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A HEARTFELT MOMENT WITH HESTER

As part of our Holly & Co ‘Do what you love’ month, we couldn’t wait to collaborate with the talented Hester, founder of Bertie Valentine, as our artist in residence. As well as just being the loveliest human being on the planet, Hester creates the most incredible painted and embellished bridal and fashion accessories — from unique paper flowers and cake toppers, to intricate designs on jackets, shoes and stationery — and her work’s so bloody special, it’s even featured in Vogue!

Why else did our collaboration with Hester make me feel tingly all over? Well because she’s a shining example of someone who’s absolutely worked her behind off to follow her passions through her side-hustle, and creates sheer magic around her full-time job. She’s also a big fan of upcycling, so takes pre-loved pieces, or items from your wardrobe, and turns them into thoroughly original works of art.

Hester AKA Bertie Valentine

In Hester’s biography, she explains a little more about how this came to be. “I’ve been working in accessories design within the fashion industry since graduating and as much as I love the product, it can be a disappointingly heartless environment, largely led by ruthless ambition and a focus on the bottom line.

Hester’s a shining example of someone who’s absolutely worked her behind off to follow her passions through her side-hustle.

Bertie Valentine is about remedying this. “I wanted to create a business that focuses on the love of the product — slow fashion that isn’t going to harm the environment or anyone in it and, above all, remembering that the customer is a living, breathing human being who deserves a product that is completely unique to them and that has been handled with love all the way through its creation.”

You can see why we get on! I invited Hester to do an Insta LIVE with me to find out more. Want to know what I discovered? Read on…

Vase of paper flowers

Tell us why you’re so passionate about what you do.

“I just have this overwhelming urge to make things all the time and am very grateful that I have parents who have always encouraged me to be very creative. I love to see colour and joy in my everyday life, and it’s not always there. 

At work, I often have to be quite sensible and put on my serious face but at home, I can have everything pink and sparkly and it makes me really happy. Plus the idea that I might be able to help other people feel like that is what keeps me going.

Also I’m very lucky to have a great role model in my sister. She’s a tattoo artist and had to really push to go and do this, and she’s a real inspiration for me. And the idea that I could then go and do that for someone else is a really nice thought.”

“I wanted to create a business that focuses on the love of the product — slow fashion that isn’t going to harm the environment or anyone in it.”

How did you get started in your business?

“I started back in 2018 but it [the business] was so little. My friend was going to a Britney Spears concert and I was really into embroidery at the time and had done a lot of it in the past and she said, ‘Could you do a jacket for me?’ So I made her this denim jacket with sparkle on the back that said, ‘Gimme more’ and then I did an Instagram post about it and people said they liked it so I started making more and more.

Denim jacket that says 'gimme more'

Then with the paper flowers, my husband and I got engaged in 2019 and I just thought, ‘Maybe I should make our wedding flowers’ and he said I was mad but it was a really nice way to use my hands, and I loved the colour and texture and everything, and I just got into it. It’s an obsession. I do it every day. It can cheer me up. If I’m having a rough day, I can sit down and do it and just feel completely at peace with the world.”

Is there a reason it’s your side hustle not your main job?

“It’s quite a practical reason really as we’re looking to move out of London and I need a mortgage but as soon as we go, that’s it! One day I’d love to do this full-time.”

How can we balance working for love and money?

“Sometimes I find my best selling products aren’t necessarily the things I love the most so I try and think about it in terms of the fashion industry. All the designers do couture shows. Yet the couture shows don’t make any money at all. They are absolute money pits, in fact. But they build up all of the hype around the brand and so I try to do the same. I do things that are inspiring me as ‘downtime projects’ and hopefully that’ll keep pulling people in to make sales on the best sellers.”

Brrtie Valentine Wedding

What do you do when you’re having a bad day or feel like you’re falling out of love with your business?

“Well my husband and I got married last year and had our wedding party this year in July and it was just too much. It was wonderful but the run up was stressful. It also happened at the same time as when my business was taking off and it was all a bit tense. Afterwards, I just couldn’t face it for about two weeks.

But the thing that got me back into it was that I thought, ‘Ok, take a chill pill’ and I started to think of it as a bit of a holiday. So we got out in nature a lot, did a lot of reading, practised gratefulness and then even when I was feeling really rubbish, I just thought, ‘Actually, the sun’s shining, my husband’s just brought me a cup of tea and it’s all quite nice really. Ahh, it’s not that bad!’

It’s having a bit of perspective I suppose. Just stepping back and thinking, ‘Something I’m really stressing about, that person probably isn’t even thinking about.’ So it’s worth just taking a step back.”

What advice would you give to others to encourage them to do what they love?

“I think the thing I’ve really found — the most positive thing from doing this — is connecting with people. Talking to others and hearing their experiences and knowing that you’re not alone is massive. In terms of growing, I was always afraid to reach out. The fear of objection was so big but every time I’ve done it I’ve had a really positive response back, so why not? You never know!”

Paper hydrangea by Bertie Valentine

How do we stop constantly thinking we should be doing more?

“I think you’ve always done more than you think you have. It’s really important to take time to reflect and look at what you have done. There’s an overwhelming urge sometimes to just keep churning stuff out but actually if you slow down a bit, the kind of stuff you put out will be filled with love which is better. We need to calm down a little bit. You might not feel like you’ve come that far but every little struggle is bigger than the last and you’re always growing and learning from it and I think that reflection is so important.”

I told you she was brilliant…

To see Hester’s beautiful Bertie Valentine designs, visit our Work/Shop, check out her site or follow her on Instagram. Or if you need some other love-themed ideas for those you love, visit my carefully curated collections for friends, husbands or little ones.

Do what you love heart flowers

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