A CONVERSATION WITH JAMIE DAWES, FOUNDER OF FYO͞OCHER

Jamie Dawes founded Fyo͞ocher one month into a global lockdown, a time that many predicted would be a death knell for independent fashion brands. Josh Greenblatt caught up with Jamie to learn about Fyo͞ocher’s journey defying the odds with a successful first year in business, her commitment to sustainability and her plans for the future.

Last April, a month into the global lockdown, many predicted that the pandemic would be the death knell for independent fashion brands. It’s also when Jamie Dawes quietly launched Fyo͞ocher, a sustainable line of upcycled clothing made from deadstock fabrics in wild patterns. To her surprise, the brand took off quickly: by September of 2020 she was selling about 20 pairs of pants through her website. In February, Ella Emhoff modeled her black and white version of the Wave Pant for indie e-tailer MALL NYC. (The style is currently sold out on Fyo͞ocher’s website). Ironically, Jamie couldn’t have launched her at a better time. 

The pandemic has forced a reckoning within the fashion industry. Brands, retailers and consumers alike had to finally confront their incalculable social and environmental damage caused by overproduction and the relentless need for newness. Fyo͞ocher flies in the face of all of this. Jamie sews each pair of her signature wide-leg, patterned pants and coats herself (though she is looking for a part-time seamstress to focus full-time on design). Because she only uses deadstock and upcycled fabrics, each piece has a limited run. 

Through Jamie has aspirations for growth, Fyo͞ocher’s success serves as a kind of blueprint for young designers looking to launch their own brands. Jamie’s direct-to-consumer model lets her connect directly with customers that understand her brand’s ethos and design sensibility. Sometimes, they’ll even send her spare fabric. 

We caught up with Jamie to learn about Fyo͞ocher’s first year in business, her commitment to sustainability and her plans for the future.

What’s the story behind Fyo͞ocher?

It’s a story that keeps changing for me, which is so funny. The real reason why I started this is because of the lack of jobs in Vancouver. There are probably three or four companies that employ everyone, all graduates out of school, and none of them are sustainable, and it’s [all] huge corporate businesses that I was hesitant to be a part of. There was just a serious lack of jobs, especially creative jobs here. 

I was thinking about moving cities and trying to find something else and I kind of just decided to give it a go and try my own thing; I kind of gained the confidence in really seeing how everything was run and I was like, I can do this. That was a really cool feeling. I quit my job in January [of 2020] and then by April I had come out with five pant styles and done my first photoshoot and then it was just off to the races from there. Obviously that’s exactly when COVID hit. Everyone talks about the negative sides of it, but as far as helping small businesses go, it’s been really great. 

I quit my job in January [of 2020] and then by April I had come out with five pant styles and done my first photoshoot and then it was just off to the races from there.”

How so? How did it help focus attention on your business?

Mainly, everyone was taking a step back and really thinking about the world as a whole and what we actually need to be doing, and everyone was at home and online and wanting to support local, and everyone was being extremely supportive of what small designers in Vancouver were doing, and I don’t think that would have happened if everything didn’t just take a stop and everyone at a standstill. So I think it’s been really really cool. I don’t think I would be where I am today without all these different circumstances.  

Where are your main markets? Are your customers mostly from Vancouver? I know Ella Emhoff has worn your stuff,  you were on MALL NYC and you’ve really been blowing up on Instagram.

Canada has been super supportive. I think I do at least 60% of my sales in Canada, which is really cool. Because I don’t really buy a lot of brands in Canada, at least before, I’ve really started recognizing certain brands that I love and then probably the other portions are the States and Europe, so far, have been my markets. Just working with influencers and people in other countries gives me an opportunity to reach people that I usually wouldn’t. 

That’s really cool!

It’s a cool community and I always put on my [Instagram] story, “If you ever seen any fabrics like this, just DM me,” and I’ve been getting so many responses. I’ve had girls come drop off fabric at my studio that have been left over sewing projects they don’t want anymore. It’s really cool. 

“Mainly, everyone was taking a step back and really thinking about the world as a whole and what we actually need to be doing, and everyone was at home and online and wanting to support local.’

What’s behind the name Fyo͞ocher?

That is a good question! I actually had a name that I used years and years ago that I’ve always loved and was set on using that one and then five years later I go to register it and there’s already like 20 companies with that name. I was just kind of brainstorming, I wanted to do something that had a play on sustainability and it’s actually just the pronunciation of the word “future.” If you google the “future” definition it’s just how you pronounce it. And I thought it look really cool, I loved the double o, you see something and you’re like, yeah, that’s it.

Clearly it’s resonating. So are you mainly speaking to people through Instagram and social media?

Definitely emailing as well. I get lots of emails from stylists and cool opportunities, but I love just the casualness of DMs.

As you grow, how are you able to keep sustainability at the core of your business?

That’s super important to me and that’s why I started Fyo͞ocher, and a main reason why I left the company I worked for before. As you do grow, it becomes harder and harder and lots of these companies start to cut corners to make a buck and now they have a ton of employees they need to provide for, so [for me] it’s definitely wanting to take things slow, not rush anything and kind of keep my [sustainability] practices at the forefront. 

My goal is just to have a bunch of home sewers I can have as contract workers and I can just be fabric sourcing and designing. And I think that is a sustainable means to do it. I think I could keep all of my practices the same as I grow and obviously if I hit a roadblock I’m gonna just take a step back and not compromise anything. It’s a tough thing, a lot of CEOs get a little money hungry when they see it coming in but that’s not the reason I started this.

What would you say is your brand’s ethos? 

I am honestly trying to figure everything out as I go. I was not organized. I had dreamed about this but I am learning so much and everything is changing on the daily. So long as sustainability is at the forefront and I’m producing products I love, I’m happy.

People don’t usually think of Vancouver as a fashion capital but it seems like there’s a huge opportunity for young designers there. What have you learned in the past year, and what kinds of insights or advice do you have for emerging designers? 

Oh my gosh, I’ve learned so much! Just how long everything actually takes is a huge one. The real cost of photoshoots and models and everything that goes into that whole side of things, to even market your brand, has just been, you know, it’s expensive but it’s incredibly worth it. I would just say if you’re a new designer going into this, definitely don’t go into this thinking you’re going to make a lot of money, and don’t go into it looking for validation or fame, I think if you have something cool to offer the market that isn’t already out there then absolutely go for it, but at the end of the day there are so many products out there so if you have something that’s really worthwhile, then go for it.

f you’re a new designer going into this, definitely don’t go into this thinking you’re going to make a lot of money, and don’t go into it looking for validation or fame.

What does the future look like for you? Do you want to expand into other categories?

Yes, my goal is to have patterns for every fabric type I find. I want to have a knit, I want to have non-stretch, I want to have sheer, and all of that requires different machinery which I don’t have yet. So obviously my goal is to be able to take all of the fabrics that I find, not have to let anything pass because I’m not capable of sewing it, so I’m looking to expand into more stretch knit so I can fit more body types and just kind of expand obviously the product line based on what I can find. And Vancouver is obviously such a hub for sportswear, like Lululemon and all of that, so spandex is so readily available but I can’t use it as of yet so just trying to expand that way into, so I can actually save every material that I find. That’s the short term goal.

And a long term goal? 

Obviously my goal is to get into some stores. A dream would be to sell on SSENSE, that type of thing. [That’s] where I’m hopefully heading.