Kathryn and Millie Allsopp
Here, our founders Kathryn and Millie kick off our Usisi-Sister series.
Why did you decide to launch Usisi-Sister together?
Having a sister is like being born with a partner in many ways. Launching a business is hard, there are incredible highs and sinking lows and having someone to share the good and the bad with in those times, is in our opinion, essential. Our aesthetic and taste are totally aligned, and despite our age gap we had always shopped for the same items. I guess because we have always chosen a timeless aesthetic, pieces that can be worn by many different ages and different women.
We love this quote by Jeffrey Kluger on siblings, and think it illustrates perfectly what its like to have siblings:
“From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counsellors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life”
How has your relationship as sisters guided your creativity in work?
An unusual fact about us, and one we tell with caution as we are aware of how psychotic it is, but… we have never had an argument. We get excited about the same things, we are repelled by the same things too – this makes the creative process very unobstructed but of course can see us go of in wild sweeping tangents. Additionally, we take a lot of inspiration from photographs of our mother in the 1970s, a period of fashion that we always reference.
What’s a sister tradition you and your sisters have?
We have some ingrained habits and a shared joy of certain trips and adventures.
When stressed or problem solving, we walk, fast. Either in a park, around London, anywhere really. It is our meditation. And by the end of the walk, we’ve usually come up with a solution.
Weekend inspiration comes in a various of forms, from visiting a new exhibition, vintage shopping in weekend markets, or our personal favourite… flea market shopping. Browsing stalls of for vases, ceramics and furniture – hunting for a well lived bargain item. Like a recent pair of marbled Meji Japanese vases.
Sisters are chosen as well as related, can you talk a bit about the chosen community of women you have in your life?
Multinational would be the first notion to describe our chosen community of women. Having both lived away from the UK for many years our community expanded to include a wide range of women varying in age and background. Having this level of diversity offers up many different views and opinions and enriches conversation and outlook.
Do you have women you mentor as part of your community?
We have more a forum for shared experience and learning, where we can share ideas, pitfalls, learn from others experience and share our own. That being said, we often contact women in our community with larger businesses and more experience for advice and mentorship. There is something cathartic about sitting down with women with the same ambitions and discussing the joys and challenges. We believe that having a community of strong women around you is of the utmost importance, both in grounding you and challenging you.
Sustainability is at the forefront of the business, how can women approach shopping more sustainably?
Buy less and buy well. It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in this green-washed climate, but we truly believe it. A timeless item with longevity in its aesthetic can take you through season after season. Although fast fashion is tempting because of the price it’s so important for a shift to slow and thoughtful fashion for the sake of our planet. Of course no fashion brand is truly sustainable and that is why we have installed sustainable and responsible practises from the beginning, but there is always room for improvement and that's something we’re committed too.
What trends do you like for the party season? What are you predicting for SS22?
For the urban jungle that is London at Christmas in a post-Covid era, we have created an evening Safari Suit in tomato red crepe, with gold swirl pendants embellishments, that have beendesigned and finished by Kathryn herself, to catch the light in the evening. A trend which has emerged from this period of calm is uber sexy, but why forfeit comfort – why do you have the choose? That’s why we’ve produced a range of knitwear for evening, because we believe you can achieve both in the same look.
In what ways does travel inspire you?
Travel has been central to the design process. We launched Usisi Sister with “Suitcase capsules”, items which are essential for holidays, that are versatile and that can be worn together or separately.
The feeling of freedom, releasing yourself from your daily routine is when inspiration hits the hardest. Colour is a big travel inspiration too, we have always loved earthy tones in our collections; sand, red earth, rust, tomato, coffee, chocolate, saffron, papyrus, sienna, the list goes on. In warmer climates these colours make up the landscapes, in nature and in cities. Artists that were previously unknown to us can inform silhouettes too, palettes or the mood for our next campaign.
What will be on your post-Covid travel list?
Vietnam, first to Ho Chi Minh to see our wonderful production manager and factory. We have hunting sustainable fabrics mills in close proximity to our factory since the beginning. The creation of Lotus silk is exclusive to Vietnam, and something we are exploring. Following this we would spend the rest of the trip as food tourists, we love Vietnamese food. Finishing with a relaxing few days on a secluded beach north of Nha Trang.
What’s a great holiday you’ve had as sisters?
Every year we would visit our grandmother in South Africa by the ocean, about two hours from Cape Town. We’d spend a lot of time walking in the nature reserves, going to the beach and eating at new restaurants with our extended family.
Do you shop vintage? If yes, what are your tips?
Yes, we love the thrill of the search and unearthing preloved treasures. Our local is the Friday toSaturday vintage market on the Portobello Road, there’s always a selection of stunning Ossie Clark dresses or suits to be found. When we lived in New York we used to be first in line for the vintage store Current Affair. As for tips, bring cash and get a better deal.
What artists inspire you?
Everyone from Sydney Albertini, Sonia Delaunay andHelen Frankenthaler to Barbara Hepworth and our late grandmother Stella Shawzin, a sculptor.