Siân Adkins on how she channelled grief into a new fashion career
PUBLISHED: 11:46 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:46 20 November 2018
© Feia Lydia Photography
Fashion entrepreneur Siân Adkins found a new direction in life when her parents died, helping both herself and other women to get through the darkest days
Most of us are fortunate enough not to lose parents before we’ve reached 30 – but Siân Adkins had to cope with the deaths of both her mother and father, suddenly and unexpectedly, within three years. And yet she channelled her grief into a new career which also helps other women going through tough situations, particularly those who don’t have the support which helped her through a life crisis.
“My father went to work, had a heart attack, and was gone. It was a terrible time and I felt obliged to put on a brave face because it was the year I was getting married and also because I had to be strong for my mum,” she recalls. “Looking back, I didn’t grieve properly, just took a couple of days off work and got on with it.”
Then, two years ago, Siân’s mother suffered a brain haemorrhage at home and did not survive. Siân began to re evaluate her life, while coping with sleepless nights and long, dark hours of crying, helped by the devoted support of husband Dave and a vital network of friends visiting their Wokingham home.
Part of her focus was on the creativity and joy of her childhood. “We were always making things. Both my mother and her mother had a designer’s eye and fashion-wise believed that a wardrobe of fewer but high quality items which could be mixed and matched was always the best choice.
“When my grandmother heard that a haberdasher’s was closing down she went there and bought the entire stock – masses of material and ribbon – and we spent many happy hours making clothes when I was a child.”
Siân, then a buyer with John Lewis and Waitrose, realised that this ethos handed down the maternal line could be carried on and even enhanced as the bedrock of her own business: “It began while my mother was alive as when I looked for a nightwear gift for her all the choices seemed to be frumpy or sexy.
“I’d struggled to find the right designs for her and then, when I was seeking the comfort of nightwear for myself while grieving, it was there again.”
Dave supported her in the dream to produce her own nightwear brand and this summer it became reality with the launch of a debut collection of Siân Esther (her middle name) designs in Henley, where the couple recently moved.
There’s no doubt her mother would approve – here we have five classic, effortless pieces with a modern twist, all created from cool cotton. Whether hosting breakfast for guests or pottering around the home they offer a magic mix of ‘decency’ with gracious style, cut in a relaxed fit to ensure garments skim rather than cling. The first pieces include a robe, nightshirts and shorty sets, plus a make up bag and espadrille slippers.
As well as fulfilling Siân’s creative urge the luxe collection will also help to fund three good causes helping women through dark days in their lives. One-fifth of all profits will be shared by the Marylebone Project, a homeless shelter for women, the Luminary Bakery, which employs female survivors of domestic violence, other crimes and social issues which can destroy lives, and Mercy UK which helps women struggling with mental health problems.
“All kinds of life events can derail women and then it can spiral. I was obviously aware of homeless people while working in London,” says Siân. “Many could have stories like mine but didn’t have the support system when they most needed it. It’s nice to think that someone getting a comforting feeling from pulling on pyjamas I’ve produced is also helping other women struggling in sad circumstances.”
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