A Sustainable Life with Fiona Burrage of Nor-Folk & Sop | Rêve En Vert
Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living

Fiona Burrage, Creative Director @Sop__Life

@Sop__Life natural vegan body care from Norfolk, England

Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living
Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living

@nor_folk

“By appreciating what we have on our doorstep and the people around us we’ll also improve our own wellbeing and outlook. A more sustainable circular economy.”

Where is home for you and can you tell us how you ended up there?

Originally from just outside London, I live in a converted factory in Norwich with my husband, son and our two cats. I studied graphic design at the the Norwich art school – now a uni and never left this fine city.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about The Water Cabin and it’s evolution into a creative space?

Absolutely, it’s a retreat in the heart of the Broads National Park, on the river Thurne. It sleeps four and has a private boat dyke. It is located in the village that my husband grew up in. We sensitively renovated with local craftsman for about 8 months. It’s somewhere I find immensely peaceful. Here is a short video I filmed about the renovation and creation. Learn more about The Water Cabin here.

 

Have you always been sustainably minded in the way you live your life or is this something that has evolved for you?

From childhood I had an awareness of the environment and always felt I should be doing more, but I credit the birth of my son, now 7, as a real awakening. Suddenly I had a huge sense of responsibility for him and the next generation. I think the process is definitely self discovery and for me it’s been a shift in my thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona burry nor folk sop interview on sustainable living
Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living

Tell us a bit about the reason you started Nor-Folk – we read that it was inspired by your son at the time?

It was. He’s at the heart of my thinking. At the very start we were looking to buy a barn, much like the cabin, we could use as a family but also offer to others as a holiday let. But we pulled out of the sale for various reasons and almost simultaneously I conceived the idea of The Wonder Years t-shirts. Designed to be bought for a child’s birthday but as this grew in popularity we expanded the range.

That in itself grew a lot of traction and at one point had around 70 stockist globally. But I was under a lot of pressure to do seasons (from stockists and a possible investor) which is something, with my design background, I was inherently against. Practically yes, you need clothes for different seasons but I don’t believe in the needless consumption of the new ‘it’ bag.

 

How did you formulate the sustainable ethos of the brand and production?

Research, questions, and a lot more research. I only use local suppliers and that way I can control the process. And hopefully the consumer can understand that everyone in the chain has been paid fairly.

 

Now on to your latest venture, Sop. Can you tell us about the evolution of a plastic free beauty brand in addition to your other businesses?

During the renovation of the cabin I knew I wanted to offer guests the opportunity to experience the feeling of being at cabin after they’d left. I wanted to harness a sense of the place and our local landscape. As we were nearing completion I had this moment when I said the cabin doesn’t smell like it looks.

I believe as a designer, I see/read/feel/sense the world with all of my senses. So I began the conversation with local suppliers to see whether this was feasible. Initially I believed (wrongly) that choosing recycled plastic was the better route. After lots of reading I understand now how plastic can only repurposed a few times before becoming a new entity – where as aluminium is infinitely recyclable.

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Beauty, Smur Shampoo With Ylang Ylang, £18

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Do you think local production is the future of manufacturing?

Well that would be a lovely thought! I sincerely hope so, I think on the whole if we could eat more seasonally and purchase from local suppliers (where possible) that would be a huge stride forward.

 

How do you nurture a connection to nature through your business?

I’ve been hugely inspired by the local landscape and our products are ultimately from the land. But as a business we give back, we work with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who is our charitable partner. In time I would love for Sop to become a B corp company.

 

What is your best advice for anyone looking to be more considerate of our natural world at this time?

I think reviewing your own consumption is a great start and having the mantra ‘less but better’ in terms of purchase decisions.

 

What are life’s small pleasures for you right now?

My solitary moments are a bath, no phone, some wine, once my son is in bed. But from a social perspective I am so incredibly grateful for my best friends who have been a mental lifeline. This weekend, the four of us are going to have a take away and some drinks. Just good old fashion talking, listening and laughing – medicine for the soul.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living
Fiona burrage nor folk sop interview on sustainable living

Do you have any health or wellness tips that you are following?

I have been veggie for almost a year now. Most days I start with a juice, and if I run out of time (now we’re back on the school run) I really feel the difference. I am generally quite an active person, I play football with friends and that’s a great release. But I also find stretching to reduce tension hugely beneficial. And HeadSpace, wow this app has changed my life more than anything duding lockdown. As someone with quite a busy mind I really find it quite difficult to switch off so it’s most definitely a work in progress but I’m incorporating more time in my day for breathing and mental space.

 

How do you inform yourself throughout the day? What are you listening to, watching, reading?

For news, the BBC and the Guardian. And inevitably social media plays a part. For business news I listen to Monocle and their podcasts. I prefer documentary to any genre of television and have recently watched the series on Iraq after the war, another about West Ham Ladies football club and currently one about Manchester and their property boom. Clearly I’m quite an inquisitive person! Reading I do enjoy OpenHouse. I also have the app Blinkist so I can delve quickly into subjects that interest me and then explore at my own pace.

 

How are you winding down at the end of the day?

Cooking, this is new to me, as pre COVID-19 we ate out a lot. But I’ve found the art of making a meal really therapeutic at the end of the day (once my son is in bed).

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“Experiencing everyday with the people l love and running a business I believe in keeps me feeling very positive and hopeful.”

 

What is making you feel optimistic at this time?

I’m not sure whether this is optimism, but COVID-19 has certainly made me more grateful for what I had and have. So experiencing everyday with the people l love and running a business I believe in keeps me feeling very positive and hopeful. And I am acutely aware that as a person, in the Western world I have a lot more to be thankful for.

 

Finally, what does sustainability mean to you in these unprecedented times?

I’ve always thought a flight to another country shouldn’t cost less than a train ticket so unsustainable businesses have had and will have to re-evaluate how they operate which is important. Obviously I feel for the human fall out of people working in those industries. My hope is that now as we adapt, we will expect more from our brands. We will shop and explore more locally reducing our carbon footprint and helping our local economy. By appreciating what we have on our doorstep and the people around us we’ll also improve our own wellbeing and outlook. A more sustainable circular economy.

 

Imagery from Fiona Burrage @nor_folk

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