In Conversation With Sonia Padam of Eight Hour Studio

I was recently introduced to Sonia Padam, founder of Eight Hour Studio and I instantly felt a strong connection with her company and its ethos.

Eight Hour Studio create the most beautiful garments, focused around what they believe to be the three parts of any balanced day; Work, Play and Sleep.  Their garments are responsibly and sustainably manufactured by Mehera Shaw and made using organic cotton fabric which is block printed by hand.  I am lucky enough to own their Dawn set and it is by far the softest piece of clothing I have ever put against my skin, which for anyone with sensitive skin knows just what a luxury that is. 

Sonia has been kind enough to talk about Eight Hour Studio, its history and ethos, how she creates balance whilst running her own company and how she maintains a lifestyle that provides her with the energy to keep going!

WHAT MOVED YOU TO CREATE EIGHT HOUR STUDIO?

Eight Hour Studio was created out of a love of the art of block printing. We had wanted to create a brand and products our customers would love to wear knowing not only that the materials and design were of high quality but they had been ethically and sustainably produced. Block printing is very labour intensive and reliant on weather conditions being just so in order that the prints can set and dry. This makes it a more expensive production method. In a world which is increasingly focused on simply the lowest cost of production it is a craft that is dying out as printers and block carvers struggle to make a living. Creating Eight Hour Studio was our way doing something to keep this incredible art form alive.

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WHY DO YOU CHOOSE ORGANIC COTTON AND WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS COMPARED TO REGULAR COTTON?

There are health, environmental and social benefits to using organic cotton. Given skin is your body’s largest organ wearing clothing made with organic fibers means you are reducing your exposure to harmful pesticides and other toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing of non-organic or other synthetic fabrics.

The environmental benefits of using organic farming methods to produce crops such as cotton spread far and wide. To begin with growing organically over time uses less water. Organic methods of growing are also more in tune with natural eco systems. Using natural fertilizers such as manure, crop rotation, compost and beneficial insects, soil quality is improved over time and air, water and soil pollution is reduced which helps to develop biodiversity. This is important as the production of cotton is estimated to use 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of pesticides. These chemicals can also run off into streams, rivers, water tables and lakes poisoning floral, fauna and delicate eco systems.  

 The social benefits of using organic cotton are that farmers, their families and communities, as well as the factory workers producing the actual fabric and garments / products are less exposed to harmful chemicals in the form of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Also when organic cotton is bought and sold using fair trade practices, it means the farmers will be paid a fair price for their cotton harvest.

WHERE DO YOU GET THE INSPIRATION FOR THE PRINTS YOU USE?

Louise, our designer, and I work very closely to create new styles and prints. Louise is extremely talented and I love working with her on new collections. Watching her creative process is really fascinating. Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. For example, we have our new collection, Noughts & Crosses, coming out in the next few weeks and the prints were inspired by geometric shapes and prints. One of our prints is our take on a tartan print. The idea is that we’ve taken a really traditional print style, used a very traditional printing method but created a contemporary and fresh take on it. The fun bit when coming up with new collections is creating prints on paper, and then working with the block carvers and printers to see if the prints can be turned into block prints.

BALANCE IS SOMETHING THAT'S IMPORTANT TO US BOTH - HOW DO YOU CREATE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?

Having launched Eight Hour Studio at the beginning of the year it has been very difficult to find balance in my life. As anyone with their own business knows, your work is never done. Even if you’re not out at events promoting your brand, or at your desk working through emails and other tasks, you are always thinking about the next thing – the next event, next collection, the next production run and so on. So completely switching off can be difficult.

However, what I have found that works really well for me is regular exercise. I love yoga, spinning, boxing and kicking and try to exercise at least 4 times a week. Eating well is obviously key, and goes without saying – and that includes having that occasional piece of cake or dessert! I also find listening to a podcast before bed is fantastic because it helps me to completely switch off from the day. I finished listening to Serial not so long ago and found it fascinating. In addition, I recently set myself some boundaries, so I take one day a week off completely from work, and this is great because I find it’s on these days that I clear my head and great ideas or solutions to problems come to me by not even thinking about them.

Something else I love to do is catching up with my sisters or girlfriends, or date night with Ash (my hubby). There’s nothing quite like having a good laugh and some fun! And finally, I think loving what you do career wise is really, really important to balance and happiness. While I have to work extremely hard, I love the Eight Hour Studio brand, products, ethos and customers, so sometimes it doesn’t even feel like work!

WITH EIGHT HOUR STUDIO OCCUPYING A LOT OF YOUR TIME, HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU DON'T FALL IN TO THE TRAP OF CONVENIENCE FOOD?

It can be really difficult to maintain a healthy diet, particularly when you live in a city like London that has delicious temptations everywhere you turn. However, I find that being organised is always the key, so I do my best to stock up over the weekend on healthy, fresh ingredients so that I have healthy choices readily available when I’m busy. I usually start my day with hot water, lemon and cayenne pepper. This is then followed by a green smoothie for breakfast. Lunches and dinners can be tricky as sometimes I’m working from home and other times I’m running around to meetings and networking events, but Ash and I invested in a Vitamix earlier in the year and it has been brilliant. It’s now so easy to whip up soups and dips in less than 10 minutes when we’re busy or tired.

WHAT'S YOUR GO TO WAY OF RELAXING AND WINDING DOWN?

In the lead up to bedtime, I love to switch off the TV, phone, and laptop, dim the lights and begin a winding down / pre-bed routine. I find this hugely beneficial to preparing my body and mind for sleep. I will then brush my teeth, and do some gentle stretching before relaxing in bed. A couple of Christmas’ ago Ash bought me a Lumie clock (http://www.lumie.com) which I love to use. It dims out or lights up over half an hour and replicates sunset and sunrise so your body clock is more in tune. I highly recommend using something like this. It’s particularly great in the morning as you wake up feeling more refreshed, rather than getting a huge shock when your alarm goes off.

PLAY IS A GREAT WAY OF CHANGING THINGS UP - HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE PLAY INTO YOUR LIFESTYLE?

Play for me is trying new things. I love to do classes and workshops to learn new skills and meet new people. I also love to go exploring on foot and discovering new places, streets, shops and coffee houses! Hanging out with my five nephews is always lots of fun and I have a bit of an obsession with children’s movies, particularly animations. My favourites at the moment are ‘Inside Out’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. I’m a big kid at heart!

I very much look forward to seeing what’s in store for Eight Hour Studio… keep up to date on their comings and goings via their website www.eighthourstudio.com and their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds…

* Images provided by Mehera Shaw

References:
http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organictextiles/organiccotton
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-dietz/organic-cotton-sustainable-fashion_b_3562788.html
http://www.ecofriendonline.com/Article_Links/Cotton_ConventionalVersusOrganic.php
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/cotton/


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