It was approximately three years ago when Wendy Tobeas started BOEALOE, a slow fashion brand with a high-fashion soul. This year marks the beginning of her production journey with a small capsule collection made ethically in Bulgaria. We recently had a brief coffee date with her to discuss the most significant challenges she has faced and to translate them into concrete advice for young brand owners. Listen up.
After studying at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts, she worked as a freelance stylist and fashion editor (ELLE, Cosmopolitan, COSMO Girl) throughout her early twenties. She worked so hard, that she needed a break, which led to the genius idea to start BOEALOE, a high-end brand that rediscovers classic silhouettes through mindful manufacturing. BOEALOE upcycles luxury deadstock and recycled fabrics and whenever she uses new fabrics, Wendy picks the most sustainable ones available, such as GOTS and RWS. She is actively exploring all options to take the next step in sustainable fabric sourcing, one is working with 100% recycled natural fabrics
"The idea of what I wanted to do when I started is miles away from where I am now. The most important lesson I learned is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel or be afraid to do things that are already done. I used to think that everything I design must be innovative, but you have to create something from yourself in the first place. It has to be authentic and you need to believe in your product. No matter how small you are as a company, don't be afraid to stand your ground and stick with your vision."
"Dare to ask your manufacturer stupid questions: do you have the tech sheets of fabrics, what tests have been done with them, what warranty do you give, do these colors that I picked work with the fabric. Just because you're small doesn't mean you can't ask anything, and I learned the hard way how important it is to do so. Make sure you always keep your Pre-Production Sample (PPS), the sample of the product that occurs before manufacturing starts. It is like a contact that you have with your manufacturer, because they have the same piece, and it allows you to communicate about amendments during the sampling period. You need to have one in your hands, so that you can always say: this is what I agreed to."
"You don't have to do everything yourself. Asking people for help. I always had the idea that I should be able to do everything myself, but there are a lot of people who can do things better, quicker, cheaper. If you are not good at patternmaking, then invest in one. Not good at strategy or branding? Ask someone else. Fashion is really a profession, and that profession consists of sub-jobs that you have to be very good at to be successful. If you really want your own company, you need to invest in help from professionals."
"Each of our garments made by a different, specialized manufacturer. At the beginning of my journey I did not realize that each piece of clothing is a profession in itself. If someone makes you a great blouse sample, it doesn’t always mean they also make the best blazers. They might not have the knowledge or right machines to make exactly what you have in mind. So keep looking, chat with different manufacturers, and sample with them to find the right partnerships."
"Never negotiate on the price - you are not going to negotiate at Starbucks either. It will only mean that the manufacturer will have less time to create your pieces, so production will lose on quality. You’ll get what you pay for, that’s how it works. Aiming for the lowest price will simply be at the expense of the quality you get. You’ll see it in the details, like seams and buttons. Do research into what things cost in certain countries. For example, in Portugal there are cities where there are only shoe manufacturers. Map your products out and talk to different manufacturers. They’ll tell you what they can make and how much it should cost."