Behind the Brand: Meet the sisters turning off-cuts into outfits
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Founders Denitsa and Gergana // Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone Rogue"There I started learning about the environmental impact of fashion. I was interested in the topic so I continued reading more and more. I felt so overwhelmed with all the terrible practices that I had to rethink entirely what I want[ed] to do in life and how I want[ed] to do it. "When we started Blonde Gone Rogue, both me and my sister knew that sustainability would be a core value. We want to be part of the change and part of a better fashion industry.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueThis core value is admirable, but their commitment to making use of end-of-roll materials and sourcing recycled textiles is uncommon in the modern fashion industry. How do Denitsa and sister Gergana make it work? “We are so pleasantly surprised at how willing to help people are. Right from the start everyone we met would give us advice or connect us with the right people. We also have this great advantage that our production is very local. We produce everything and source our materials in our hometown – Ruse, Bulgaria. It definitely helps us build a stronger connection with the people we work with.
BTS at BGR // Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone Rogue“This is very helpful when we need to choose materials for our collections. There are quite a few garment manufacturers in Ruse and many of them produce for high-end brands. They have a lot of leftover materials from the collections they produce. Most of these fabrics are really high-quality and it is sad to see them laying around, waiting to be thrown away. It is a triple win that we can make use of these materials. "Firstly, we find high-quality fabrics. Then, the factory makes a small profit on reselling them. And finally, we get to save so [many] resources that have gone in the production of the textiles, not to mention eliminating the waste of throwing them away. “When it comes to materials from recycled fibres, it is a bit trickier because very few fabric manufacturers do that. They are harder to find and producers have a mandatory minimum quantity for orders, which is hard to meet for a new brand like ours. So far we have partnered with Continental Clothing, who are one of the pioneers in recycled textiles and hold certificates from the Global Recycled Standard.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueThey mention cupro on their website, so can they tell us a bit more about what that is and how they discovered it? “Cupro is a very beautiful, silk-like fabric that comes from cotton waste. The cotton plant is cultivated on a farm and the fibres are then collected for spinning and weaving. Some of the fibres, however, are too delicate to go in the composition of cotton. They are usually thrown away. But there is another option. "These fibres can be collected, treated with a solution and the result is a silky cupro fabric with the awesome breathability and longevity of cotton. Next to being sustainable, it has such a delicate touch to the skin. We found out about cupro from a Japanese fabric manufacturer that we met at Milano Unica - a fabric convention held in Milan twice a year. We immediately fell in love with it.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueWith such a focus on eco-friendly materials and sourcing, how does one go about creating an eco fashion brand that doesn’t necessarily look eco? Do they design clothes based on the material they have available, or do they design first and then hunt for fabrics that work? “So far we’ve been designing first and then looking for the right materials. This gets us in quite the trouble, though. It is great having a beautiful vision for a dress but it doesn’t make sense when you can’t find the fabric, colour or quality you’ve set your mind on. It is smarter to first find the fabric you love and then use it to make a perfect-match dress people fall in love with.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueThey’ve thought of everything when it comes to being a sustainable brand: packaging, labels, teamwork, environment, materials. Blonde Gone Rogue is a much smaller company than many fast fashion brands, so what parts of the production process would Denitsa like to see incorporated at a large scale in other brands? And do they think it’s possible?
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Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueEvery step of Blonde Gone Rogue’s process seems to have been considered, and the label’s website includes an introduction to every member of their team; in a fashion industry that makes it notoriously difficult to find out who made our clothes, how do Denitsa and Gergana maintain such a personal approach to business? “We are just being true to ourselves… we are not willing to compromise," Denitsa tells me. "When choosing who we work with, what is most important is that they are trustworthy, kind and respect what we are aspiring to achieve. We also spend a lot of time with these people, so we get to know each other beyond the work we do together. We must admit that a lot of it is building strong relationships with the people we meet along the way. When there’s a bond, others will take your values to heart.” How do they plan to maintain that sense of community as their business expands? “That is actually quite simple. What we love about working with the factory where we produce is that we are always so warmly welcomed. We’ve spent so much time there, developing our collections, that we are seen as part of their team. Going forward, we definitely see the importance of taking the time to visit manufacturers and getting to know the people who work at these facilities. "We’re not talking about the managers only, but the employees, the ones who actually give life to our vision. They also feel quite happy to meet the people they sew the garments for. We believe this is the true way to create a sense of community: a common goal and delivery of a high-quality, sustainable product to consumers.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueCaring for the environment, providing excellent working conditions for employees… intentionally or not, Blonde Gone Rogue is as much a social enterprise as it is a fashion brand. Have they had any challenges creating a business that is both financially viable and socially responsible? “Yes, there are additional challenges stemming from our commitment to social responsibility," Denitsa says. "But we don’t see any of these obstacles as something we cannot hack. What we are currently working on is making our products as affordable as we possibly can. We believe that sustainable fashion should be for everyone… But there is a reason why most sustainable products are expensive. "Nature-friendly materials, high-quality work and socially responsible manufacturers all call for higher-priced product. We have to be creative and smart in finding ways to overcome difficulties such as this one. It’s important to remember that there is always a way.” How did Denitsa and Gerganas' different of educational backgrounds - one studied a fashion-based course; they other business - help them break into the industry? Denitsa believes that it is “It is essential that there are people with different backgrounds in the team. Everyone has unique insight and point of view. Together they result in a stronger concept. "Also, along the way you will have to collaborate with people from different fields and it is important to know how to approach them. How you present yourself to manufacturer and to an investor is completely different. It is good to have agents in both worlds.”
Image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone RogueAnd what about when it’s difficult, as the fashion industry so notoriously is? “Enjoy the difficulties. If you get discouraged easily, you will have a terrible time. But if you believe in what you are doing and you are willing to work crazy for it, little by little things will start happening. Just don’t worry too much.” It’s hard not to feel lighter and more content after speaking to Denitsa and Gergana, and they produce clothes that reflect this joy and optimism. The fact that we can enjoy these clothes knowing that they’re environmentally and socially responsible is just the icing on a carefully-sourced, pastel-hued cake. For more ethical brands, follow our Behind the Brand series here. Lead image courtesy of Denitsa at Blonde Gone Rogue.