Trisha Rampersad is the driving force behind the brand BHANA. She shares her story here…
What was your motivation behind starting your label?
BHANA originally launched in 2008. It was very shortly after I graduated from design school. The reason I began my own label was because I felt I had something to say with my design work. I knew I didn’t want to work under someone else because I was already coming from a job with significant hierarchy. I wanted the freedom to create for a brand name that was very close to my heart. The driving force of BHANA has always been that old school way of doing things, where integrity and good relationships go a long way.
How has living in Vancouver influenced you & your work?
If it weren’t for living in what I consider one of the most beautiful places in the world, I never would have changed BHANA to ethical and eco-friendly. Yes, we got a bad reputation a few years ago for being the worst dressed city in the world! However, that is simply because Vancouverites have different priorities. We value our environment and surroundings, and we value “humanity” issues. As I grew into this environment, it only made sense that I would match my brand to my lifestyle. Afterall, BHANA is an extension of myself.
What do you see outside your studio window?
I see the mountains, tree tops, and the vast sky.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
BHANA is my maternal grandfather’s last name. My grandfather was a man of many businesses. He was well known in his community in South Africa for helping others and conducting business with integrity. He was also a very well dressed man. I only ever knew my maternal grandparents and those memories are my fondest. When I decided to start the brand, I knew I couldn’t use my name because I intend to do menswear as well…no man would ever want “Trisha” as a label on his favourite shirt! BHANA just made sense, as the BHANA family is the only family I have.
What are some of the struggles you face as a small business?
The biggest struggle a little brand like mine faces, is making that initial sale to boutiques. There are so many brands out there, and we all want just a little piece of that pie. However, I do believe that staying true to what the brand is about, and continuing forward no matter how big or small the sale is, will be well worth it in the future.
Who are your favourite designers?
I love Coco Chanel, Tom Ford, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, and Alexander McQueen. It is a diverse group, but they are all so special.
What has been your biggest accomplishment and career ‘high’ to date?
I would have to say launching my first eco friendly collection at Eco Fashion Week this past April. When you make a bold move, like completely changing the way your product comes to be, you know it’s the right thing to do in your heart, but you never know how it will be received. I got such an overwhelming good response from that event. That really instilled me that I was on the right path with BHANA. It gave me the confidence I needed to take the next steps with BHANA.
What advice can you give to consumers who want to be more eco-friendly in their fashion purchases but don’t know how or where to start?
I would say look at the types of clothing you wear or buy the most. Those are the things that you ought to make ethical and eco friendly choices with. There is no point in having an eco friendly dress that you buy for one event and will never wear again. It would not make as much of an impact as say, the organic wool blazer you wear to work, or the linen dress that is your go-to piece in your wardrobe. Look for ways that you can incorporate eco friendly clothing into your everyday life. Sometimes eco friendly anything can cost a lot more than items that are not. However, if you invest in that organic wool blazer, it will be well worth it because you will get so much more use out of it.
What was your motivation for changing your company methods to be eco-friendly?
I have always been ethical and eco conscious. For some reason I never linked my business with my lifestyle. I just had a light bulb moment that everything we do should be an honest expression of ourselves. When I made that shift in my attitude, it just made sense that BHANA too should match my lifestyle.
What changes did you actually make to ensure Bhana was an eco-fashion company?
Well, I run my production in Vancouver, under ethical practices. I source fair trade fabrics, organic fabrics, and sustainable fabrics. I make it a point to know where all my materials are coming from. At every step, if there is a more sustainable, ethical, or eco friendly method of doing things, I always opt for it. Sometimes it is a more expensive route, but we take our ethical branding very seriously.
What was your inspiration behind your latest collection?
As you know, the last collection which is our Fall 2013 collection was about the fearless woman. This new collection For Spring/Summer 2014 is a continuation of that. It basically is what happens when you confront your fears, walk through its tunnel, and come out on the other side. The “other” side is beautiful, serene, and all things good. I called it “Embracing the Goddess Within” because when you do confront your fears, you learn to love all that is you, and surrounds you. The result is something truly optimistic, regal, and beautiful. You treat yourself like the goddess that you are and you behave towards people and your surroundings on that same level. It basically is an uplifted, enhanced spirit.