It doesn’t take a genius to know why people are so angry at the UK’s ruling party. If I bring your attention to austerity, starving children, *that* whole Brexit thing when the Prime Minister threatened to break international law, refusal to pay NHS staff fairly, the general handling of coronavirus and a HUGE problem with xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia, need I go into any more detail?
Fuck the Tories, a British jewellery brand shaking up the concept of political neutrality amongst companies, has recently been taking social media by storm.
With their straight- to-the-point attitude, as well as their clear anti-Tory, anti-Trump and anti-patriarchal alignments, I knew that I had to have some part of their successful merchandise, and purchased a pair of the fabulous ‘Fuck the Tories’ earrings for which they are so well known.
I wanted to get a deeper understanding of why, where and how the team made their start, their global expansion, and their plans for the future, so I spoke with Libby, the company’s founder, who told me all about them.
What inspired you to start the brand?In 2016, my friend had a ‘Fuck the Tories’ necklace made on Etsy, and I loved it so much that I had a similar one made too. A year later, I decided to try and sell some to friends to raise money for my refugee charity – Calais Action. I knocked up a one-page website and stuck it on my Facebook and it went viral. It was just before the 2017 election, so I think it was accidental perfect timing.
I didn’t actually have anyone to make all the orders coming in, because the girl on Etsy could only make a handful a month, and there were hundreds of them. But, as all the profits were going to charity, I kept it going and assumed we’d pull it off in time. Luckily, everyone was super nice and patient.
There were so many other angry statements that I wanted to make into jewellery, so I just kept making them.
Have you faced any criticism so far? How have you dealt with this?
There’s been the odd angry e-mail from someone who’s found the site, but we’ve actually got off pretty lightly considering it would potentially piss off roughly half the country. It’s always a bit awkward when approaching people to help us make our stuff or anything branded, but so far everyone seems to have shared the sentiment.
Saying that, the Hatton Garden Jewellery Quarter is clearly full of Tories because no one there would touch it.
Why are you anti-Tory? How would you describe your political affiliation (and why them over the Tories?)In the past, I’ve voted for the Lib Dems, Greens and more recently Labour. While we had Corbyn as the leader of the opposition, I think, like so many people, I finally felt that there was a party that was aligned with my values.
Ever since I can remember, the Tories have proven themselves to be void of any moral compass and have systematically marginalised the most vulnerable in society. In 2015/16, I was working in Parliament with Calais Action, fighting for policy change so that the Tories would let refugees into the country. Corbyn was extremely keen to help us and it was incredibly frustrating to think how different it would have been, had Corbyn been prime minister. Now, Keir Starmer is the Labour leader, and I feel politically homeless again.
Why do you think it is important to be politically vocal as a business?
It’s a shame because the majority are afraid to speak up in case they lose followers. But I think, with so many people being so fiercely politically engaged these days, it can really endear people to brands and artists. People like Stormzy and Lily Allen are so important because they’ve influenced millions to take notice of important issues affecting the country.
We are seeing more and more brands speak out, although with the large corporations, it’s difficult to known if they’re doing it for the right reasons or just jumping on the bandwagon. The way I see it, is if someone is a racist or is okay with not feeding starving children, then I don’t want their money anyway. There is so much work to do; activism should be everywhere.
Do you hope that the brand can make younger, apathetic voters more politically aware and engaged?Absolutely. Politics in fashion has become so popular in the last few years, and I think as a result that does engage younger people.
When I was a teenager or even in my early twenties, no one cared about politics because you had to pick up a newspaper or watch the Six O’clock News to learn about it. Now, there’s the Internet, so you can find out about how shit the Government is from an early age. If you see stuff that says “Fuck the Tories” on it, and that’s sort of cool, then I’d hope that it might inspire them [young people] to wear it everyday, and then have discussions about it when they might not otherwise.
You have stores specifically for your US and Australian audiences, would you consider expanding/opening a physical location?
I’d love to start dedicated German and Irish online stores! We have a lot of customers in Berlin and were were running a “Fuck AfD” necklace for a while (their version of the BNP).
If we opened a brick and mortar, I think it would be a pretty amusing place to work, depending on how much gammon footfall was in the area. It would certainly open us up to that criticism I mentioned that we never get! Maybe I’ll start with a market stall and a riot shield, and see how it goes.
You can check out the shop at fuckthetories.co.uk for all your anti-Tory merchandise. And with 10% of all profits going to charity, you can hate the Tories, look fashionable and help those in need all at the same time!
Featured image by Sophie Victoria Brown.
Edited by Tom Tyers and Daniela Ferreira Teixeira.