Their Word Is Their Bond
If we dig deeply, the fashion industry can have a huge social impact on society and even on communities, with a well-thought out strategy. Generally speaking, however, there is a lot of wastage, and exploitation. Ethical fashion brands were, therefore, born to try to overcome these issues. Of course the fashion industry is also highly competitive, but there is always room for improvement – and innovation – and most importantly, IMPACT. Fashion can also be born slowly and operate on a small scale. We explore the latter matter by speaking with Bea Bond’s founder – Ferelith Moltke – who lived with her young family in Gaborone, Botswana for five years. She founded this design-led children’s brand that is all handmade in Botswana and inspired by Africa in 2018. Ferelith describes it as an ethical, sustainable, slow-fashion brand and Bea Bond partners with local artisans and craftsmen with the aim of creating beautiful products, greater opportunity, sustainable jobs and growth.
How, when and why did you start the Bea Bond venture?
A few months after I moved to Botswana (from London) I couldn’t find any locally-made cotton clothes. I discovered a beautiful fabric called Shweshwe, traditionally worn by Batswana for official occasions and I started sewing outfits for my children. Friends asked me about the vintage-inspired designs and African prints and that was the starting point for Bea Bond. But today we are much more than this…
Interesting. Do you therefore believe Bea Bond may have an edge over other ethical fashion brands in Africa, and do you know of any competitors?
Bea Bond is rooted in Botswana, the business has evolved organically and we collaborate with local artisans and craftsmen to create something unique in the children’s universe, we are the first in Botswana with an international reach. I see there are people with similar philosophies of sustainable and ethical values in Africa and it is encouraging to see the growth of this movement emerging, but there are not so many children’s brands with an international reach.
Would you say Bea Bond was born from necessity (a need for more clothes options for your children) or from your innate passion (your belief in making a social impact in a country now dear to your heart) or both?
I think necessity motivated me to be creative, but the two biggest inspirations for Bea Bond were simultaneously moving to Botswana and being a new mother. In Botswana with my family, I had the freedom of time to expand my horizons, explore the local landscape, the culture and customs, understand the challenges, the social climate in Botswana, and this is how Bea Bond really took shape.
Why the name Bea Bond?
The name comes from my personal link to Africa: My grandmother Bea was born in Nairobi and my mother grew up in Kenya. My family and I continued this family link to Africa living in Botswana for five years.
What does the average work-day look like at Bea Bond?
First and foremost, I am a mother, so my day is centred around family and I fit in work around my kids. I am not a morning person and being a mum to two, the mornings are always chaos. But I swear by a green juice to wake me up. I walk my dog every morning and go to Pilates twice a week and I love it! Some mornings I spend at my computer replying to emails, or speaking to our artisans in Botswana about our projects for Bea Bond. The afternoons I spend with my kids, collect them from school to do homework, we always sit together for dinner as a family. I tend to have light-bulb moments late at night and have to discuss them with my husband. It drives him crazy but he is very supportive.
Can you explain what “Slow Fashion” means, and why you chose this model of clothes production? How much does this mean to you or do you simply prefer to work at a slower pace?
It has been defined as “the movement of designing, creating and buying garments for quality and longevity.” It also encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints and ideally zero waste. Slow fashion is really important to me and, since having children, I have changed the way I consume. I am always looking for environmentally conscious alternatives, or things which I can recycle that will have a lower impact on the earth. So, establishing Bea Bond as a slow fashion brand was not simply about working at a slower pace, I didn’t want the whole seasonal machine which most larger and more established children clothes brands follow, where they release several collections in a year. I wanted to work with local materials and help change consumer consciousness to a “less is more approach.” Bea Bond produces a limited production each year of high quality season-less children’s designs, of items that will never go out of style. We also transform any off-cuts into accessories with the aim of achieving zero waste.
There must be different kinds of challenges working in Africa compared with Europe. Please provide some examples?
There are obvious challenges with setting up a business in Botswana – as well as logistically – working with artisans spread across a country the size of France. But having returned to Europe, I foresee the biggest challenge is yet to come. How will I get people in Europe to connect in a meaningful way to all that is Bea Bond? The sheer distance between Botswana and Europe is phenomenal in itself, but how to make people relate and understand the Motswana heritage in a way that respectfully honours who they are, their values, beliefs and way of life.
Who are your partners?
We partner with like-minded creative people, who have traditional skills, interesting stories and share our values and aspirations. Our collaborations have all developed organically, we have just started working with the Ngamiland Etsha weavers in the Okavango Delta on a new product.
Please can you explain the link between conservation and your ethical brand?
Living in Botswana, I have learned that conservation is a multifaceted issue; there is no one-size-fits-all way to do it. I am passionate about conserving the wildlife, but I also understand that one of the largest threats to wildlife is population growth. We made the decision to partner with Ecoexist, a not-for-profit NGO in Northern Botswana; their mission is to reduce conflict and promote coexistence between elephants and people in the Okavango Delta. We are creating a special piece of jewellery with Botswana Diamonds. All proceeds will go to the charity to support the coexistence of elephants and people in Botswana.
You’ve outlined above how you intend to help conserve wildlife in Botswana. Kindly explain the ways in which you empower women and support communities?
Through the Bea Bond we are developing long-term partnerships with local communities to develop differentiated children’s products and ultimately brand positioning. Working with cooperatives and artisans who are mainly women, we aim to preserve handed down traditions while enabling them, through a partnership model, to develop sustainable businesses for themselves.
Who would you say appreciates your brand philosophy more, the local or international market, or is it still too early to tell and what are your aims?
There is definitely an appreciation in Botswana for what we are trying to achieve and for the way that we are going about that, which interestingly enough cuts across all generations of Motswana. In Europe there is a strong movement towards more sustainable consumption and I feel Bea Bond will provide a new exciting choice for families who share our values.
The idea of Bea Bond has evolved steadily over the last couple of years. Today we are focused on children’s wear, but the focus will be to build a much more holistic brand, expanding the world of Bea Bond. We are currently developing new products within the children’s universe, bringing stories to life and weaving together both the heritage and skills of craftsmen and women across Botswana. We will focus on building a social enterprise through which we aim to empower women, support communities and conserve wildlife in Botswana for many years to come.
The first two projects to look out for are very exciting; the opening of our Bea Bond online shop in May 2019 and our first pop up event Afro Hair & Beauty show in Islington on May 26 and 27, 2019.
Bea Bond’s webshop (Europe) launches in May 2019 at: www.beabondworld.com and on Instagram, you can find them: @beabondworld