Written by Brian James @brianjamesstyling & Leigh Maynard @leighmaynard
Eirinn Hayhow philosophically embraces the natural world; it is an integral part of her; she is deeply connected with trees and the forest. Childhood memories play an essential role in her creativity; having spent time in the forest’s calming surroundings with her father, she identifies it as a nurturing place, as part of her authentic self. This place both centres her and provides inspiration for her work. It is also where Eirinn comes back to find space to think and revitalise. It is concurrently a place of stimulation and calm.
This connection to nature informs her processes in her fashion design; she creates her own dyes from plants and berries she has foraged and creates designs from salvaged and sustainable materials, ensuring that she positively impacts our ecosystem. It is a continual process of discovery and innovation that sees her as a pioneer in her field. Eirinn constantly finds ways to produce new materials using natural resources while steering vehemently from synthetic, man-made fibres and processes. With each new collection, Eirinn pushes the boundaries of sustainable, gender-neutral fashion, leading the way and serving as an inspiration for other independent brands.
We caught up with her a few seasons back, and this time at London Fashion Week, we were intrigued to see her progression for her latest collection, ‘Tree People.’ For AW22, Erin invites us to listen and understand nature’s language, taking us on a walk amongst the trees into the heart of the forest. Perhaps her favourite place, a reminder to us to cherish nature and respect it for the sake of its inhabitants but also for our own wellbeing. After the release of Tree People, Eirinn took the time to tell us about the latest collection, navigating the pressures of a life in fashion, and how she has progressed as a designer over the last few seasons.
Congratulations on your AW22/23 collection entitled “Tree People,” which we loved. It’s a very evocative title, and we wondered what inspired it and the collection?
After I finished my previous collection Crystal Earth, and I had my presentation in London, I thought I would have a bit of breathing space before deciding on the concept of the new collection. However, the next day, I walked into a bookshop and picked up Peter Wohllenben’s ‘The Heartbeat of Trees.’ Wohllenben is the most incredible writer, and I have now read both of his novels, including The Hidden Life of Trees. I highly recommend it. As a child, I spent every weekend in the forests, walking with my dad. I would climb trees and walk into the trees that had openings in the centre, pretending they were my home. I love the sounds of the forests when you hear the wind blowing through the leaves and the branches moving in the breeze. I still try to spend most weekends in the forests. I never tire of the freedom that the forest can bring, the meditative state that it can evoke in us as it takes us away from our digital world. Whenever I am immersed in the woodland, I feel so connected to something indescribably huge, beyond comprehension. It reminds me why we are alive. We are much more alike to trees than we realise! Water is pumped like blood through their circulatory systems, and their roots are brain-like structures that can communicate with the rest of the forest. It breaks my heart to know that deforestation is happening globally, and that people are planting trees in the wrong environments, causing devastation to other plants, insects, and wildlife. I wanted to bring awareness to that and remind people of the magic of the forest. Let’s be Tree People once again.
It’s a collection that demonstrates a further evolution of your ethically produced slow fashion brand with the growth of your own biomaterials. How did you grow them, and how rewarding has it been to take this further step in your sustainable journey?
This season I took a period of research and development in Barcelona. I really wanted to go a step further and start producing my own biomaterials from food waste and plants and go a step further in helping the earth. I chose to make leather from used coffee granules and seaweed as both are in abundance, particularly in Margate, where I live with the sea and all the coffee shops around. Coffee enables the material to really look like leather. Going forward, I am doing some magical things with the waste from my dye baths, making inks, and I hope to create some really kaleidoscopic materials.
This development builds on your existing commitment to use recycled materials and foraged fauna to make natural dyes. How long does it take to bring a collection with this ethos from forest to fashion week?
It generally takes me around 6 months, but it is never enough time!
Your creations are wholly genderless. Do you find it liberating to design outside the societally imposed gender constructs, and how do you want the person who wears Eirinn Hayhow to feel when they wear one of your garments?
For me, it is a necessity to design a genderless look; I have never had an interest in gendered norms in the Fashion Industry, so I don’t know if I find it liberating; it is more natural to me – if that makes sense? However, I find it liberating that it is now more accepted and valued in the industry. I hope the wearer feels powerful, magical, individual and unique.
The pandemic gave our planet the briefest of pauses from the exponential environmental crisis; however, it now seems like a return to 2019 business as usual. How confident are you that society, particularly the fashion industry, can halt what often seems an irreversible descent into climate disaster?
I think there have been some amazing changes as we move towards a more sustainable world in so many industries, but I cannot deny the fear I have that, like everything, it has now become a trend to many people, and I am not sure how sustainable I believe many things really are. It does upset me that huge corporations can get away with greenwashing, particularly when there are some real innovators striving to make a change, but equally, I am hoping that even small changes in the right direction can help to save our planet.
In your “Tree People” press release, you explain that reforestation done carelessly can adversely impact the environment. Is it important that we look behind the “headlines” to ascertain whether initiatives sold to us as positive actions are, in fact, that?
Yes, I think we must always look behind the headlines, as we are constantly being sold false ideas through advertising. I would suggest that individuals really learn from multiple sources before believing/ investing in something and always do their own research.
While you are very much on your own upward journey as a designer, how would you like to inspire the generation of designers and creatives coming behind you?
I would always try to inspire others by saying the most important thing is to be 100% true to yourself, your identity, philosophy, and creativity. Keep learning, keep growing and just keep being you! There will always be someone that believes in you.
The life of a designer can be a very pressurised existence; what do you do to decompress and destress?
I am lucky to live by the sea and spend a lot of time in nature with my dog, walking by the sea or in the forest (i prefer the forest). I also do yoga and fitness daily; I keep up a teetotal lifestyle; if I’m honest, I am just too sensitive to the world, so try to be as grounded as possible. I don’t drink caffeine, and I like to indulge in superfoods and different mushroom powders that I put in teas and smoothies.
When we last spoke, you told us that you hoped to develop your own biomaterials by the end of 2022. Having achieved that already, what are your goals and aspirations for the rest of this year?
Wow, I did not realise I had achieved that already, so I am pleased that you reminded me :). However, there is still a long way to go along my biomaterials journey, and I hope to develop some really interesting colours and textures and make them super wearable. I also hope to travel more with my collections showing in more cities around the world and inspire others through my sustainable journey to think about the environment and reconnect them to the earth.
As a consumer, it can be hard to navigate the world of so-called sustainable fashion. As we see a return to ‘normality’, the changes we had hoped for have become less apparent. We are surrounded by multinationals that adopt greenwashing to fit the trend and sell through false advertisements. And in contrast, we have Eirinn Hayhow, an authentic adopter of sustainable fashion. She is a sensitive soul whose gentle determination reveals true strength as she navigates the path less trodden, staying true to her beliefs about inclusivity and gender-free fashion while caring deeply for the planet.
This season saw Eirinn continue to explore her vibrant multi-textural aesthetic featuring her trademark tie-dye and crochet pieces, now with the extension of her newly developed biomaterials. With each passing season, Eirinn continues to innovate and inspire. It’s a very personal creative process and journey, a collection that is not only a brand but a fusion of science, philosophy, and spirituality. And yet it is a process she wishes to share to galvanise others around the globe.
Recently, a long-established designer told us that multinationals are too big to make real strides in a truly sustainable fashion. Instead, the smaller labels can adapt and change enough to really make the difference. Eirinn is one of those designers, a shining example of genuinely sustainable fashion. She is nature’s true advocate.
You can find out more about Eirinn’s label Eirinn Hayhow at www.eirinnhayhow.co.uk
Creative Direction – DREAM SAFARI
Styling – Emily EVANS
Photography – Josh Leppenwell
Hair Styling – Hayley Edwards
Assisted By Jessica Daisy
Makeup – Sponsored by LUSH and by Jen Hunter
assisted by Daniela
Shoes – UGG sponsored by UGG IN EUROPE and KARLA OTTO