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Interview: ToldBy. Studio

Aloof aims to shine a light on the best brands and companies operating in the independent market right

now, from all over the world. Those under the radar of the wider consciousness but with great stories to tell and a unique perspective on the nuts and bolts of building a brand.

It can be quite difficult when a friend you know runs their own brand. They're not always up your street, but out of love and respect you have a yearning feeling to support it. Lucky for us, Emi of makes some absolutely belting clobber. So, in our first real act of nepotism, we've given Emi the platform to tell us about ToldBy., how it started, how her mood affects her work, and the importance of putting yourself out there.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?

I'm Emi Talaga and I currently work as a freelance Stylist Assistant and Stylist. I graduated in 2020 from Leeds Arts University which is where I first started ToldBy.; it began in my second year of university as a T-shirt brand, to then developing into my FMP in final year and has since changed even further, including the name!

We’ve known each other for a little while now, having met whilst you were working as a Stylist. How does your non-design work feed into what you do with ToldBy.?

Indeed, we have! I've always said I'd love to be able to work as a Stylist as well as a Designer, if possible. I style and direct all of the shoots for my brand, which in turn has meant I've been able to work in both fields at the same time. I love being so hands-on throughout the whole process, from start to finish with ToldBy.; it's extremely rewarding watching everything come together, translating what's going on inside my head onto paper, as such.

So far, your output has consisted of several items, broken down into two parts, with both parts falling under the main ‘Chapter 1’. What’s the reasoning for having this literary style breakdown when it comes to releases?

The "Chapters" are another word for "Collections". Each print displayed upon the items are essentially artistic visualisations of stories (told by the swing tags); I perceive each collection as a different chapter, collating the stories behind the products. They're all produced at different periods of time in my life and I wanted to look back on a body of work that I could remember clearly. For example, Chapter 1's pieces were designed between February 2020 and March 2020.

Another thing to note is that I don't release items under seasons (such as AW22 and SS22), I don't like to rush the process and would rather come out with items when they're ready as opposed to following a fashion calendar.

Your ‘Our Story’ section on the website details how each garment reflects a mood or time in your life that inspired the piece. Can you talk us through the process of how you design in response to an emotion or period in your life?

I've always been an abstract painter or artist. I gravitate towards the use of colour, line and shape as a form of expressionism and have found that I can only produce my best or most favoured work when I sit down on my own, have the space to myself, pop some music on and just go with the flow. I can't be distracted. I never decide upon a colour palette or pattern or shape before sitting down to paint - it just happens on the spot. Often, it's a form of emotional release.

With this, I think it's pretty special and momentous so I wanted to translate to the consumer the time, date and place behind each item, along with a short passage that inspired the mood I was in, or what was going on in my head whilst painting the print onto each piece. I write in my diary at home every day, where I jot down what I've been doing, how I've been feeling, or notes from books I've read which stand out to me, so this catalyses my mood/inspiration for painting, too.

You make all your pieces in the UK and operate on a made to order system. Were those both conscious decisions you made when starting ToldBy., and if so, why did you decide to make them core pillars of the brand?

I never wanted to work with factories who exploit their workers for obvious reasons, nor did I want to make an unnecessary number of items which I wasn't sure would sell or not! So, working with someone in the UK is important because I can pay them a justified and fair wage. This also means I can sustain a great relationship with this individual.

I only make items in extremely small, limited batches or on a made-to-order basis to avoid waste and to encourage slow-fashion.'s items are made to be cherished; I believe that you keep those pieces in your wardrobe with which you've created a special bond as opposed to those you can pick up as easily as you can drop them.

You work closely with a pattern cutter to produce each garment. One of the most difficult things for people looking to start their own project is how to connect with people whose skills they need but don’t know where to start looking. How did you meet Liza (your pattern cutter) and do you have any advice on where people should be looking to find the people with the skillsets they need?

I studied Fashion at university, where I focused on Communication as opposed to Design because I never really got my head around pattern cutting and sewing too well, although I loved to design. When I left university and carried on with ToldBy., I simply asked my tutor if she knew of any freelancers who could sew and that's how I met Liza (and I'm so grateful that I met her! She is brilliant!).

In terms of advice, I would say the first hurdle is getting over being afraid to ask for help or to put yourself 'out there'. If you want to find someone with a certain skill set, to work or collaborate with them, put Instagram stories up, ask your friends and family if they know anyone, utilise your network! The Dots is also a great place to find creatives to work with, but above all just don't be scared to ask. "You don't ask, you don't get", is what I stand by.

We’re huge fans of a good swing tag here at Aloof, which is something we know you put a lot of work into. How central is the swing tag to what you do?

Thank you very much. It's super central and without it, I don't think would have so much of a USP, to be honest. It's the backbone behind what the brand's ethos is all about; capturing special moments and sharing them with the consumer, to help build a bond between the items and the customer so they keep them forever! It's a concept which I love and which I am really proud of. I hope the vulnerability of it encourages others to be more open and honest too; I don't want the clothing I'm designing or the prints I'm designing just to be about wearing interesting clothing. I want it to be much more than that.

Is there anyone doing great things that you’d like to take the time to shout out that you think we should know about?

I met the most incredible individuals at university who are now still some of my closest friends today: graphic designers, web designers, fashion designers, painters, illustrators, photographers, music producers, animators, comedians, the list goes on! If I didn't know them to help spark ideas and to be inspired by, I don't know what I'd be like as an individual, or where I'd be creatively.

Charli Dennett (@charlisenior_), James Connolly (@jamesconnollycomedy), Amar Gill (@a.dgill) and Oliver Campbell (@ioliverjames) - both photographers who I work with to shoot each collection - Amin Fouari (@theillustrates) and so many more!

Two really special people who I've known since I was 16 are my boyfriend, Joe Ellis (@chadwick_ellis) and one of my best friends, Jay Vaz (@jason_vaz). They're both mad talented and just all-round great, genuine people who have helped me massively throughout the whole process, from beginning to what's going on today.

If you could start ToldBy. again today from scratch, would you make any changes? Anything you wish you could have done differently?

I wouldn't be able to say/comment! I think the brand is always going to be on a journey and might change from time to time, but the core ethos and drive behind the brand will remain. I'm happy with where things are at now so I wouldn't be able to say that I wish I'd done things differently.

What can we expect to see from you and ToldBy. in 2022?

I've been designing some new silhouettes, as well as prints, of course. I think the brand is going to be looking a little different in terms of the use of surface pattern. There may or may not be a special collaboration in the pipelines too...

Drop a a follow on Instagram here to see how things develop over the course of 2022!


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