When it comes to sustainable fashion, it can be hard to know where to start. With an endless barrage of information, countless new and established brands to research, and a mass of confusing terminology out there, it's understandable that anyone might feel a little overwhelmed.
In light of this, every month we will focus on a brand that knows exactly what it means to be a sustainable force for good in fashion today. From debunking inaccuracies to advice for aspiring brands and tips for consumers on how to be kinder to the planet, we cut through the noise so that you don’t have to. This month we’re getting to know Bogdar, a partywear brand that not only delivers on statement style but also leads the way in conscious fashion.
Created and led by couple Pavel and Teodora Lozanov since its launch in 2015, Bogdar builds on their family’s fashion legacy in Bulgaria - a country rich with a history in clothes manufacturing. This is incredibly important to the label, so it remains that 100 per cent of Bogdar’s pieces are produced in their family-owned facility in Vidin, Bulgaria, with a team of just 16 members.
The label, which says its clothes are “not made to hide, but to bring out the woman under them, to make her shine”, believes that fashion should be personal, slow and deliberate. Each piece from the brand has been made with the finest hand-picked fabrics in Europe and at least half of its collections are produced with organic, sustainable or recycled fabrics.
Every print (one features their beloved sausage dog Barry) is digitally produced to reduce water waste and ink usage and the label only works with family-owned, socially responsible fabric suppliers that are certified for clean production.
Bogdar works to unite contemporary style and sustainable execution and contributes to the emerging style of the New East; it's inspired by the women it's made for, who are bold, elegant and sophisticated.
What makes a truly sustainable brand?
Pavel Lozanov: "In reality, there is no brand out there that is 100 per cent sustainable and it’s important that we are all aware of this. Having said that, there is so much more you can do than using organic cotton in your collections. Since sustainability is still so unclear, we like to think that it’s a mindset that has to run through each and every process of your business. Starting from design – do you make clothes that go out of fashion after one season? How is the quality of your clothes – do they tear after one wear? Where do you produce? Transparency is so important and people do not give it enough credit yet. What fabrics do you use? Are your suppliers certified? Do you ship in recycled paper?
Teodora Lozanov: "There are endless aspects of sustainability and if you are not paying attention to all of them, or if you are aware that you can be more sustainable but are not doing it, then your brand is not sustainable."
How do you successfully run a sustainable business?
TL: "A brand should always think about all the actors in the process before the bottom line. Yes, it is less profitable, but not doing it means harming the planet, the people that work for you and your customers."
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
PL: "Fast fashion - the practices that have now been set as standard by the fast-fashion brands have not brought anything good for us as a whole. You might think that isn't true, that fast fashion can be affordable, but it's only cheap for the end consumer. It’s expensive for the manufacturer, it’s definitely expensive for the people who work in the production lines, and it’s definitely not cheap for the planet. It’s time that people ask themselves, ‘Do I really need five of these cheaply made pieces that I am going to throw away in six months or do I want a transparently and sustainably made piece that I will cherish until it's worn-out?’ It’s about being smart with your purchases."
What is the industry doing right?
TL: "People are aware of sustainability and that’s great as it means that brands will jump on board as well. I don’t think that the fast-fashion retailers are doing nearly enough and that most of the bigger contemporary brands who claim to be sustainable could do much more, taking into account the size of their businesses and the number of people they employ. However, any step in the right direction is great and we have to be happy with the progress, as little as it is."
What do you want to achieve with your brand, in terms of sustainability?
TL: "We’d like to challenge this misconception that sustainable fashion is boring. That’s what we struggle with on a daily basis. I feel there is still this misconception in the industry whenever someone hears we are a sustainable brand, but, as other brands like us emerge, this will surely come to an end. We want to teach people that sustainable fashion can also be contemporary and belong to trend-forward wardrobes, too."
What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?
PL: "Be curious about making your business more ethical. Do your research. Always choose the better-for-everyone way of implementing change going forward."
What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?
PL: "Research the brand you want to buy into. Are they transparent? Where do they produce? Buying a tank top from a London store and seeing the top was made in India isn’t that great. There must have been a million options to buy locally."
What’re the most common inaccurate “facts” about sustainability you see promoted?
TL: "I can't stop seeing organic cotton usage pushed out as a form of green-washing. Yes, we also use organic cotton, we have never used non-organic cotton. Switching to it isn’t a big deal. Having used non-organic crops is the big deal."
What should consumers look out for when shopping sustainably?
PL: “Transparency and traceability as well as the country of origin of the products. Customers really need to think about the price they’re paying, too - surely there’s something wrong with a pair of jeans that cost as much as a morning coffee and a muffin?”
Where do you turn to when you feel confused about sustainability?
TL: "Honestly, the internet is full of useful information and a simple Google search can shed so much light on sustainability. The information is already out there and it’s great that it’s so easily accessible."
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