Riley Uggla is the founder and creative director of Riley Studio, a luxury fashion brand based in London, England, that produces ethically sourced and environmentally friendly clothing. Born in Toronto, Canada but mostly raised in the United Kingdom, Riley is the youngest of four siblings. She studied at Bradfield College, Berkshire, before enrolling in the Foundation in Fashion course at Istituto Marangoni in Shoreditch, London. In 2018, Riley Uggla founded her first company, Riley Studio, with a focus on producing high-quality, seasonless pieces. Aside from a firm commitment to sustainability, the company cites simplicity and versatility as its two design pillars. Furthering her aim of pushing the fashion industry toward embracing renewable materials, in 2020 Riley co-founded Renue The Label, a contemporary lingerie brand that specializes in vegan-friendly intimates made from materials that can be reused, regenerated, and renewed.
Also in 2020, Riley Uggla founded the Uggla Foundation with her three siblings and her father. The Uggla Foundation is a philanthropic enterprise concentrating on three main areas: education, health, and access to the arts. One of the organization’s first targeted initiatives is the establishment of scholarships for talented individuals who do not possess the financial means to enroll in institutions of higher education. These scholarships will be awarded through The Uggla Family Scholarship programme at The London School of Economics and Simon Fraser University.
Where did the idea for [Insert Company Name] come from?
Riley Studio was born out of my love for fashion coupled with my intense passion for environmental sustainability and my belief that neither human beings nor animals need to be exploited when manufacturing clothing.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day by listening to one of my favourite playlists and drinking a good cup of coffee. I find that those two things put me in a great mindset for the rest of the day. After that, I use the morning for administrative tasks. I see if there are any pressing matters with Riley Studio, such as ordering materials, paying bills, addressing issues with staff or customers, and then I tackle what needs to be done in that respect. It’s important to me to get all my managerial and administrative work done before I hone in on creating, because I find it helps to clear my head. Otherwise, I find I just think about invoices and spreadsheets when I should be focused on fashion. So, I set aside afternoons for creative work. That’s when I design clothing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a wonderful team at Riley Studio that helps me every step of the way in bringing my ideas to life. Each of them is so uniquely talented in different aspects of running the company, and they absorb a lot of the burden operationally, which really helps me to focus on the creative side of things. I would be lost if it weren’t for them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In a way, the trend that excites me the most was also the inspiration for me to create Riley Studio in the first place; the design, manufacturing, and distribution of ethically sourced, environmentally friendly clothing that is also stylish and functional. I believe the success of our brand is helping to push the larger, overall fashion industry more in that direction, and that can only be a good thing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Each day when I’m on my way to work in the morning, I take a moment to remind myself about the reasons why I started my company and reflect on the progress it has made in a very short amount of time. I find that one little moment to be immensely inspiring, and it helps to keep my spirits up while I’m tackling any issues that might arise during the course of daily business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to try to tune out some of the noise inherent to everyday life and focus on what you believe in, focus on being creative. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in worrying about the details and minutiae of the hundreds of small tasks that have to be accomplished each day, and it’s not productive. Creativity is what drives productivity.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Clothing can be made from renewable and reused materials and still look amazing. Also, clothing can be cost-effectively manufactured without exploiting animals or workers in developing nations.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
It’s a cliché, but measure twice, cut once. If you apply that truism to all aspects of life, ultimately you will save yourself a lot of time that might otherwise be wasted going back to fix mistakes that could’ve been caught beforehand. Come to think of it, it could be because of my background in designing and making clothing that I find that expression so truthful. The metaphor is apt.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
This might be less of a strategy and more of an outlook on life, but just keep pushing through until you achieve your goals—especially on those tough days. I’ve found that if I keep my original vision at the forefront of my mind and not lose sight of the forest for the trees, as it were, setbacks don’t seem quite so daunting. They just seem like a natural part of the journey to growth and success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on, when I had just started Riley Studio, I found that one of my suppliers wasn’t being entirely truthful when they told me their material was 100% ethically sourced. So, even though I had been deceived, my company had also inadvertently been untruthful to the retailers and customers that bought the clothes made from those materials—because we had advertised them as such. I felt bad about that, and I couldn’t in good conscience just ignore the problem. So, I bit the bullet, called our retailers and told them about the situation. They were understanding, of course. But as I was making those calls, I vowed that I would never allow that problem to crop up again. Since then, we’ve stepped up our investigative efforts with regards to our suppliers and I haven’t had to make any other calls like that.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The same principles that I apply to fashion design can probably be applied to other industries; that is to say environmental sustainability and ethical sourcing. What about transposing that value system onto some of the heavier industries, like farming or power generation?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently gave $100 to a favourite charity of mine. It has to do with rescuing abused animals and finding them good, loving homes. Why was it the best $100 I recently spent? Because if that money helped even one animal, then the world is a slightly better place.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
At this point, I don’t think I’d be able to live without a smartphone. I use it for everything. It’s difficult even remembering how I organized my life before I had one. As to software, the note-taking app on my phone is so important for me. Sometimes, if I’m struck by a good idea, I find that if I don’t write it down immediately, I’ll forget about it in short order. The note-taking app solves that problem. I just whip out my phone, type a few words, and the idea is preserved so I can go back and look at it later.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein when I was young and it affected me very deeply. It changed the way I looked at things like fashion, branding, industrial production, and the rights of workers in the developing world. It tied all those concepts together very neatly. I recommend everyone read that book.
What is your favorite quote?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
• Stick to your vision. Some days it may be the only thing that keeps you centered.
• It pays to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
• Measure twice, cut once.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.