International Women's Month is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate women. In honour of this special month, Irene Forte interviewed the amazing Pip Durell.
Pip Durell is the Founder of With Nothing Underneath, a sustainable, timeless and effortless female shirt brand. A former Vogue stylist and Tatler editor, Pip started With Nothing Underneath after adjusting mens' shirts for her own use.
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IRENE: I'm very excited to be interviewing you and to be in your beautiful store, With Nothing Underneath, and to be wearing one of your beautiful With Nothing Underneath shirts. Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to start the brand?
PIP: Firstly, you're hired! Thank you. I was working at Vogue, and we were always talking about shirts, and we were so often using men's shirting or the same brands over and over. And not only did I not feel the price point was really accessible, but also there wasn't really that option out there. Obviously now I'm so attuned to people and shirting, and I see how many women are in shirts in the street and different kind of shirts and for different occasions. And I just thought there's something in that. Our motto is “a shirt to live a life in.” And that's really what we want to do - any woman should be able to walk into our store or go to our website and they'll be able to find something that fits for them and for their lifestyle and for their body.
IRENE: Amazing. I love wearing a shirt, so I agree with that. And I know that you're B Corp certified. Can tell me a little bit about your experience with that process?
PIP: As you know, it's really intense. We just got our certification last year. I think you are certified, too.
IRENE: Yes, we were certified in January.
PIP: Yes, it's amazing. It feels really exciting to have that acknowledgement because there's so much noise in the industry. I don't know as much about beauty, but in fashion particularly, there's so much greenwashing going on. And then when you're doing the right thing, which is, in my opinion, paying workers the right wages from literally the field to the shop, using organic materials or recycled materials and being conscious about even the details of the buttons. We use nuts and natural materials wherever we can. Sometimes that comes at a cost and a lot more work and at a loss of profit. And sometimes I think that can be very frustrating. Doing the right thing when sometimes it feels like no one cares, and also that everyone else is claiming they're doing the right thing, too. And I think for us, what we found is B Corp has really managed to sort the wheat from the chaff and really show us to be at the forefront of sustainable fashion, which we feel really excited about.
IRENE: And B Corp takes a 360 degree approach. It's not just limited to the materials. With greenwashing, it's often like brands are picking one thing that they do and then honing in on that. Whereas to get B Corp status, you have to do it all.
PIP: Totally. Honestly, I see brands that say they are “a green line.” What does “green” mean? I don't know. So B Corp is doing the right thing. And it's also public. Anyone can go and find our profile on the B Corp site and have a look at our score and see what we've done better in and where we haven't done as well and, where you can improve. And I think that we've it's really nice to engage with other B Corp brands because it's definitely a community.
IRENE: 100%. There's loads of waste in the beauty industry, and I know there's quite a lot of waste in fashion, too. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're doing or what brands can be doing better?
PIP: I think the number one thing is the lifespan of a piece of clothing. The problem these days is that everything is fast fashion. You're being fed new trends by everyone all the time. So it's constant newness. And what's that really? What's that saying to everyone? It's saying, get rid of that article of clothing that you have only had for six months, and that's insane. We've just launched denim. The weight of it was really important. And the idea is that I want this to last someone ten years, 20 years. It's proper denim. It's really going to last. And that's really important to us. We do a lot about communicating with our customers about different ways to wear it. We're not saying, here's this shirt. It's like, you know that shirt that's in your wardrobe? Here are three ways to style it. Let us help you. Communicating with our customers in that way is quite important. What I'm wearing right now is our Tencel, which we launched earlier this year, and it's made from recycled wood pulp. It's totally biodegradable. So, in fact, apart from the labels, because unfortunately they have some recycled polyester in them, you should be able to put this shirt into the ground and it would basically totally regenerate, which is really exciting. And it's really the movement we want to be making. We don't have any manmade fibers in there. So we've got wools and cottons and linens and materials that are made by the earth. And that's really a stance we've made as a brand. And again, we want them to last and have quality and weight to them. I think that's pretty crucial.
Irene: Amazing. That’s very, very cool. Do you have a favourite shirt? Are you allowed to pick a favourite style?
PIP: I'm so fickle. It really depends on the week. The one you're wearing actually is my favourite. It's not new at all. It's probably about three years old, and it's still one of our best sellers, and it looks good on everyone. And I wear it all the time. I think linen you can wear all year round. It's not just a summer fiber. And yeah, I think that that material just picks up everyone's skin tone beautifully. So I do love that one. But at the moment, I'm having a bit of a denim loving, because we just launched it. But, it depends on the day of the week!
IRENE: What are the biggest challenges or moments that you now laugh about since launching – if there are any you can still laugh about?
PIP: Honestly, I just think I'm actually quite good at laughing at them all. But there have been so many challenges. I actually can't even list them. I think in this day of Instagram, everyone says, “Oh, looks like you had a great time shooting that campaign in LA.” And I'm like, “It was 40-degree heat, and I was having a nervous breakdown about samples.” You know, it was actually this time last year and we were signing the lease for this store, which was really stressful. I had no idea what I was doing. I had a lawyer whose ‘lawyer speak’ I didn't understand, and I'm talking about a five-year contract with the management! And, I was also creative directing the shoot in Palm Springs. So with the time difference, the heat, it was actually a total moment. But the shoot was beautiful and the store is here, so we're fine.
PIP: With small businesses, I think it is truly about time and effort. It's like that passion behind it. And I think that nothing is ever easy.
IRENE: No, nothing. And it's about resilience and learning to keep going.
PIP: Whenever I go home and I'm like, “I'm ready to quit,” my husband is like, “Okay, darling.” And then the next day I'm like, “Oh, love it.” The trials and tribulations - the highs are really high and the lows are really low. So, they balance out.
IRENE: I think that's a good way to put it. What are you most proud of?
PIP: B Corp and the store was a really, really proud moment for us as a brand. It's amazing to think that we've got this far. We haven't got investors, so we really have bootstrapped it to this stage, and that's amazing. Our team is a tiny team. Everyone is so crucial, so key. And I think everyone just worked really, really hard to pull this together. And now we have a home which I think really represents us as a brand and for people to come in and experience the brand. And that feels really special.
IRENE: The space is beautiful, so if anyone hasn't come to see it, you should.
PIP: Please come in any time.
IRENE: It is International Women's Month, so maybe you have some advice you can give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
PIP: You know, I think I've been really, really lucky. I've had a career where I've worked with so many supportive women. They are truly, really incredible people who have always taken the call and have always been willing to help me, whether that was when I was in magazines or even now, people I used to work with. I always say this: If you don't ask, you don't get. What I've found is people are a lot more generous than you think they are. People who will give you a 15-minute call, and asking for their opinions is so important. I think you've got know what you want and who you are and what the brand is. But I think leaning on others and leaning on other women who are in other areas or slightly further on than you is helpful. You and I were literally just talking about investments and things like that, and sharing that between each other is so important and so nice. I've found that the female community is amazing and there are a lot of people out there willing to help, if you ask.
IRENE: Agreed. And a lot of female founders as well - we've got a really nice group to ask for advice and everyone's really willing to help each other, which is amazing. So you always look very sharp as an ex-stylist and and with your shirts and, you fashion sense generally, of course. What do you do to look after your skin?
PIP: I think the main reason I'm drawn to shirts is because I think you look really pulled together without making any effort, which is true.
IRENE: Really effortless.
PIP: That's the aim of the game for me. And I think probably my beauty skincare regime is the same. I don't spend a huge amount of time. Moisturiser is really where I'm at. I love your night moisturiser. And I've got into serums basically. I'm not really sure what anything does. I'm not clued up enough, but I just know I like it.
IRENE: As long as it makes you enjoy putting it on and it makes your skin feel good and you feel like you're you're getting results, you're halfway there.
PIP: Exactly. And I think it's what every like makeup artist says - start with the base, so I think that's it. And actually, I'm so boring, but I sleep loads. I'm like an eight hour a night kind of girl.
IRENE: So am I.
PIP: Sleep and moisturizer, which is so boring.
IRENE: That's great. Sleep. And the Hibiscus Night Cream.
PIP: That's it. Exactly.