to the founder of Olana, Jodie-Leigh Brunt
This week, we speak to Jodie-Leigh Brunt, founder of British clothing brand OLANA. Like Tusting, OLANA garments are all designed and handmade in England. We chat with Jodie-Leigh about following her calling to start the brand, what’s in store for 2023 and the joys of finding unexpected things in your handbag.
How did you come about founding OLANA?
Olana was born from a lifelong love of timeless style, a love of all things French and a romantic, nostalgic heart. I’ve always been a lover of the old style movies, the classic muses, the nostalgic stamp book travel. I guess Olana is a representation of my passions and daydreams. Before Olana I was a Drama and Theatre Studies lecturer and so stories, characters, costumes and scenes are part of my DNA. Everything has a story – Olana is to inspire others to carefully consider & curate the story they would like their clothes to tell. Women often bookmark their memories and their fantasies with visions of their outfits. I truly believe in the power of a beautiful piece of clothing and I always have. My Aunt is a curator and seller of vintage clothing. Growing up I remember feeling that the pieces I would receive from her were far superior in design and quality than anything I could find on the highstreet. I was fascinated by the story these clothes could tell and the aspirations they could inspire.
From embroidering my Grandad’s handkerchiefs at the age of 6 to attempting to sew an 18th century ball gown for my GCSE Textiles exam, I’ve always dabbled in design and sewing. But like many people, I really didn’t know what my calling was until many years later. When I finally had the idea for Olana after the birth of my first daughter, I just knew it was what I’d been waiting for my whole life. The very idea of it set my soul on fire and it still does today. My husband has been incredibly supportive of Olana; throughout the late nights, the sacrifices, the tears and, of course, the dreams, he has been and continues to be Olana’s biggest cheerleader. We haven’t received any form of external investment for Olana. Instead we have worked within the old fashioned model of bootstrapping – we are from Yorkshire after all – and the journey is truly an adventure for me and my family.
Where do you get your inspiration for the designs?
Olana is inspired by so many things; classic movies, past muses, romantic notion and nostalgic travel. We collect moments and ideas from a time and world that we want to be part of. In particular, trips to France and Italy have played heavily in the inspiration behind Olana and the lifestyle these places embody have ignited so much of the creative vision behind the brand. Vintage designs are often at the heart of our pieces. Imagine Brigitte Bardot in her little button crop top meandering along the cobbles of an old St Tropez street. Or Audrey Hepburn skipping through the streets of Paris in one of her classic dresses. We’re captivated by the free-spirited woman with an inner confidence and appreciation for the simple things in life. We aim to create classic, quality pieces which implore women to live out their most beautiful days. For us, the connection between travel, style and the spirit of the woman are inextricable and those three elements together have formed the underlying foundation for the world we strive to create in Olana.
Like Tusting, you are a British business whose products are hand-made in the UK.
What made you decide to produce in the UK?
Firstly, I am a quality control freak and so it’s important to me to be hands on throughout the entire production process. Over the past 3 years I have built a team of amazing dressmakers and we hand craft all of our garments in our studio in the North of England. From the birth of a garment idea through to the design, pattern creation and production, the entire creative journey is handled with so much thought and care. Of course it’s more expensive to create clothing in Britain than it would be to out-source from many other countries but I really do feel that as a world we need to slow down, bring things back to our roots and celebrate local expertise and craftsmanship. My aim with Olana is to offer a little piece of luxury at the most fair price I can.
What’s in store for 2023?
Oh not much longer to wait until you find out! We have just shot the 2023 summer campaign on the west coast of France – the theme for this summer is nautical! The collection consists of lots of stripes alongside a linen base palette of white, navy, sand and black. This is my favourite collection (I say this every time). I’m obsessed with the new handwoven organic stripe jersey fabric we’ve used for three of our pieces – it’s a truly beautiful heritage fabric that evokes images of old French boating towns and vintage mariniére attire. The collection features classic, understated pieces that offer timeless, cool and sharp silhouettes. Last year we created our beautifully feminine floral collection, this year is all about sharp simplicity with a dose of classic tailoring. I can’t wait for you to see.
What does quality mean to you?
For me, quality is a knowing feeling. You can feel when a dress, a bag, a car, a sandwich even, is pure quality. The individual components that make up the whole are luxurious and expertly executed. When a series of key elements are carefully considered, they align to create a truly beautiful and luxury whole. At Olana we consider (and often agonise over) every detail. Whether it’s the stitching at the hem of a dress or the neckline width or button placement, every single detail is thoroughly considered and often altered time and time again until we feel it is perfect in its individual execution. It is the tiny, individual details that come together to create luxury and quality.
How do you like to spend a day off?
Running a business and raising two young children doesn’t allow for much time off as such but I am learning to find the down time in and amongst the whirlwind. A dream day off to me would consist of taking things slow…listening to Billie Holiday whilst making a fresh coffee and preparing breakfast. Taking my girls to the library. Going for a family walk and picnic. A curry and wine at home by the fire. In a world where everything is so fast paced and chaotic, I find that the simple things are where the joy is for me.
What is always in your bag?
Some form of lip palette – always. Usually hand cream that I never use but the intention is there! Airpods, baby wipes for the kids and an in-case-of-emergency pen and hair bobble. Oh, and then everything that the kids throw in for fun – last week I found a pot of purple slime which was lovely (lid tightly closed, thankfully). Handbags are like an extension of the woman and often our get-out-of-jail card – I love it when I end up in a situation where I need something, and then I randomly find that something in the bottom of my bag. Pure joy!
To explore OLANA further, visit the website here. To follow the brand on instagram, click here.
Keep an eye out on Instagram next week for an exciting competition with OLANA and Tusting, the perfect summer pairing.