International Women's Day: O Pioneers

Q&A with Co-Founders, Clara Francis and Tania Hindmarch.

Tell us about your role and your business.

We set up O Pioneers - an independent women's clothing label - towards the end of 2019 not long before the pandemic hit! Unable to find our dream dresses we set about designing our own - using Liberty cottons with a modern take on the elegant, sometimes eccentric, classic English Victoriana style. We started out as a small kitchen table business, both of us doing EVERYTHING from designing, lugging patterns and fabrics to manufacturers, packing up and sending out orders, and even modelling in our shoots! The last 3 years have been phenomenal. We went from being an online-only offering to dipping our toe in the bricks-and-mortar retail waters of pop-up shops before we found our forever home on Marylebone Lane, as well as being stocked at global fashion behemoth Net-a-Porter. Our brand has blossomed into a cult classic for women who want to be more mindful in their fashion purchases and invest in beautifully crafted, forever pieces.


Based on your own experience, what advice would you have for women wanting to get into your industry, or start a business of their own?

Just go for it! Don't overthink it and believe in yourself. If it's something that you're truly passionate about or that you've always dreamed of doing then that's half the battle. It doesn't matter at what stage you are in life either! We started our business in our forties, both coming from totally different career paths with neither of us having any particular experience of the fashion industry but just driven by a passion to make the types of dresses that WE wanted to wear. It was important to us to be mindful and sustainable in the process and work with other like-minded women and use hand skills and crafts that we feel are important to keep alive - such as patchwork, embroidery, hand-knitting etc.

Oh and the other thing is to be prepared to make mistakes. And don't beat yourself up about them. As long as you can learn from them it's all good! We 'learn' pretty much on a daily basis!!!


Which women have inspired you most throughout your life? 

I think we can safely say that we have both been inspired hugely by our mothers. Both of them are prolific knitters, crocheters and all-round creatives. Our childhoods consisted of wearing mostly homemade garments made by our Mums (usually in a Liberty Print!). Moving forward through our lives we have been hugely inspired by too many women to mention. Women who have forged ahead in their chosen fields often when the odds have been stacked against them in many cases for merely being born a woman. Artists like Nan Goldin, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frieda Kahlo, Musicians such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Writers like George Eliot, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison…so many brilliant, resilient, brave inspiring women past and present… how do you choose? 


What do you love most about being positioned in Marylebone Village?

We are IN LOVE with Marylebone Village!! It just feels like home for us. Both coming from North London it's a hop, skip and a jump for us across Regent's Park to the shop, usually stopping at St John or Lina Stores for coffee on the way. We love Marylebone Village because it feels like just that, a village. We're a stone's throw from the bustle of Oxford Street yet a million miles away in feel. You turn into Marylebone Lane (where our shop is) and it just feels cool, calm and eclectic. There are so many great independent places to shop (that you won't get anywhere else) and chilled places to eat and drink. It's a unique vibe all its own.