The city professional turned ready-to-wear designer behind #brandtotrust Bozena Jankowska sits down with us to talk positive fashion and responsible business. A self-starter through and through, she explains why all her pieces are made to order and how she seeks to set herself apart.
How did you get into designing?
I’ve always loved fashion and I’ve always had a creative streak in me. However, the latter was put on the back burner for about 25 years when I decided to focus on my career in sustainability, 15 years of which were spent in sustainable and responsible investment. When I first started in the industry, it was very much a niche activity but today, 16 years later, it has morphed into to a global movement representing well over $70 trillion in financial assets!
Five years ago I decided to once again pick up designing and sewing clothes for myself as an alternative outlet for what was a stressful City job. As I got into the swing of things, I started making more clothes for myself which I usually wore to the office or to special events where I was often stopped and asked where I got them from. I soon realized that it was finally time for me to bring my two passions – sustainability and fashion – together, and so I made the decision to leave the City and establish a womenswear label that addressed women who believe that sophisticated, timeless style is the foundation of their aesthetic without compromising on sustainability.
“For me, using ethical manufacturing processes and practices is as much a case of straightforward business sense as it is inspirational, exciting and rewarding.”
Who or what inspires your collections?
When I founded the label, my intention was to use fashion as a platform to communicate about critical environmental and social issues that deserve our attention and to do that in a beautiful, engaging and inspirational way. I translate that into action by using environmental and social topics to inspire each of my collections. For example, my Season One 2018, Ode to the Bee collection is inspired by the plight of the honeybee and the fact that bees are under a number of pressures that result in habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.
I have partnered with Buglife, a non-governmental organisation that undertakes award winning work with various bee and pollinator conservation projects across the UK. Each purchase that our customers make will mean a donation being made to Buglife to help with their bee related conservation work so indirectly our customers are helping to save the bees!
Why was using responsible manufacturing processes important to you?
I think that we can no longer remain blind to the impact that fashion has an enormous environmental and social footprint. Unfortunately, it shows the ugly side of the industry and continues to throw up a huge challenge to it to improve its practices.
I believe it is important that ethical values are embedded into my practices from day one. These will set the precedent and tone for everything else I do in the future and help me to be part of the bigger solution towards bringing about positive change in the industry – even though I am starting out from a small base!
Each of your pieces is made to order – what led you to go down this route over alternative production methods?
Too often the fashion industry is criticized for waste and I wanted to consciously move away from the current fashion manufacturing model. I made the conscious decision to break with current convention and produce only when customers want to buy something from our collection.
The resulting impact is that resources are only used when they are needed, reducing waste and ensuring that each garment is treated individually and made with care and to a high standard resulting in beautifully crafted pieces of fashion that will stand the test of time and which customers can enjoy for many years to come. Often people are afraid or not used to purchasing made to order clothing as they are concerned that they then do not have the flexibility in making a return if for some reason the item is not suitable. Of course I have full confidence in being able to deliver beautifully crafted garments that my customers will love and want to keep but if for some reason it is not right, customers do have the option to return the garment with no obligation.
“I want to have a purposeful impact with the message of each collection”
How does Bozena Jankowska strive to be a responsible business?
I am always seeking to improve the sustainability footprint of the label – there is always room for improvement! Apart from using sustainability as design inspiration, we partner with non-governmental organisations to support their work, manufacture to order to reduce waste and work with London based manufacturers that share our values for worker rights and dignity; sourcing sustainable fabrics to use in my collections is an ongoing objective.
The aim as a minimum is to partner and work with textile companies that I know operate to high environmental and social standards and where possible I aim to source innovative fabrics which have a low environmental and social impact as they become accessible to me. I also look to use dead stock or end of roll fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfill, which means that some styles would be made on a limited edition basis and be all that more individual! My packaging is paper based and from FSC certified sources, any plastic used is either recyclable or biodegradable – but overall, I aim to use the latter to a minimum, whereas my logistics partner DHL offers the option to ship using the GoGreen Climate Neutral service.
You try and introduce at least one conscious fabric into your collections each year – where do you see the future of conscious fashion going?
I believe that sustainable fashion has a bright future. Sustainable fashion platforms such as Positive Luxury [is] a great example of how far sustainable fashion has come! Key will be to recognize that to be sustainable, is an on-going journey that requires ongoing diligence, commitment and passion.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks or to make mistakes – just learn from them, follow your intuition, don’t be afraid to assert yourself and follow your passion.”
What’s been your highlight of starting your own brand?
Seeing others enjoy wearing my designs (and looking fabulous) and getting feedback that they love wearing them!
What challenges have you faced?
As a small scale designer, working against industry practices that are still very much entrenched in the old way of working and which have led to the sustainability challenges thrown up by the fashion industry that we see today! The most challenging being accessing beautiful and innovative sustainable fabrics – which has turned into an on-going mission for me! But, that just forces me to think in more innovative ways!
And your go-to outfit when you want to feel at your best?
A beautiful blazer and trouser combo – timeless, empowering and versatile!
Like what you see? Subscribe to our newsletter. If you’ve enjoyed our conversation with Bozena Jankowska, you might also enjoy reading Miroslava Duma Talks Sustainable Tech and The Future of Fashion and Positive Luxury Meets: Lucy Williams of Fashion Me Now.