The Global Fashion Brand Based in Barnsley
Lucy & Yak might have become a fashion brand known for its vibrant and colourful designs, but for Barnsley's Lucy Greenwood there's really no place like home - which is why she continues to keep the million-pound brand based in her home town
Lucy & Yak’s mission is to prove that it's possible to create great products, while being kinder to the planet and the people that make them. Their colourful and comfy clothing is designed in Britain and produced in India by well-paid tailors they know personally – something which came about after co-founders Lucy Greenwood and her partner Chris decided the traditional world of work wasn’t for them.
‘After abandoning the 9-to-5 in 2014, we needed a way of earning a living to keep up our love of travel,’ Lucy tells us. ‘Back in the UK, we started selling vintage clothes on Depop, and noticed dungarees were always a huge hit. By this point we had realised we didn’t want to work for anyone else again, so on our next trip we started looking for a manufacturer that aligned with our values to become part of our team and make our now-iconic original dungarees, eventually finding our wonderful partner in India. We always wanted to make sure we chose the right partners. With our suppliers in India, for example, we’ve built a strong bond with them over the last six years. As we’ve grown, so have they; now a factory, it has gone from employing two to 100.’
Lucy & Yak launched from a café in India in 2018 before the couple flew back to the UK and started working in Lucy’s parents’ basement. Within a few months they’d outgrown the basement and found a new home at a 10,000 square foot warehouse in the city. Fast forward to today and the business has outgrown its space again, moving to an even bigger warehouse in – you guessed it – Barnsley. ‘I was born and raised in Barnsley and the brand’s original “warehouse” was my mum’s front room, and we wanted to keep it close to home with this new warehouse,’ Lucy says. ‘Being a working class girl from Barnsley, I didn’t think I’d ever be running a business and that’s why it's been important to keep some of the business here. It makes it all the more real when it’s on your home soil.
‘While we’re based in the North, we wanted to open more stores across the UK so that more of our community has a physical place to meet with Lucy & Yak and each other. We’ve just opened a store in Manchester to add to our existing ones in Bristol, Brighton, Norwich, Nottingham and Cambridge, and we aim to have nine stores in the UK by mid 2024.’
It’s now been six years since Lucy & Yak first launched, and while the business has grown it’s still been able to stay true to the values the pair had when they were travelling the world in their van, the affectionately named ‘Yak’ that the brand name refers to. Lucy & Yak like to think of themselves as a square label with a circular soul: making clothes for every body whilst upholding a positive environmental and social impact. Their products now sell all over the world, they have more than 500,000 followers on Instagram and were one of the fastest growing business in the UK in 2022. Lucy thanks her community for these successes.
‘Our community is at the heart of what we do and it’s our Yak community who have really built the brand into what it is today,’ she says. ‘Dungarees are what we’re best known for, but we have built a reputation for products that are consistently engineered for comfort, with inclusive, gender-neutral but playful styles which will bring joy to everyone in our Yak community. Our customers are super passionate about Lucy & Yak and each other, and we work closely with them to stay true to the inclusivity that has been fundamental to our growth. Lucy & Yak is fortunate to have a really amazing and engaged community which has grown with us and which has really become a part of our brand, acting as a go-to for advice on launches. This insight has also allowed us to experiment and work with the feedback we get from customers.’
Whilst the brand is best known for its vibrant range of dungarees they now also produce tops, skirts, jeans, dresses, jackets and accessories, all in their signature style. ‘From our early days selling pre-loved clothes on Depop when we first noticed we had an eye for fashion, vintage styles have always played into our design,’ explains Lucy. ‘We’ve never been afraid of colour at Lucy & Yak! We’re not led by trends but rather what makes people happy, and are responsible for our clothes’ circularity to ensure they are recycled and upcycled. This combination of playful designs which can be enjoyed for longer has resonated with many who are fatigued with fast fashion. Collaboration, too, has meant we have partnered with incredibly talented small artists and designers to platform their work and reach new communities and give existing customers something new.’
Lucy’s journey into fashion wasn’t smooth, but that’s made her even more determined to take on the industry on her terms. ‘I was born in Barnsley and went on to study Fashion Business at university but largely hated it,’ she tells us. ’It made me wary of an industry which felt ruthless and unwelcoming. I then moved to Newcastle which is where I met my partner, Chris, and worked in bars and selling cars. Now I’ve come full circle and back to fashion, and it’s because I’m doing it my way – a way that is opposite to the cut-throat world of fashion that pushed me away from the industry after university.’
Lucy’s way is a sustainable, ethical and organic way, and she makes sure this is seen through actions, not just words. ‘Sustainability is everywhere now in a way we didn’t see six years ago when we started,’ she explains. 'While it’s a welcome shift in mindset, it also means we’ve seen an increase in greenwashing. For us, circularity has been part of the brand from the start, largely out of necessity. We wanted to make dungarees but at the scale we were at when we started we took to buying deadstock fabric and working with small producers. This model continues today in our limited edition prints.
‘Brands should be responsible for the entire life cycle of their garments and as we’ve grown this has meant looking at all areas of the business, from using GOTS-certified organic cotton, to hosting our own repair workshops in our stores. I think the fashion world has got caught up in green buzzwords. From its inception Lucy & Yak has been about acting with fairness and kindness, and circularity is one of the ways we’re able to do that for both people and planet. Part of this means being transparent about what we’re doing and always looking for ways we can improve.’