With their pop-up store due to open in Hitchen, meet the powerhouse duo behind fashion and lifestyle brand, Conscious Citizen, and find out how they’re paving the way for a sustainable future, one clothing staple at a time.

Aiming to make sustainability a larger part of the conversation in the fashion industry and wanting to change the relationship people have with clothes has been the aim of Hitchin-based Cinscious Citizen from the start. When launching the brand Maria Bond and Yulia Blower spent a lot of time researching eco-friendly methods and materials they could use to make their clothes.

‘There’s a lot of information out there and it’s hard to tell what you should listen to,’ Yulia explains. ‘A lot of individuals and companies are interested in doing more to help the planet but have no idea where to begin. There’s no framework to follow to measure how much someone has improved sustainability, which makes it incredibly difficult to understand the impact of the actions you’re taking not just as a brand but as a consumer. Our goal is to overcome this by breaking down all the information out there and providing simple steps to living more consciously using our four pillars, which we hope will help our citizens make positive changes to their shopping habits.’

Great British Life: Owners Maria Bond and Yulia Blower met on Instagram two years ago. Photo by Conscious CitizenOwners Maria Bond and Yulia Blower met on Instagram two years ago. Photo by Conscious Citizen

Asking more questions about where clothing comes from and what it’s made of can help individuals consume more consciously.

‘Things like buying a shirt made from organic cotton, avoiding buying items you’ll only wear once, and donating clothes to charity instead of throwing them out are all small changes every single person can make. When added together, this collectively goes a long way towards helping the planet, reducing waste and lowering carbon emissions,’ Maria comments.‘We as consumers have the power to decide how we spend our money. If we make sustainability a priority and reach better decisions about the clothes we buy, this will positively impact how businesses operate.’

‘Consumption will always exist, and that isn’t a bad thing. We need it to sustain our economy and provide jobs, but by working together and thinking more, we can inspire businesses to do the same,’ Yulia adds.

Since meeting over Instagram during the first lockdown, the pair have been keen to do their part to spread positivity and make a difference.

‘We both had an interest and background in fashion, having been inspired from an early age, and a desire to help others. We quickly struck up a conversation and haven’t stopped talking since,’ Maria notes. ‘Somewhere among all this, plans for Conscious Citizen were born and we found ourselves ready to take the first step.’

For a few people, working with your friends can seem like a bad idea, but that’s never been the case for Yulia and Maria.

‘We both have our strengths and weaknesses and complement each other well. It’s good knowing we have one another to rely on, and while launching a fashion label from scratch is never easy – it’s taken a lot of hard work and determination - we’ve always had a clear vision of what we wanted the brand to be and so far, it feels like we’re on the right track,’ Maria says.

In the last two years, the pair have turned one T-shirt into a 35-piece collection, featuring stylish, everyday, seasonless, unisex pieces.

‘We wanted to create items that can sit within a capsule wardrobe and make essential clothes that can be worn time and time again, in any setting, and that go with almost anything,’ Yulia reveals. ‘Not only is our packaging made from recycled materials, but our clothing is also created from organic cotton, recycled nylon or other recycled fabrics.’

‘It took us ages to pick the cotton we wanted for our first T-shirt. We even buried it in our back garden for three months, before digging it up again. Though it sounds a little odd, we had a good reason! We wanted to make sure it had decomposed and check it was completely organic,’ Maria laughs. ‘All that was left by then were the seams. Had we waited another two months it would have disappeared entirely. This was when we knew we were ready to put the shirt up for sale.’

From there, the business has grown steadily, with them taking more and more pre-orders via their website, enabling them to release other wardrobe staples and gain recognition online. Conscious Citizen pieces have been seen on some of the biggest names, including Kendall Jenner, Billie Eilish, Fearne Cotton, Ronan Keating and Louise Redknapp.

‘It’s amazing that so many incredible people love our brand and have understood what we’re trying to achieve. I love it when I see people walking down the street wearing Conscious Citizen,’ Yulia enthuses.

‘Honestly, it means the world whenever we see anyone wearing one of our pieces,’ Maria remarks. ‘We wanted to use the brand to help bring people from all different backgrounds together. We’ve got an incredibly diverse community of supporters from teens right up to grandparents. The goal has always been to design clothes that can be worn by anyone throughout all stages of life. It’s only by working together that we can have a lasting impact on climate change.'

The label’s loungewear and Mini Citizens sets have been some of their most popular pieces.

‘Tracksuits were an important item for us to work on, as we wanted to disprove the stereotype that casual wear is only for the home. They are great pieces to wear out and about, in professional settings and from day to day. We want people to know you can still be comfortable and look polished,’ Maria says.

When designing their loungewear sets, the number one priority was comfort and fit.

‘I often struggle to find a well-fitting pair of trousers,’ Yulia mentions, ‘and nothing makes me crabbier than spending the day in uncomfortable clothes. This is why we designed the tracksuits in two different leg lengths. We design pieces to make our consumers feel good and are always working hard to develop and evolve our collection to suit even more body types and be even more versatile – it's progress, not perfection. This is because we know when something fits right, it has a lasting impact on how prepared you feel for the day ahead. When you feel good, you do good and look good.’

The idea for their Mini Citizens set was to use these qualities to design hard-wearing sustainable pieces children can wear. It was also a perfect opportunity for them to help bring more families together.

Great British Life: The duo were inspired by their love for fashion and desire and to help others. Photo by Conscious Citizen The duo were inspired by their love for fashion and desire and to help others. Photo by Conscious Citizen

‘As a mum of two daughters, I find it imperative to reframe how we [as a society] condition shopping behaviours for future generations. My girls have been a part of Conscious Citizen from the start and designing the mini set was a great way to get them more invested in the positive impact we’re making,’ Maria divulges. ‘I think if we can instill good habits in our children now, then they’ll grow up to make better decisions and create a brighter future. We also wanted to give something back to the large community of parents that adore the brand. I think getting to buy clothes together and get excited about new outfits is a great way to bring parents and children closer.

‘Pregnancy, and the time following this, is also one of the biggest changes someone’s body will ever go through, and this can impact confidence. Creating items that allow mothers, well everyone really, to feel relaxed yet still put together is imperative for all the collections we design, to help enhance that feel-good factor.’

Currently, more plans are underway to develop new collections and continue to grow the brand further. Later this year, Yulia and Maria will launch their Basic Collection with leggings and T-shirts.

‘Our aim is to continue gradually releasing more wardrobe staples. We are also launching a pop-up in Hitchin and exhibiting again at the Happy Place Festival. We had a fantastic time there last year and the support we’ve received from the local community has been amazing,’ Yulia states. ‘It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come from where we started. Sometimes it seems like it was only yesterday we were creating our first sample, and in other ways, it feels like 10 years have passed since then, but we’re incredibly excited for the future.’

‘There’s still so much we want to achieve, and so many people we want to reach and hopefully have a positive impact on, but I also think it’s really important to take a breath every once in a while, and acknowledge everything you’ve achieved so far,’ Maria says. ‘If there’s one thing, we want people to take away more than anything, it’s just to try to do one thing better today than you did the day before. You’ll be surprised by how far that can get you and what a difference it can make.’ consciouscitizenworld.com