From grants to business transparency & the 'toxic comparison' on social media, Jess Strain talks about the launch of Ovrbloom.
Set in the heart of Bristol, just off Old Market, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting to Jess Strain, the creative mind behind Ovrbloom at the Bristol Textiles Quarter studios. Disillusioned by the greenwashing of fast fashion brands, Jess wanted to challenge and understand what truly underpins a sustainable business in 2022.
With a textiles degree background & support of the Young Innovators Award, a scheme awarded by Innovate UK and the Princes Trust, Jess has embarked on making multi-use accessories such as The HatBag, a bucket hat that transforms into a beach bag.
This scheme has allowed Jess to grow her business with a huge support package that eases the burden of launching a new business. After an application process, Jess was chosen together with 60 innovators to receive a £5000 grant & 2 days a week living wage for 12 months to work on her business.
"All this as well as a dedicated mentor who I meet weekly and tens of hours with experts in specialist areas such as design thinking, marketing and business strategy."
To be considered for such an incredible award, you're required to submit a written application as well as a video pitch, with business plans for the future, experience and how you would best utilise the scheme.
"My main advice for anyone looking to apply is to talk about how much you'd utilise the network - this really has been the most important part of the award!"
With the grant scheme acquired, Jess' next challenge was to question the greenwashing fast fashion has been exploiting. "The sustainable claims of brands, such as H&M and Zara, are unsubstantiated and just false. The general public don't know how to question their claims due to lack of education from the system". From this frustration, Jess pushed herself to clearly outline the route of all her products, from the origin of the organic cotton to the paints used, every step of the process is documented to get the public to engage with the storyline of a product.
This is what business transparency can look like:
In December of 2021, Jess decided to move to Bristol and quickly got a studio space at Bristol Textiles Quarter. This space has given her the opportunity to fully embed herself within the Bristol fashion and textiles community, even connecting her to past studio member Nina Redman who has assisted in the pattern of the HatBag. In August 2022, Jess has now launched Ovrbloom with an incredibly interactive event within BTQ.
"I knew that I was surrounded by so many incredible creatives here in Bristol, but I didn't know how or where to find them. BTQ allowed me to connect with past and current studio members!"
Alongside the physical community in Bristol, Jess is also very present on social media. As with any creative nowadays, you're not only expected to be a maker, a business person, a web developer, a photographer but also an Instagram influencer. Jess will be the first to put her hand up and say she can get sucked into the whole toxic habits social media encourages, however "being able to see what all my peers are up to is an amazing tool to stay connected, in particular direct messaging other creatives; talking about the issues we face and sharing experiences. However, you just have to be careful that you don't get bogged down in comparison."
It was brilliant meeting Jess and revisiting BTQ studios, I'm sure I'll be back soon. But before I left I asked Jess to share a 'one to watch' maker & a 'dream' maker. These can be creatives within or outside her own practice that she feels are doing really great work that deserves to be shared. I hope to ask this of all my interviewees as a shout out to other makers and as an opportunity to expand our community.
"One to watch maker: Tiana McInerney, who makes the most delicate hand paper-cut pieces and painting style.
Dream maker: Lydia Bolton, who has a gorgeous way of remaking secondhand fabrics into the most chic pieces."
Coming up soon, Jess will be attending Sustainable Fashion Week both in the market at the Bristol Beacon on the weekend of the 17th-18th September & as part of a panel discussion at Bristol Thrift store on Thursday 22nd September. Don't miss this opportunity to meet her and chat about her experience getting the Young Innovators Award & business transparency.
Thank you so much Jess for participating and for all you who have been engaging with the Creative Diaries. Next week, we'll be sharing Jake Alexander, an award winning children book illustrator & author.
Brand: OVRBLOOM by Jess Strain
Grant Scheme: Young Innovators Award
Bristol Studio Space: Bristol Textiles Quarter
Fellow maker: Nina Redman
Underrated maker: Tiana McInerney
Dream maker: Lydia Bolton