April 23, 2021
Q&A with Tess Annan
Tess Annan, daughter of Kim and Ray (Founders), pictured here with Shappa, their dog.
How different is the company now to when it started back in 2000?
"To be honest, it’s done a real 360. Up until now, we’ve been one of the leading providers of waterproof country gear, with a unique twist, but originally we specialised in hand painted wellingtons and raincoats. The original company name, Welligogs, harks back to the founder’s childhood name for her wellington boots. The designs were bright and fun and completely original. Now, along with our more traditional wax jacket and leather waterproof boots, you will find dresses, sandals and loungewear in our collection. However, in the past couple of years, we have gone back to our roots. We have revived some heritage designs from the wellies, reincarnating them into sustainable socks and activewear."
How is working in fashion different today to when WG was just starting out?
"It is a faster, less empathetic market and that is mainly down to the internet. Since we moved away from rubber wellies to higher quality wax jackets and leather boots, we have always prized ourselves in providing top quality products made from natural materials. The internet has allowed the world to accommodate fast fashion and now, the competition isn’t just for well produced seasonal goods but for cheap, harmful garments (environmentally speaking) that have a shelf life of 2-3 weeks. Although we are starting to see a real change in attitude from people who want to be more fashion conscious and opt to buy fewer, better quality products, the want for a one-night Insta outfit is still huge. We hope that one day, people will be less driven to get quick satisfaction for a single night and think of the longevity of a piece of clothing and where it can take you in the years to come."
Why did you move away from wellington boots and towards more luxury leather boots and tailored coats/jackets?
"Mainly because we wanted to offer our customers a higher quality product that was made closer to home. We now look to source as much as possible from the UK or Europe. We have a lot more control of the supply chain of our garments, we regularly visit our factories to make sure the quality and conditions are of the highest standards. By sourcing locally, we are able to make our carbon footprint as small as possible."
How is WG unique?
"We provide quality products with a distinctive flare. We have a traditional British quality to our core range but are renowned for our detailing and interesting signature features. For example, the majority of our wool jackets have a signature contrast cuff, collar and pocket detail, and our waterproof coats tend to be a more fitted cut with contrast notes that flatter the feminine silhouette. With our new sustainable activewear range, we have designed a performance based workout set made from recyclable materials with heritage WG prints and features."
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
"Our surroundings mostly. The British countryside, it’s rich reds and chestnuts in autumn, the bright colours of flowers you would find on a summer day in a country garden. In 2018, we sent our design team to Mexico to get some different ideas. There is a whole piece about what inspired them, you can read it here."
What’s your favorite WG piece at the moment?
"Ooo, it’s tricky. Probably the Putney Blazer. I adore it. We were inspired by traditional gentlemen's smoking jackets. It’s 100% cotton velvet, a slightly longer line, with the most marvellous paisley print. The print is subtle and catches the light beautifully, it looks black to begin with but as you look at it more closely, you pick up the mutlicoloured hues. It’s finished off with our signature features, the WG cuff, pocket and collar detail. Simply sublime."
"The cut. Our customers always feedback to us how gorgeously feminine they find them. Traditional British wax jackets tend to be boxy and shapeless for women. Our Louise and Odette are based on the Edwardian riding jacket, the adjustable waist would have been the ladies corset, bringing her in at the waist and the fishtail back would have gone over the saddle."
When did you first become interested in sustainability?
"It really began when we transferred from rubber to leather back in 2006. But it has really come into its own in the past three years."
Can you tell us a little about how WG aims to do as much as it can to help save the planet?
"Being a small family business we have a lot more control over our carbon footprint than bigger companies and can be super vigilant with the supply chain. We try to visit our factories and make sure the conditions for the workers are up to scratch. We physically see and inspect how garments are made, this is quite rare as the number of companies that actually go and see their productions are quite small. We also opt for natural, regenerative materials and fabrics for our products as much as possible. We are always looking for innovative ways to create products in a more sustainable way. We have managed to now use recycled sole units on our footwear, made from first generation plastic, and are investigating using natural beeswax to waterproof our garments over traditional wax. We also have small, quality collections we bring out twice a year instead of going down a fast fashion path. We try our best to not only use sustainable resources in our garments, but also in our office resources. We make sure to use recycled paper for our printer in the office and in our day to day note taking, as well as having eco friendly printers that use less energy and ink than normal printers. Wherever possible, we recycle our delivery boxes, if they are in good condition and for our swing tickets and neck labels, we use eco-friendly cards or recycled materials."
How does WG manage waste?
"We try and reuse as much as possible. We repack our coats in their original plastic, providing the condition is still good. We reuse our cardboard boxes when sending out our orders, again providing they are in good condition. We don’t throw out paper, unless we have to, we use it as notepaper in the office. We try and give things as much of a life as possible, our coat hangers see many different coats."
What are WG’s core values?
"Durable, long lasting products that don’t compromise style or silhouette designed with our customers and the planet in mind. We care about the effect our business has on the planet, we care about our customers and their journey when they buy from us. We want to promote and support local businesses wherever possible and we care that the products we create are beautiful and unique."
Kim & Ray Annan (Welligogs Founders), Tess Annan and Shappa their dog.