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Behind the brand: How travelling the world inspired this woman to set up her own business


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Based in the South-east coast of the UK, Ambling Traders is an artisan brand set up by Hannah Martin and her partner Joe. Available to shop online, the brand is full of all different types of eclectic pieces found by Hannah and Joe on their travels.


They sell everything from slippers and traditional footwear to headscarves to copper water bottles. A true mix of everything, but with one main love for sustainability at the very heart.



Image courtesy of Hannah Martin / Ambling Traders



So, what is the main ethos behind the brand? Hannah explains: “We are all about fair: fair for the maker, fair for the customer and fair for our beautiful planet. By meeting as many of our makers as we can and by working with them directly, we can insure they are being paid fairly for their craft. It also means we can get a fair price for our customers as we don’t have to pay a string of middle men.”



Ambling Traders is all about being kind to the planet – sustainability and conscious living are a big part of the brand's DNA. 


“We try to be as fair on our planet as we can be. As a company we have always tried to make environmentally conscious choices and to actively seek products that are gentle on the earth and sea. Many of our pieces use reclaimed fabric; wherever possible we work with natural dyes and materials and we really try and focus on supplying products that will last, breaking away from the disposable culture we seem to live in. As a company we have never used plastic packaging; all our products come in handmade reclaimed sari bags. We try our best to always practice what we preach.” 


Being sustainable is something that has always been a part of Hannah’s life, even before she started her brand. She says: “I actually won the title ‘most likely to recycle’ in my last year at secondary school. I remember at the time feeling a bit embarrassed about it - sustainability wasn’t very cool back then! But thinking back I’m actually pretty proud of it.”



Image courtesy of Hannah Martin / Ambling Traders



Travelling the world


Hannah never started off to create her own fashion and lifestyle brand. Ambling Traders was formed after the pair embarked on travelling around the world: “We never set out to start a business. My partner, Joe and I had been travelling for nearly three years and to be honest we were freaking out about going home! We didn’t want to go back to 9-5 jobs we didn’t enjoy; we wanted to find a way to keep doing what we loved, exploring the world together.”


So what was the turning point? How did they decide that starting a brand together was what they really wanted to do? “We were trekking in Himachel Pradesh and came across these amazing handloomed Yak Wool shawls a local lady was selling, we brought one each and didn’t think that much of it. Later we were talking about how lovely they were and that they would make great gifts for our family back home. Then we thought well if we love them and our family and friends would love them maybe other people would to… we trekked back up the hill and brought the lot. It was literally that simple! 


“From there is just really snowballed, we started researching traditional Indian crafts and visiting particular areas where the crafts came from, we arranged meetings with various social enterprises and co-operatives, spoke to as many artisans as we could and started buying products directly from the people we met. When we came back to Brighton for Christmas 2017 we did a few local markets and sold out, we used that money to go back to India in January and really focus on growing the business.”


As she is someone who has travelled the world, I wanted to find out from Hannah where her favourite place she’s visited so far is: “For me it’s all about India, I had dreamt of going since I was a little girl and it just blew me away on every level. The people, the craft, the culture, the food… it really is impossible to put into words. The country is hugely diverse, and I just found the entire experience incredibly inspiring. There were lots of parts of India I loved, but I think Rajasthan has to be my favourite. It was like stepping back in time and it’s where we met many of the incredible makers we continue to work with. I literally can’t wait to get back.”


And of course, the next question is: where does she want to go to next? “There are so many places I want to explore, in fact I can’t really think of anywhere I wouldn’t like to see at least once! Top of the list is probably Isfahan, Iran, where they produce the most stunning block prints. I am also obsessed with North African textiles at the moment. “




Image courtesy of Hannah Martin / Ambling Traders



Meeting the makers

What makes Ambling Traders unique is that Hannah and Joe meet all of the artisans when they are travelling. So how important is it for them to meet the people making the products? “Meeting the makers is extremely important to us. I want to know with certainty that the maker is being paid fairly for their craft and that our money is going into the right pockets. There are some occasions where we can’t get to the maker themselves, but we always try and get as close to the source as possible.  


“It’s my favourite part of the job; we have ended up in some crazy places and met the most incredible people. I love hearing their stories, seeing their tools and materials and getting an understanding for the craft. Many of the artisans we work with are using the same techniques their great grandparents used. I just find it fascinating. “


So how do they choose who they are going to work with? Is there a particular mindset that’s involved in their selection process? “We basically have three major points we want to cover… Is it a sustainable product? Can we work directly with the maker or local supplier? Do we love it?  We always work on a gut feeling, it has to feel right. We need to connect with the maker and the product, we have to want it for ourselves!”


Words of wisdom


For people wanting to get into the industry, it isn’t vital that you study a fashion-based course at university – Hannah didn’t: “I actually studied sociology and social science at university, so nothing to do with what I’m doing now! Although saying that, my business is very much based around people, connecting with them, sharing their stories and talents so maybe it did me some good after all!”


So finally, what is her advice for anyone wanting to start up their own business? “Just go for it. I know that sounds really, really clichéd but seriously, stop waiting to feel ready - you never will! You will make a lot of mistakes, you will feel like giving up, you will question every decision you make, but you will learn, and you will improve and slowly you will get there. I never thought in literally a billion years I would be running my own business.  Seriously, if I can do it so can you."

Lead image courtesy of Hannah Martin / Ambling Traders

To read more pieces from our 'Behind the brand' series, visit this link.

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