After obtaining a Degree in Fashion Design from Ryerson University in 2016, Bianca Bellantoni moved home to Vancouver to pursue creating her own sustainable and cruelty free brand. Bianca’s brand, Bellantoni, shares the following the mission: to help you dress well while being kind to animals, people and the planet. Bianca educates consumers on sustainability within the fashion industry and everyday activities in her blog with topics such as ‘Fast Fashion. What is it and why should we care?, ‘How to recycle properly’, and ‘Eco friendly laundry tips’. Check out Bianca's blog here, and read about our conversation with the designer below.
What are some of the benefits and challenges of local, slow batch production?
Bianca: Making a product in Canada is more expensive than a place like Asia, for example, because of the living wage. Something that costs $5.00 a piece to make in Asia may cost upwards of $30.00 - $50.00 to make in Canada.
Working with manufacturers here, there are more upfront costs for pre-production. I know how to do a lot of the up-front development work such as pattern making and first fittings. I create my drawings on illustrator and make the first (2D) sample patterns. I then bring my samples to the production team. The production team makes their own sample, and together, we make final tweaks to ensure production is efficient. For someone who does not have a background in pre-production, production teams work with entrepreneurs from a sketch.
Meeting the minimum quantities of manufacturers, coordinating the minimums with fabric orders, and ensuring the orders arrive in time for production can be a challenge. However, the benefit of this process is that I see the samples in person and make alterations with my production team without geographic or language barriers.
Can you describe one aspect of sustainability in the manufacturing process, and share why is it important?
Bianca: One aspect [of sustainability] I always take account for is pre-production fabric waste. I have all the tiny fabric scraps that I may or may not be able to reuse depending on the fabric size. I work with a production team who give me a bag of the scraps. I see if I can repurpose the scraps, and if I can’t, I pay to have it recycled with a company called FABCYCLE.
We talk a lot about the end of life of clothing, and not enough about pre-production fabric waste.
What is modular design and why is it unique to your brand?
Bianca: Modular design is a garment that can worn at least two different ways. It adds more value to the garment. It is considered a sustainable practice - if you have one top that can be worn two different ways you will keep it longer. Modular design also adds more value to the customer because they can wear the piece multiple ways.
How has your business adapted to the pandemic?
Bianca: When the pandemic started, we were getting ready to launch spring pieces and then I found out that my fabric supplier was closed. It also didn’t feel like the right time to be promoting clothing. I started to hand sew masks, which kept me afloat during the pandemic because people weren’t buying clothing as much during the pandemic. I pivoted to making accessories until things normalized, which they did in the summer of 2021. I also saw a rise in people supporting conscious consumerism, which is so important.
What is the Re.Nu Project, and which other causes or projects you are working on?
Bianca: The Re.Nu project is an idea I had after I started the brand. It is a zero-waste initiative that aims to reuse upcycled, recycled and overstock materials. Making hair scrunchies is part of this initiative. I use the project to educate people and raise awareness about waste in the fashion industry. Making pet beds from fabric scraps was part of a project during my time in school as a solution to waste. This was something I did for a period, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, establishments no longer accepted pillows. Instead, I now recycle with FABCYCLE, a company which revives textile waste.
This past year we started working with a tree planting company. For each online purchase, we plant a tree. Because Tencel is made from wood pulp, this is our way of giving back to the earth.
Purchasing 100% Canadian products and services tends to be more expensive. Can you explain why this is? Do you have any advice for people who may be on a budget?
Bianca: A main contributing factor is that the cost of living is more expensive in Canada than in countries overseas where production usually takes place. Minimum wage is higher in Canada because people are being paid a living wage. Design and production costs are at least three times more expensive in Canada, and businesses need to mark the price up a bit to reinvest into the brand.
I encourage consumers to think about slow fashion in terms of cost per wear. Consider the cost of the item, and how much you will wear it. For example, if you purchase a $200.00 pant and you wear it 200 times, it will cost you $1.00 each time you wear it. Invest in classic, neutral pieces that you can wear in 10 years. Consume less and become more conscious about the types of pieces you are buying.
Choose three clothing staples should everyone have in their wardrobe:
- A good pair of straight leg pants, whether that be jeans or a trouser in a neutral colour
- A quality t-shirt
- In Vancouver, a raincoat, or in Ontario, a fall/winter coat
Who is someone you look up to in the fashion industry?
Bianca: There’s a brand called tonlé, founded by Rachel Faller, which is completely zero waste. The clothing is made ethically in Cambodia, and fabric scraps are weaved into rugs, shawls or made into paper.
What is your favourite outdoor activity (or indoor if you prefer to be indoors)?
Bianca: Outdoors: I love to go for walks, bike rides and running at the track. Indoors: I love drawing and painting, digitally or traditionally. My art IG handle is @bianca.bebe.art for those who would like to follow!
Where is a place you’d like to travel?
Bianca: I would like travel to Italy. I have family there. I visited 15 years ago and would love to return and learn more about my background.
Most played song on your playlist of 2021?
Bianca: I am someone that listens to the same song for a month and then never plays it again. I like indie/folk music. I enjoy drawing and when I do I listen to Jeremiah Fraites ‘Piano Piano’ album.
Final remarks and advice:
Bianca: Sometimes sustainable fashion can be confusing with all of the different fabrics, terms, greenwashing, etc. Try your best, learn what you can and ask questions if you are unsure.
Note to the reader:
You can shop quality sustainable pieces made by designer in our boutique! Check out the Bellantoni collection here.