Last month, 21-year-old designer Lois Saunders finished her Manchester School of Art course with no graduation day, no graduate fashion week, no end of uni celebrations, and no ‘best summer of her life’. She finished her intricate final collection in lockdown from her Withington flatshare and ineffective Zoom calls replaced vital tutorials. But lucky for Lois, her recently launched brand 1xBlue, which makes saucy two-pieces from recycled football scarves, has been making waves. 1xblue has been featured on Dazed and Season Zine, spotlighted by Depop and has fans including singer Madison Beer, model Chi Virgo, stylist Anna Trevelyan and Wonderland editor Toni Blaze. A Mowalola collaboration is imminent. Here Lois talks about graduating during a pandemic, launching on Depop and how she deals with having her designs ripped off.

How easy was it for you to decide to pursue a creative course?

I grew up in Canterbury, Kent and did fashion design as an extended diploma at the University of the Creative Arts instead of A Levels. My parents are very creative, my mum’s a hair stylist and my dad's an artist so they’ve always been very supportive of an artistic career. My mum used to take me to Fashion Week when I was a kid, so I've always just had a love for clothes. I chose to come to Manchester because it was far away from home and the next biggest city after London, I’d never even visited before my first day on campus but I trusted all my friends who raved about it. The more affordable prices compared to London meant I could actually go out with my mates regularly without t a huge financial strain.

Tell us about finishing your final year in lockdown.

It's been really difficult. Doing a creative course in lockdown is not as straight forward as conventional courses obviously, because there's been no studio space. We've had a few meetings with our tutors every week through Zoom and the ending of our collection has been completely changed. Before the virus, we had been working so hard in the studios from 8am till 10pm most days, so to be told that all the graduate shows have been cancelled after putting so much effort in was heartbreaking. It’s sad, but we've all made the best of a bad situation. It's just being really unlucky.

Talk us through your final collection.

It’s called ‘Medieval Punks Try Couture’ and was heavily inspired by my family’s punk and medieval history. It involves a lot of intricate embroidery and is basically the opposite of 1xBlue, it's very couture. I use tule processes and embroider beads into faces. The process is so long, at uni I’d sometimes spend 12 hours a day beading and while the final result is beautiful, I prefer 1xBlue where I can make something really cool in a short space of time.

Tell us about when you launched your brand.

The idea came in January when I was charity shopping in Chorlton and I came across an amazing football scarf. There was no intention to start a business at first, I just made it into a top for myself. I used the overlocking machines at uni and when I put it on Instagram around 20 people messaged me asking for one. I launched on Depop [her account @lois_saunders now has 10k followers] and in the first week was featured on their main Instagram page. They’re so supportive to young designers, especially ones promoting sustainability and recycled materials.

How do you source your material?

Most of the scarves now come from eBay and Depop now because I can buy them in bulk and I’ve also made some shorts from Playboy curtains I found on eBay. Due to a recent spate of people ripping off my designs I have actually started to manufacture my own scarf material. Even though it’s sadly not sustainable, I do think it’s important to have a few personal, branded pieces in the collection

How did you work out your price point?

The pieces are relatively expensive [prices vary from £70 to £180] because I've always wanted my pieces to be something people have to save up for as a treat for themselves. I've had a few people message me asking about a custom order for their birthday and I think it just makes the brand more special.

How can we buy them?

Look out for when I announce drops every few weeks on my Instagram page, then head to my website.

Tell us about the importance of sustainability in your work.

I’ve always loved second hand shopping and wanted to incorporate recycled materials somehow. Sustainability is vital to consider when starting a brand because obviously the planet needs a big clean up and fashion leaves such a bad imprint. I learnt a lot about clothing waste at uni.

Have you been forced to adapt your practise in lockdown?

I'm really lucky that during this time I’ve been able to carry on as normal. Even before lockdown started, I did most of my work at home because I have my own sewing machines. The only thing that’s impacted me is I haven’t been able to do shoots or collaborate with other creatives which I enjoy.

Tell us about the Depop accounts who have been copying your designs.

It's difficult. I don't like calling people out, but it hurts when you’re so excited about your designs that are just taking off and you see them being completely ripped off. I get sent so many screenshots of people copying my designs from followers. A lot of people say that it's just taking inspiration, but most have created the same shapes and exact styles using football scarves. I don’t like arguing and it’s difficult to go about the situation, but in a way it's taking business away from me, a small designer who’s just starting out. I'm still growing so it’s frustrating to see.

Most of the copiers are relatively young girls, so I understand that they aren’t mature enough to fully grasp how damaging this is, but they can’t just not be pulled up on it. Most people have deleted their designs after our conversations. One girl said, ‘It’s naïve to think you’re the first person to make clothes from football scarves’ but has followed me on Depop for a while, so it’s just obvious. The feeling you get when you someone rip off your designs never gets better. Just get your own ideas, you know.


Three words that define your aesthetic.

  • Sporty, nostalgic, sexy.

Three words you want your work to make people feel.

  • Cool, empowered, sexy again.

What's the album song that you always blast the Matlock's creativity?

  • Amy Winehouse Essentials playlist.

What’s your perfect midnight snack?

  • Chocolate Hobnobs.

What's the weirdest thing in your bag?

  • I can't leave the house without lip balm. At the moment, I've into Vaseline and I use it for my eyebrows most days. I heard a beauty myth that it’s supposed to make them thicker. 

When do you work best?

  • I wake up at 7.30am most days and that's my most productive working time, before breakfast.

How do you talk tackle creative block?

  • A lot of my ideas come from second hand shopping, so having a potter round some antique or charity shops really inspires me.

Who should we be following on Instagram?

  • I'm currently working on a collaboration with my friend she’s called @eloisecoon, she’s an amazing knitwear designer and is going to be big

Who should we be following on Instagram for the lols?

  • @notmyanimal. They put aside the funniest, weirdest catches of animals, and they always make me laugh.

What's your what's your favourite place to go out in Manchester?

  • One of my favourite bars is Behind Closed Doors in the Northern Quarter, it’s in a basement of a converted porn shop. The cocktails are so good and it stays open so late, you won’t be kicked out until the early hours of the morning. 

What's one positive to come out of lockdown?

  • My business has thrived because I've been able to focus so much on it.

What are the five words that represent your quarantine life?

  • Sewing, scarves, Facetime, wine and sunbathing.