What I Know About Style

Rachel Stepanek, founder of Mpira Richmond


We chat to Rachel Stepanek, founder of the sustainable clothing shop Mpira, Richmond

Tell us a bit about your brand, Mpira…

Mpira was created after taking a year out of working for some of the largest of the UK’s High Street retailers for over 15 years and looking at fast fashion and recycling waste increasing at a great pace.

What inspired you to set this up?

I love fashion and clothing and feel strongly that we can adapt and make use of all the waste while learning to consume differently. We can produce and shop in a new way that won’t contribute to the huge problem of fast fashion and discarding clothing the way we are. “There are enough clothes on the planet now to clothe the next six generations” is a quote from the British Fashion Council that we have on our social media site and in the shop and we think it is very important to hold onto that thought.

Tell us some things that you love about Kenya…

Kenya is just magical and the people are brilliant and wonderful, creative, resourceful, energetic and positive. Kenya has a rich natural environment rapidly being built up with residential and industrial construction, and the natural world is being devoured. We really do not need more factories and more cheap clothes! We feel strongly about valuing the natural world. We can stop the destruction of it if we choose to, and be part of the solution instead.

What were you looking for in the artisans you sought to work with?

I looked for people who were like-minded, open and willing to try new things. I wanted to find anyone able to make gorgeous products out of waste, vintage and antiques.

Your flagship store is in Richmond. What’s your favourite thing about the area?

The area is really a special place. Our shop was the old Petersham Farm Shop and is a listed building. The walls have tiles from centuries ago, painted with picturebook, romantic era paintings of milkmaids and farm animals. We have many fabulous neighbours, including the cheese shop, the book shop, and a little privately owned pub – it feels like a dream. It’s a community of eccentrics and individuals, all passionate about what we do and all very real. The road is usually busy as it is the road that leads from the town to the park and along the river.

What are your favourite pieces in your store at the moment?

I love the denim waist maxi skirts and the new men’s linen shirts, which we’ve just re-stocked – although everything we have is always a one-off.

What does the contents of your wardrobe look like? Any staples?

I have lots of our tops, which I’ll wear with anything. Jumpsuits are a favourite of mine as they’re a whole outfit put together in one. I always own lots of jackets, as they fit different occasions from walking the dog to a wedding.

Do you have any top tips on shopping sustainably?

Buy really good leather shoes and boots, and then re-sole them – you’ll keep them for years. Shop vintage as much as possible. Shop from people who are not polluting in their processes. Often people think they are buying something “recycled” and it’s a good thing to do, but the process of recycling plastic (for example) is also creating waste and pollution.

What are your future plans for Mpira?

We have lots of great plans from collaborating with people to repair jeans, to working with fabric from curtains and furnishing to make winter jackets….


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