Annegret Affolderbach, Choolips


YourStory spoke to Annegret Affolderbach from Choolips.She is a is a young ethical fashion entrepreneur with wide-reaching vision. She got captivated by colours and textures, at the age of 7, when studying her mum’s World Atlas filled with pictures of Mexican embroidery and the shores of Mauritius. She was chosen as a finalist in Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year 2009. To read more about the Young Fashion Entrepreneur Award click here. To follow British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award on Facebook click here.

1) Tell us about yourself, background

Well, I was born in East Germany and grew up loving ballet lessons and snowballs. My memories are full of contrasts mixing the wildly beautiful smell of meadows on hot summer afternoons with the comforting smell of my parents morning coffee. But my taste for juicy plum cake and bright coloured 80's garb still stand in stark contrast to the reality of East Germany. The fact was our lives were defined by political and material limitations. Our consumerism was so defined that the reality of our supermarket shelves was as exciting as a circus without the attractions. A shopping trip would take you along rows of the same dull garments with equally dull colours, only differing in sizes. It was a place of 'Mono Brand Consumerism' and even though it lacked imagination maybe it was less wasteful than what surrounds me now. BUT really, I am still contemplating it all.2) Tell us about Choolips , the idea behind it

I was seeking a space that would allow me to be bold and adventurous. I am driven by an insatiable curiosity - its a bit like the space you leave free for dessert in your tummy when your mum forces you to eat your Greens. There is ALWAYS space for dessert. I suppose for me that dessert is working in different places, with different people and different cultures mixing it all up with my own. In a way I like to be seduced by it all and its my way of turning it into georgeous textiles & dresses that turn heads in our high streets.

The idea of being able to open your wardrobe and potentially being transported to a different culture any day of the week is irresistible. Dresses hold powerful fantasies and if you were able to pick from a range of dresses, one that gives a flair of the beaches of West Africa, one a taste of India's colours, one that of Brazilian Samba ... the fantasy would be more real. And for sure none of us like their bubble burst, right? So even better if the dress you'd picked was made responsibly giving as much enjoyment to its producers as it brings to you.

So that is the idea. Choolips dresses are simply playful and pretty to turn heads. The ancient textiles traditions mixed with our own flavours add the fantasies and bring to live far away places. Our supply chains make sure that they are sustainable while they are respectful of human life and our environment.

3) Your brand is fairly traded, what was the motivation behind it?

The motivation was to inject enjoyment and profit for everyone in the supply chain rather than leaving gaps, which so often is the case in Fashion effecting the lives and work of producers and manufacturers all around the world. The idea was to make sure that the people who produce our garments get more than fair wages. We work with grassroots trailblazers that follow more than Fairtrade principles. In partnerships we create new commercial opportunities by sharing our cultural insights, economical know-how & specialist skills. This has far reaching consequences impacting positively on lives and business growth for producers, buyers & consumers. It results in more than fair wages for producers but also in fair prices for our consumers and sets us up as equals in our respective economies.

4) Do you see a scope for socially relevant consumerism in the UK and other markets for high fashion

Socially responsible clothing is relevant on every level of Fashion and where there is a need and a market for clothes there is a place for Fashion that factors in sustainability. I would like to think that there is no reason for any garment that helps us curate this Industry to dismiss sustainable, socially and environmentally components & supply chains. Really there is no need to be creating Fashion any other way as companies working with sustainable principles proof to be profitable & innovative leaders in this Industry. So if a product can be made with good ingredients to affordable prices why would you opt out?

6) As a creative entrepreneur did you find it difficult to turn your passion into a profession in the initial phase of your career?

Laughing...I didn't see myself as a Creative Entrepreneur, but rather like someone who wanted to go a certain direction. It was the only direction that I saw as an option to bring progress to my work. Getting to the point of knowing that was the difficult part. Its a magical thing that happens when you know where you would like to go as it closes off opportunities that weren't options and opens up opportunities that help you pave the way. Luckily it always remains to be an adventure full of challenges that need solutions and I suppose that is why I love it.

7) Your inspiration, Muse ...

The things that make us tick.

8) Future plans , expansion plans

I am currently developing ideas for our Ghanaian business to expand further into Textiles Wholesale with a special range of prints.

We also have new plans for our online Pop-Up boutique that launched end of April. We have had a great response to our concept boutique where people can make their own garment choosing from a range of colours, prints and silhouettes from our collections. The garment is especially produced for each order and we only produce what is ordered to avoid any surplus dresses wandering the planet. Additionally each person that places orders is taken on a journey deep into our supply chain in Ghana explaining each step of the production of the dress as it makes its way to their wardrobe.

And well - I don't to talk too much about things that have not yet happened. All I can say for now is that we will add CHOOLIPS from other parts of the world in addition to our Golden Coast collection from Ghana/West Africa