ethical fashion brand Pink City Prints

Molly Russell founded ethical fashion brand Pink City Prints after a trip to India where she was blown away by the craftsmanship of artisans. Photo: Pink City Prints

Molly Russell, 44, founded ethical brand Pink City Prints in 2018 and has been labeled as one of Britain’s leading independent clothing brands.

Creative director Molly, daughter of the late Ken Russell, works with artisans near Jaipur, India, to create hand-printed dresses that can take up to three days. Pink City Prints has doubled its sales since the pandemic as the brand seeks to expand in the United States and Australia.

As Principal, Eilidh Verhoeven had a lot of energy and high expectations while I worked under her as a teacher at Boutcher CofE School in Bermondsey, South East London.

She had a red wavy bob and always wore stunning outfits. She loved to laugh, had a great personality, and was supportive of me making art with the kids. She’s from Glasgow, where I was at art school, so we both had the same passion. She was quite a force.

It was a dynamic school and there were children from all over the world. When I started visiting India to explore handicrafts, I used to come back to school and help with big art projects like murals. It’s important to celebrate culture.

Pink City Prints is committed to keeping craftsmanship alive.  Photo: Kewal Chholak/Pink City Prints

Pink City Prints is committed to keeping craftsmanship alive. Photo: Kewal Chholak/Pink City Prints

I studied sculpture in Glasgow but initially I wanted to get into making documentaries. Ken Russell is my father, so creativity is in my blood. I ended up in comedy, looking for Ali G and Chris Morris, but felt I had to do something more constructive. I thought about art therapy but after eight years of teaching I knew I had to go to India, but I didn’t know why.

I arranged with Eilidh to have six months off from school, mainly to recharge my batteries. I desperately wanted to see the handicrafts there so at the end of the trip I went to Jaipur. And then everything exploded in front of me; I saw all this color and creativity and knew this was what I was looking for.

The handmade engravings were amazing. I was never really into fashion but very soon I started trying to make clothes. Pink City Prints really started with artisans. He also returned to sculpture; it was the process by which something starts from scratch, from woodblock to print.

I put my first collection on a credit card. People would buy the prints in the UK and every six months I would come back to restock. I could have gone to design school or I could have learned on the job, and yes, I would make mistakes, but I would learn so much more. I was looking at all this in front of me and I had to decide not to be afraid to take risks. I knew it was my only chance.

We had a few years of smaller-scale experimentation before launching the website four years ago. The art of hand printing fabrics is dying out and it is so important to keep the industry alive.

We also celebrate imperfections. With digital you can print 10,000 meters a day on a machine, but from a single human printer you can do 30m. This shows how much time is needed. It’s fascinating to watch the handmade process and the silence. The more I see him, the more I realize how important it is to save him.

Pink City Prints works with artisans near Jaipur in India

Pink City Prints works with artisans near Jaipur in India

There is now a strong demand in the United States, especially for block printing. My clothes have that clean American look and the stock is increasing for that market.

We’ve doubled our sales every year and people want to shop online more safely and with the right people. There also seems to be more interest in supporting the slow fashion movement.

I have to live in India for six months a year now because it’s very laborious and mistakes happen. The strength in someone’s arm can change colors and with every step there is a lot of management.

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In starting a business, nothing will work without action. It seems obvious, but don’t be afraid to take a risk. After all, you started it and have the best knowledge of what is right. I learned to step in and out of my comfort zone and follow my instincts.

I also learned from Eilidh to have high expectations of the people who work for me. It’s about celebrating the good times, the camaraderie, making people feel noticed and respecting their contribution to the team. Everybody’s equal.

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