayed on part time while pursuing creative endeavours. Then again, I also know that I’m the kind of person that needs to go all in to make something happen. Everyone was very supportive, especially my partner who continues to be my cheerleader.
Your line of products are made using natural linens, is this a conscious choice and why?
Initially what drew me in was the drape and texture of the fabric and when I learned more about its amazing properties (super durable, low impact on the environment, extremely breathable, etc) coupled with my familial connection to it, it was a no brainer that this would be my first choice of textile to work with.
We love the minimal, simple aesthetic to your garments, where do you get your inspiration for designing these?
I love to look at vintage photographs of women for ideas or I just think of what I would love to wear myself at any given point and take it from there.
Your products are made in London, has it been hard to find quality fabric and staff?
I think I’m very lucky in that I found this little team of seamstresses to work with. It’s all flowed really well since the beginning. Sourcing fabrics can be challenging, but again, I’ve had a very lucky in with the factory that my grandmother worked in.
Lou (our founder) adores your hand blocked linens, in particular the visage cushion. We noticed that the linen for the homewares is sourced from Lithuania, and from the mill where your Grandmother worked, could share this story with us?
My nan lives in the same town where the mill is located. It’s on a beautiful man-made lake set in a nature
preserve. She worked as a weaver there for many years and was a valued member of the team. She put me in touch with a colleague of hers that continues to work there now and she was kind enough to give me a factory tour and sell me my first sample lengths of that gorgeous fabric.
You teach block printing workshops, could you tell us a little about those, and where can we join you next?
I teach a basic form of block printing where the students get to make their own printing blocks and then print their linen piece to take away. I teach locally to me in Stoke Newington every couple of months and I’ve been lucky to team up with other brands and shops to host workshops in different locations. I usually take a break over the summer months as I find attendance is lower then, so I don’t have any scheduled at the moment!
If you could dress any women in the world, who would it be and why?
Any woman that wants to feel comfortable and confident, but is mindful about the environment and makes conscious choices when it comes to her wardrobe without compromising on style.
We adored your recent lookbook shot in Marrakech, could you tell us about how this came about?
I shoot all my own photographs, which can be challenging, but beautiful locations and nice natural light make my job that much easier. The boutique hotel where I shot the lookbook has been on my list of places to stay for a while and I thought it would make for beautiful shoot location.
Do you have any advice for someone who is wanting to give up their 9-5 to follow their passion?
If you’re able to, do it alongside your job or a part time job. It takes time and there will be ups and downs for which having a support network is really important, so try to meet other people who are start ups.
Do you ever experience self doubt and what steps do you take to overcome it?
Oh, absolutely! Having a support network of friends who also run their own businesses is extremely helpful when you’re experiencing self doubt. We admire and genuinely love each others work, so it’s great for lifting each other up and also sometimes just having a big old moan together is useful too.
Can you tell us your morning routine, from waking to out the door?
I usually head straight for a coffee on Wilton Way and if there’s nothing too pressing I’ll take my dog, Otis, on his daily social visit to the park. I will then return home and hop on the computer to get all my admin out of the way before heading to the studio to make pieces or design new clothing.
What is the one thing you do for a self-care ritual?
Wine. And lighting a fancy scented candle.
What are your future plans for Ren London?
Continue to develop the home textiles range to include other natural fibres and keep designing womenswear into a signature collection of timeless classics.
Finally, where can be buying your beautiful products?
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and the founder of Sisterhood Camp.
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and can be found over on her blog Littlegreenshed, where she shares her life, loves and inspiration. Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.