When the global pandemic locked us down and left us housebound with nowhere to go and nothing to bring with us, our handbags took a big hit and have been gathering dust at the back of our wardrobe since March. Beyond a face mask it seemed like the only accessory we truly needed was a trusty canvas tote, primed for the essential weekly food shop. Yet over the past four months our Instagram feed has been flooded with mini cloudlike knotted bags in sumptuous jewel tones and ice cream pastel hues. Who do we have to thank for brightening up our feed? Manchester-based label Roop, which, against all odds, has thrived in lockdown.
Founder Natasha Fernandes Anjo was working in a fabric shop when she turned a piece of material that was too small to make the shirt she was working on into the first iteration of what her label is now founded on: furoshiki bags. "I did a quick Google search for what I could do with a metre of fabric and it led me to the wonderful world of furoshiki, and I've not looked back!" she tells me. A traditional Japanese method of wrapping cloth to hold clothes, gifts or just about anything else, furoshiki is all elegant knots and ties, and translates perfectly into Natasha's pint-sized handbags.
The brand was only founded in September of last year but what began as a practical use for leftover material quickly evolved into an eco-conscious accessories label with a cult following. Natasha still uses deadstock materials, from party-appropriate luxurious silks to picnic-ready cotton ginghams. "I try to be as sustainable as I can," she muses. "I thought it would be impossible to grow without buying new fabrics – and it's a challenge, don't get me wrong! – but it's a challenge I love. I'm part of a very wasteful industry and I'm doing my best to use what's already here."
Although we've had little to no use for handbags during the pandemic, Roop (Natasha's nickname inspired the brand's title) has only grown. The extra time in lockdown has given Natasha the space to focus on the business and turn the brand into a full-time job. "I feel guilty that lockdown made Roop what it is today but it meant that a lot of people found me and fell in love, which has been incredible," she says. Roop is just one of many small, independent and local fashion labels which have thrived in the pandemic, with a clear shift in outlook turning people away from morally and environmentally dubious corporations and towards small-batch, eco-conscious, one-of-a-kind brands instead. "I feel so much support as a slow fashion brand and seeing the demand for secondhand, rental and independent companies has been so encouraging," Natasha says. "I'm hoping slow fashion becomes even more accessible and inclusive, and that larger companies continue to take accountability and make positive change."
Alongside the furoshiki bags, Roop offers super fun, zero-snag XXL hair scrunchies, too. Available in the same prints and fabrics as the bags, you get extra brownie points if you wear both at the same time ("I'd like to be crowned queen of the scrunchie!" Natasha laughs). With fans including Chrissy Rutherford and Megan Ellaby, Roop's delectable delights have been adding some much-needed joy to its 10,000 Instagram followers' feeds of late. As the next drop of bags and scrunchies launch this week – and with a recent arrival at Selfridges – the world's sweetest slow fashion brand is showing no sign of slowing down.