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Rock climbing takes Aberdeen fashion designer to new heights

Sustainable fashion: Laura Sherriffs was inspired to set up her own ethical fashion label Fernweh.Picture by Paul Glendell
Sustainable fashion: Laura Sherriffs was inspired to set up her own ethical fashion label Fernweh.Picture by Paul Glendell

They do say that inspiration can strike at the most unexpected times and for Laura Sherriffs it happened as she ascended up a rock face.

Describing herself a bit “lost” after graduating from Gray’s School of Art with a degree in fashion design, Laura wasn’t quite sure what to do with her life.

But taking up rock climbing as a hobby was a move that changed Laura’s life in a way she could never have imagined.

Scaling up: Laura says rock climbing inspired her to take a leap of faith and set up her own business.<br />Picture by Paul Glendell.

“After art school I didn’t really know what I was going to do,” said Laura, 30, from Aberdeen.

“So I worked in retail and then I got a job as a hotel receptionist but I wasn’t really fulfilled as the hours were all over the place and the staff turnover was really high so I just wasn’t happy.

“I really missed creating but it wasn’t until I took up rock climbing when I came up with the idea.”

Waxed cotton canvas

Not a fan of the mass produced polyester chalk bags that were on the market for rock climbers, Laura decided to make her own bag from waxed cotton canvas.

Not thinking anything of it, she posted a photo of her finished creation online and it went viral.

Within the space of just three months, Laura had quit her job to set up her own label Fernweh, sending her creations across the world.

Bags for life: Laura is hard at work creating beautiful bags. Picture by Paul Glendell.

Rock climbing

The world famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes even has one of her hats.

Laura says its amazing to think that her success has stemmed from her love of rock climbing.

“I just fell in love with it, it’s such a sociable sport and it’s also really calming as you’re just focused on getting up the wall, everything else just melts away,” said Laura.

“It pushes your own personal boundaries and it gives you confidence and a sense of empowerment.

“I even met my partner Scott through rock climbing.”

Head for heights: Laura Sherriffs says her passion for rock climbing changed her life forever.

Deemouth Artist Studios

It’s in Deemouth Artist Studios in Torry where Laura’s creativity is brought to life.

Using wax cotton – the tactile fabric made famous by the fashion brand Barbour – Laura makes everything from tote bags and hats to lunch bags and chalk bags.

“I do a full range of different brands and accessories inspired by my love of the outdoors,” said Laura.

“They are modern and stylish but quite functional too.

“I make my products using wax cotton from Halley Stevensons in Dundee who supply Barbour and lots of small businesses – they are amazing with small businesses.”

Worldwide success: Laura now has customers as far as China and America. Picture by Paul Glendell.

In vogue

Laura’s raw talent as a sustainable fashion designer even turned the heads of one of world’s leading fashion magazines.

“When I got an email through from British Vogue, I thought it was spam,” laughed Laura.

“They were doing a feature about ethical and sustainable fashion labels so I got a small piece in the magazine last year which was amazing.”

Outdoor inspiration: Laura says the beautiful landscape never fails to inspire. Picture by Rose + Julien Ltd.

Imposter syndrome

Despite her success, Laura still battles with Imposter syndrome.

“I think everyone suffers from a bit of Imposter syndrome now and then,” said Laura.

“That’s the great thing about being based in Deemouth Artist Studios as we all understand those feelings so we all get together and talk about it over a cup of tea.

“I absolutely love the studio as when I first moved in there were only about 14 other creatives with me upstairs but now there’s about 35.

“It’s definitely a really supportive community.”

Chalk bag: Laura’s idea to create her own chalk bag for rock climbing grew arms and legs. Picture by FernwehUK.

The great outdoors

With striking earthy tones woven into her designs, Laura’s love of the great outdoors is clear to see.

“I’m inspired by my love of the local landscape,” said Laura.

“I love the fact that we have the countryside on one side and the incredible coastline on the other side.

“I particularly love visiting Lochnagar and Loch Muick, it’s so beautiful.”

Landscape chic: Laura’s love of the beautiful Scottish scenery is brought to life in her designs. Picture by Rose + Julien Ltd.

“Just go for it”

Asked what advice she would give anyone who is nervous about taking their first step into the creative world Laura says to “just go for it.”

“I would say talking to people who are like minded is important,” said Laura.

“So many people have Imposter syndrome, being a creative, it comes with the territory.

“So talk about, make it tangible as it will feel less scary.

“Just go for it.”

Bags of enthusiasm: Laura’s bags come in an array of different styles and colours. Picture by Rose + Julien Ltd.

Laura is looking forward to showcasing her work at Scotland’s Trade Fair in Glasgow for the first time later this month and is also preparing to launch a new collection in April.

“I’m so excited to be at the trade fair at the SEC in Glasgow,” said Laura.

“I’m also going to have an exhibition launch to mark my new collection which comes out at the start of April.”

Looking further ahead, Laura says she just wants to keep on improving and developing as a cutting edge designer.

“I’m always trying to improve and find new ways of doing things.”

For more information about Fernweh check out the website, Instagram page @fernwehuk or Facebook





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