When Paris Hodson studied fashion at university, she was happily ensconced in the world of ‘frivolous’, high-street fashion. However, within a few years, Paris became disillusioned with the ethics of fast-fashion and ‘fluff’ of the London working environment, and began to dream of owning her own label. Paris moved home to Lincolnshire, and began by creating her label, STALF, which started life as a high fashion boutique-style clothing line.
Some time later, Paris split from her business partner and in 2015 struck out on her own, designing, drafting, making and selling garments herself from her little pink studio. ‘I wanted to create clothing that is thought-about, and serves the wearer, and in many ways this is the antithesis of fast fashion,’ explains Paris. Even the name STALF – a contraction of her grandparents Stella and Alf’s names – pays homage to this concept. ‘My grandparents were a generation that treasured what they bought, and they bought far less,’ she adds. ‘In the post-war generation people had to look after their clothes – they weren’t cheap and were far better quality.’
The key words Paris uses throughout our conversation are ‘easy-wear’, ‘simple’ and ‘effortless.’ Comfortable, but never scruffy, the clothes would be equally suitable for a school run, a business lunch or a creative retreat. The simple, oversized shapes and calming palette help to create a capsule wardrobe, and Paris tends to change very little season-to-season. ‘We have a few core garments that help build the STALF look,’ says Paris. ‘The jumpsuit, cocoon trousers and linen tees are ever popular, and we concentrate on the ethics and quality of the clothing instead.’
The tactile cottons, linens and silks are supplied by mostly British and Irish manufacturers, and Paris’s close relationship with her suppliers means she can always source the best quality fabrics, and even collaborate on exclusive prints and colours. ‘When I’m designing the collections I am in the mindset of the STALF woman,’ Paris describes. ‘I’m not interested in high street trends, instead I think about how I feel in the clothes, and how the clothes fit together so that the thought process of dressing oneself is taken away.’
The creation of the clothing itself all takes place at the STALF studio, a former butcher’s in Caistor, Lincolnshire. The shop front now serves as the workshop, with a small team of six seamstresses cutting and making the clothes to order every day. ‘With six people in the workshop it’s a really bustling workplace,’ smiles Paris. ‘Each piece is cut and made to order, so you can imagine how much it has grown from just me to having six people in the studio each day.’ The selling platform is a newly-refreshed website, and reflects the growing business. ‘Everything happens here at the studio, from me sketching the garment on a scrap of paper, to drafting and cutting the pattern, an experienced seamstress making the garment to it being packaged and posted internationally,’ Paris adds. ‘This is what makes us so special – it’s hard to find the skills to create this small-scale production here in the UK, and it could be a challenge in the future to find more as the business grows.’
However, Paris’s commitment to the core ethics of the business means that she has no plans to outsource the work. In fact, work is well underway to expand the studio across the rest of the former butcher’s site. ‘We’re hoping to move the workshop into the former abattoir and use the shop front space as an open studio with samples on display – this way customers can come in, try the clothing on and advise on what they want to see in their next collections.’ As well as preparing for her first baby’s arrival, Paris has recently taken STALF to Edinburgh with a pop-up shop. ‘Meeting and having conversations with the customers was so, so wonderful,’ laughs Paris. ‘It was great to put customer’s names to faces, and really understand how our customers wear our clothes and how they interact with their daily wardrobes.’ Paris admits that it can take many months for a new idea to take form, but the renovation of the studio and her home, as well as the website, is enough to keep her inspired while she takes a step back for motherhood. ‘Ultimately, STALF is about provenance,’ she concludes. ‘I like to think it’s bigger than fashion, it’s simply connecting to the process of getting dressed.’
Describe your work in three words: Effortless, simple, loved
What are your making rituals? The ideas for a new collection will sit in my head for a long time before they’re ever committed to paper. After that, a really good pen is all I need to sketch the visuals before drafting. So, time is my making ritual.
Tea or Coffee? Coffee!
Mountains or Sea? Mountains, I really don’t like water much!
Night Owl or Early Bird? Early bird – mornings are important to take time for oneself.
I wish someone had told me… To have more confidence in myself and my work.
Photography: STALF Studio