Wardrobe: Abigael talks ethics, loyalty and the heart of the brand
Abigael Whittaker, Creative Director at Tree of Life, has been with the company for 15 years.
We talk to her about why she’s stayed for so long and how she landed her dream job.
You’ve worked for Tree for 15 years, what has kept you here?
It’s been an evolution for me working at Tree. I started out working in stores which I loved for the vitality that a retail position brings. I grew up in markets selling my mum and dad’s jewellery so I’m a real retail girl (gypsy!) at heart! But what has kept me at Tree is the dynamic heart of my role and the ethics of the company. I’ve been able to work in so many different areas of the business that I’ve never managed to feel bored! In my role as Buyer and Creative Director I’ve also worked super closely with the founders for many years now and it is their values that are not only the foundation of the brand but also the reason for my loyalty to it.
Tell us more about your role as Buyer (dream job alert)..
I’ve been traveling to India, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia with Tree of Life for around 7 years. We would travel several times a year developing collections, sourcing new product lines, meeting with suppliers and basically traipsing the globe collecting all the wonderful things you find at Tree of Life! It is definitely as amazing as it sounds and sometimes challenging, exhausting, emotional and usually lots of really funny times too.
There is a lot of conversation currently about over consumption, waste, fair & safe work conditions and the impact the fashion industry is having on our planet, what is your take on all this?
I think this conversation is so necessary. Our customers frequently let us know how important these issues are to them and so we have an enormous responsibility to address these topics head on. One of the most significant things I value about Tree of Life is how we approach our supply chain and our relationship with our overseas partners. Early in my role as a Buyer I learnt that the heart of all our business dealings was the respect and trust for the supplier as a partner and collaborator. Our manufacturers have so much expertise to contribute to design challenges so why wouldn’t we draw on that knowledge as much as possible. This is intrinsic to the Tree of Life ethic.
Along those lines we have always had ultimate respect for fair wages and fair working conditions. We visit all of our factories several times a year and ensure that everyone is happy, healthy and working fairly. It is working amongst these values that keeps me loyal, passionate and so very inspired.
You’ve had a big year working on all our campaign shoots and collections. Can you tell us anything about the new collections coming up?
So many good things!! But I always say that! Ha! There’s lots of exciting new colours coming and I have so many ideas bubbling away for the photo shoots. It’s great working across both areas as we can create the collection with a shoot in mind or vice versa. I love working with the traditional handicrafts like handblock and embroidery and also with new digital techniques and amazing designers like clever Blackmarket Boo. There’ll be lots of all of that in our new season collections.
Favourite dresses for Christmas Day?
I love love love the Helen Dress in that dusky leopard print and you definitely can’t go past the classics- the Floriana & Romance Wrap Dresses are always hanging in my wardrobe- love!
Photography: Ming Nomchong