When designer Laurel Linden gave birth to twin girls, it brought to an end more than a decade of working in London’s fashion industry. But following a move to Somerset, Laurel’s creative juices started to flow again and she began to work on her other baby: Hoity-Toity, a multiple-award winning girls’ fashion label created using ethically sourced materials and organic cotton.
Laurel: "Hoity-Toity is a truly homegrown brand and our signature floral prints conjure up images of traditional wildflower meadows, with delicately hand-painted birds nestling amongst blossoming foliage. I’m inspired by my love of the English countryside, the perfect back drop for a childhood rural idyll. The range has a feminine yet fun signature style. Our handmade in Britain credentials afford a bespoke focus on attention to detail, and support the rejuvenation of skilled UK manufacturing. We debuted our first collection in 2015, and continue to bloom with our passion for fashion and all things ethical."
As well as gaining huge inspiration from the "natural beauty" of Somerset, Laurel says her family is at the centre of everything she does. And with young daughters to look after, she even has two little models right on hand.
Laurel: "The arrival of our twin daughters meant leaving behind over a decade in the fashion industry, working across the board from designer to high street. It was life changing in so many wonderful ways. The girls blossomed into toddlers and, as a dress designer, I couldn’t resist creating the first collection for my little muses. It was high time to rekindle my creative desire to design, and so Hoity-Toity came into being. We are now based in the rolling hills of Somerset, between Bath and Frome, and it’s so inspiring being surrounded by such natural beauty. Although having left London and easy access to manufacturing behind, I still make my first samples, and we’re now setting up with an amazing local seamstress. I work from my studio at home, and last year we moved into a rambling old rectory just a few months before our daughters started school."
So where did the unique name for her brand come from?
Laurel: "The name Hoity-Toity is a tongue-in-cheek expression, and comes from our penchant for creating rhyming phrases. It’s also an obsolete 16th-Century verb 'hoit', which means ‘to play the fool’ or 'to indulge in riotous and noisy mirth' – which as a mother of twin girls I found to be rather apt. Likewise, our brand tagline is "for precious little madams" – we all know our darling angels have their moments but we adore them nonetheless!"
Laurel runs Hoity-Toity single-handedly, although works collaboratively with, and draws inspiration from, what she describes as a "wealth of very talented women". It’s this level of teamwork that Laurel credits for Hoity-Toity’s success.
Laurel: "I design and direct all things Hoity-Toity, but I’m very blessed to count so many creative wonders among my friends – from photographers and print designers, to pattern cutters and footwear designers. This has enabled Hoity-Toity to blossom. More recently we’ve just brought into fruition an adorable bespoke project with Frome-based textile artist Laura Holden. We have transformed her charming unicorn hobby horses with our delightful, organic lace trims, and her hand-painted, heritage signature prints into adorable and much coveted handmade toys."
Laurel calls herself "a designer with a conscience" and makes sure she uses ethically sourced materials in all areas of production.
Laurel: "Organically-farmed cotton being non-allergenic, non-carcinogenic and without toxic chemical residues is an essential factor for a young girls’ label with a conscience. Prints for our collections are designed in collaboration with British artists, and artworks are delicately hand-painted and digitally reproduced with low impact inks onto certified organic cotton. It’s of paramount importance that our design focus takes equal standing with our values on sustainability. There are of course deeply distressing ethical issues on why organic so the labels ethos plays equal attention to design and ethics. Cotton is often referred to as ‘the fabric of our lives’, yet it’s estimated that each year non-organic producers use as much as 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the world’s pesticides creating lethally adverse effects on humans and wildlife ecosystems a like."
Laurel says that all of her designs have a nod to English eccentricity and charm, and hopes that are future heirlooms in the making.
Laurel: "I like to think of my designs as feminine yet fun. The ruffles are exaggerated and the fabrics are fun – from polka dots and winter herringbones, to dreamy delicate cutwork – set back with prints inspired by our love of the countryside and all things floral. I love our delicate cutwork garments, but for durability and longevity our organic poplin printed flutter/ruffle detailed dresses have to be the favourite. They’re timeless pieces and, in embracing a 'slow fashion' approach to running the label, they are always available handmade to order on our bespoke page. Skylark print is so adorable as it conjures up images of traditional wild flower meadows with delicately hand-painted birds nestling amongst blossoming foliage. The garments are all beautifully and lovingly handmade to last, produced in the UK and often with a hand-stitched finish, so the antithesis of all things 'fast fashion'."
Laurel is obviously passionate about ethical design, but why does she love Somerset?
Laurel: "I first fell in love with Somerset in my late teens on what became the almost annual pilgrimage to the Glastonbury Festival. It was many years ago and although not quite the metropolis it is today, it was ever the free spirited and fun-fuelled event. In the winters I travelled to distant shores, but summers were always spent festival hopping closer to home. Having left London in search of our own rural idyll, I’m so taken with the natural beauty of Somerset. From the Levels to the Mendips, it’s picture postcard perfect. The cities of Bath and Bristol are vibrant havens for music, arts and culture. Then of course on a creative level, there is simply never a dull moment in Frome."