Meet the founder of Damson Madder — The brand championing sustainable dopamine dressing

HUNGER sits down with Emma Hill, the founder of Damson Madder, to discuss the importance of accessible style-led alternative fashion labels.

Led by a love for bright colour and timeless designs, it’s no surprise that Damson Madder quickly cemented itself as a go-to green fashion brand, what with its quirky style and maximalist patterns. Having launched in 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdown, founder Emma Hill was driven to make a difference within the industry she loved. Enter the idea for a brand that took dopamine dressing to the next level, and didn’t sacrifice the planet to do so. 

Made with organic and recycled materials and natural dyes, there’s no sacrifice involved when it comes to Hill’s creations. And this ethos has resonated with many customers over the few years, with sell-out designs like the Tilly Leopard Gilet gracing the Instagrams of some of Britain’s most fashionable women. Now, with the drop of their SS23 collection, which was inspired by ‘80s surf culture and coastal holidays, fans can expect even more bouquets of wildflowers in the designs, but this time with brighter and bolder prints than before. 

Here, we sit down with founder Emma Hill to discuss everything from finding inspiration in vintage haberdashery and/or your gran’s best linens to learning that progress is more important than perfection. 

What gap in the market do you feel Damson Madder fills? 

The idea came when shopping for sustainable clothing. I felt that there were very few brands that offered designs that were unique and exciting. So I thought, why couldn’t we design garments that looked great as well as were sustainable? We started working with different recycled and organic fabric bases along with experimenting with some natural dyes. Some of our favourite colours within our first trials included damson (plum) and madder (flower) and so the name was born. We launched in April 2020… one week before lockdown. This was tough, however, we were very lucky to have such an incredible response to the first collection and it was great to know that what we were doing resonated with so many people.

How did you begin your business journey?

Ultimately, it was all about wanting to make a difference. It was a time when the coverage of the impact of the industry was growing looking at the reality of the environmental impact and the realities of all bad practices behind the scenes.  Having experienced this firsthand, becoming a mother, and wanting to retain my love of the industry, it was essential in making these decisions. Certain parts of my work were becoming soul-destroying and it was in a moment of clarity, that I could choose to do better, to be better, and to do things differently. But I didn’t want to compromise, nor did I want consumers to have to do that too. I knew we could create ethical fashion but with design at the forefront. 

What does the Damson Madder wearer look like?

We strive to be accessible and appeal to anyone that loves fashion and wants to be more conscious of their choices. We want to provide timeless, style-led pieces for the working professional.

What was the inspiration for the new collection?

Bright and bold prints, inspired by 1980s surf culture and coastal holidays, with a focus on simple pleasures for the graphics – think picnics, wildflower bouquets, and mindfulness. Underpinning all drops and the wider collection is an inspiration of vintage haberdashery and using your gran’s best linen. Later drops in the season showcase Dopamine dressing 2.0 at its best – think fresh, bright, happy colours, which are perfect to welcome in the summer season.

What is your favourite piece in the collection, and why?

It has to be our best-selling Tilly leopard Gilet! It is the perfect addition to any outfit – wear it to dress up a white tee and a jean or over any dress to elevate. It has become a key style for us and we have just launched the new Denim Tilly, which is a casual alternative and the perfect layering piece for your summer wardrobe. Now a signature style, we are just about to launch our fourth run of the leopard version due to selling out every previous drop at pre-order.

How have you implemented your sustainability ethos into this coming season?

The sustainability element is the most important factor for us, and every garment has different sustainable attributes depending on the style. We use recycled polyester and cotton within our collections, which are made from plastic bottles taken from coastlines and landfill and the cotton is recycled from textile waste. We ensure all packaging is recycled and recyclable. We don’t claim to be perfect, however, we are transparent with our materials and processes. We try our best to improve the sustainability of each garment throughout the product life cycle. Our garments are built to last with more robust fabrics because the most sustainable way to live is to buy less. But there is so much more we can do, reducing carbon footprint, greener transport… The list is endless. As we grow we will continue to improve and develop these areas further. 

Do you ever have issues with selling out due to your small batch releases? Why do you release this way?

Yes, we have but we are committed to creating all our collections in small batches to reduce overproduction. Buying between 50 – 350 units of each line, we like to keep it small so that there is no surplus stock and no garments going to waste. This allows us to manage and see demand and work towards that for our consumers.

What’s next for Damson Madder? 

We believe in progress, not perfection. Bigger isn’t always better. We care about our planet and we are working on minimising our impact by embedding more conscious practices. Being a small business, it can be a challenge to keep up, so we try not to get swept up in the buzzwords, but focus on constantly evolving and developing how we work. We are committed to taking steps in the right direction with every collection that we bring out.