We first connected with Nicole Broad in the Great British Clothes Swap, when she reached out for colourful, patterned and floral men's shirts. "Ah yes, we may be able to help you there", we said. Men's shirts are notoriously difficult to sell preloved, for some reason, and if Nicole could make good use of them, then we were happy.
Since then, we've been following her progress on Instagram with interest. She's one of those people whose passion for what they are doing shines through and who is not afraid to show a vulnerable personal side too. When we connected again recently over a piece of waterproof fabric that she then made into a fabulous rain hat, we thought it would be great to introduce Nicole and the Fruit Moth to our readers.
When and how did you come up with the name The Fruit Moth? How is it right for you and your company?
When I started The Fruit Moth, my main aim was to create items of clothing and accessories that people would fall in love with, and treasure forever. Having been collecting items of clothing my entire life, there have been many fleeting romances with so many items of clothing - but there's only one that I have fallen in LOVE with, and that is my future wedding dress which is called The Fruit Moth. The dress is from The Vampire's Wife, and it is made using a Liberty print silk in autumnal colours with balloon sleeves and the most stunning layered frill skirt. I remember the first time I saw the dress, and realised it was the only dress that I wanted to get married in. Unfortunately, at the time in 2019, there was not a chance I could have afforded it, and there was no wedding on the horizon either.
Last year, when the hints had started to drop, the dress was of course sold out, so I actually bought the fabric and had it shipped from The Netherlands to make the dress after The Vampire's Wife told me unfortunately they didn't even have a sample of the dress. Then, in a bizarre twist of fate, they got back to me six months later saying they had found one of the dresses, in my size, and did I want it for half the RRP. I'm a strong believer in fate and knew that that dress was waiting for me.
I want every one of my customers to feel as special as I do in The Fruit Moth, in The Fruit Moth.
When did you start sewing and how did you decide to start your own business?
I first learnt to sew in college in 2009. I studied a BTEC in Fashion & Clothing in Liverpool. I actually hated sewing, or I thought I did. What I actually hated was pattern cutting, and I couldn't see the point in fencing in my creativity by copying someone else's design. The patterns and instructions were confusing to me, and if I veered away from them, my grades would suffer even if my creation looked better than the original design. Once I finished the course, I thought my sewing days were over, to be honest.
Then, in November last year, I knew I needed a change in my life. I have always wanted to design and create and I've been working in marketing for so long that I had almost forgotten how to be creative. I had a dream of maybe building a little side hustle for a few years and then perhaps leaving my job opening a shop, but I had no idea it would take off quite so quickly. I haven't yet made the transition of leaving my job to do this full time, but it's definitely the dream!
What inspires you to make the collars and hats and other items that you make?
Lots of things inspire me, but I mainly look at historical costume books and vintage clothing for inspiration. I also get inspired by the fabrics that I source, sometimes they are just crying out to be made into something specific so I'm often led by the prints on the fabrics. My Pussy Bow neck ties were one of my first products and almost what I have become known for - and they were inspired by many vintage blouses I have owned and worn over the years - but I wanted detachable. I love the idea of using an accessory to dress up an old outfit, and make it feel fresh and exciting again. With the huge rise in fast fashion, I think many consumers have got it into their head that you can only wear an outfit once, but if you pair different accessories with a dress, you can make it look new every single time you wear it.
Basically, all of the items I have made for the business have been things that I want to make for myself. Actually, with the hats, it was really interesting as I wasn't planning on making them to sell but had such a huge response when I made one for myself that I knew I couldn't pass up that opportunity. They've been released for a month and they're already a best seller!
How do you source your fabrics? Why is that important to you?
Sourcing fabrics is SO important to me. I knew when starting The Fruit Moth that I wanted it to be a fully sustainable and fully ethical brand, and that is something that will never change. I source only vintage and remnant fabrics, and won't compromise on this. Buying off the roll for me just doesn't fit around my business values. I source mainly second hand - trawling Facebook groups, marketplace, eBay, charity shops, vintage shops... Basically I like buying fabrics that give back to people, not businesses. I do however love Abakhans in Manchester as their entire downstairs is all remnant materials. Sometimes you might only find a metre of fabric in there, but they do have some lovely prints.
In what ways do you embrace sustainability in your business and your own life?
In my business, sustainability is genuinely at the forefront of my mind all of the time. I'm always looking for ways to improve, but currently I ensure that all of my packaging is sustainable - I have recycled card swing tags, recycled tissue paper, recyclable boxes, biodegradable bags and I print my labels out on kraft paper labels which is time consuming but sellotape is a no go for me! Obviously all of my fabrics are remnant and vintage, meaning no fabrics have been made specifically for my business. I rework old clothing too - my reworked blouses are made from preloved men's shirts. Men's shirts are the hardest thing to sell second hand so the most likely garment to end up in landfill, so recreating them into something beautiful always feels amazing.
At university, I wrote my dissertation about sustainable fashion, so it has been a passion of mine to create a sustainable fashion brand since 2014. I actually think it's much easier to be fully sustainable in a business as you almost set yourself guidelines, but I don't tend to have these in my day to day life. We've tried to introduce and replace things gradually - using Smol instead of normal fabric conditioner, shopping from local businesses, buying vegetables without packaging from the local store etc. But my main thing is that we don't own a car and we walk absolutely everywhere. That is a great sustainability factor but unfortunately might have to change if we move out of the city!
Running a business can be stressful: how do you look after your health, both physical and mental?
Running a business and working full time can be SO stressful. I'll be honest, I need to do better at looking after myself. One thing I do make sure of is that I get outside at least once a day. I take my dog for a walk in the morning, anywhere between 3 and 7 miles depending on my mood. But that is really uplifting and starts the day off positively. Also just having my dog helps my mental wellbeing, I don't know what I would do without him! I try to drink lots of water but sometimes get so busy I forget, so I have started writing these things down on my daily to do list so I remember to look after myself!
What is your vision for The Fruit Moth?
My vision sounds so small to so many, but honestly, my dream is to have a shop. I'd love to have a shop and a studio space in one, so I could be sitting at the back of the shop on my sewing machine surrounded by products not only from The Fruit Moth but from other local designers and makers. I'd also love for my products to be sold on Wolf & Badger which is my favourite website to shop from, all independent designers and just such inspiring products. Fingers crossed!