In 2006 Lucy, 52, founded ethical fashion brand Aspiga. She lives in London and Hampshire.
I was on holiday in South Africa in 2003, and the lady running the lodge where I stayed was Kenyan. She was selling beautiful hand-beaded leather sandals created by Kenyan craftspeople.
I fell in love with the sandals and thought if I could get some UK sales it would help to give some of the local people a steady income.
I ordered 500 pairs and sold them from the back of my car at polo matches, or in the office to colleagues (at the time I was working for a charity connected to The Prince’s Trust, encouraging large businesses to give back to the community). At the end of the summer I had only 30 pairs left so I knew there was a gap in the market for pretty, feminine sandals.
I spent my holidays in Kenya sourcing suppliers then I sent them patterns they could make into our unique sandal designs.
In January 2005 I launched a capsule collection at London trade show Top Drawer. We secured orders from 40 stockists, including Fenwick, White Stuff and Crew Clothing. I was thrilled and left my job to work full time on Aspiga — the name of my first pony.
For the first ten years we sold wholesale, including designing a range for Russell & Bromley. Then, when I set up a website, I realised everyone who bought sandals from us also needed holiday clothes.
So I began designing beachwear, kaftans and resortwear, too.
Today we have two fashion collections a year. The designs are created in London and handmade in Kenya and India. Our materials are from natural, organic, renewable and recycled sources.
I was worried no one was going on holiday during lockdown, but luckily it was such a wonderful hot summer in the UK, we ended up having a fantastic year.
Core to Aspiga’s DNA is supporting positive change. We run a monthly Beach Clean-Up Campaign in Malindi, Kenya, and sponsor 12 child volunteers to attend school, so they can get the education they were previously unable to afford.
We were chosen as a finalist for the 2021 Drapers Sustainable Fashion Brand of the Year Award.
More and more people are realising the impact of fast-fashion and learning to appreciate the beauty of what artisans can do.