It is not every day that you come across a fashion concept as unique as Palestinian entrepreneur Farah Ragheb‘s brand, Buena Onda. In a world where (most) fashion brands are obsessed with churning out more clothes than what can reasonably be consumed, Buena Onda is committed to achieving just the opposite. The ultra-slow label is the first-ever brand to release only three items every summer. However, what makes Buena Onda truly brilliant is the fact that all of the brand’s collections are interconnected, allowing shoppers to build a holistic summer wardrobe encompassing both fashion and lifestyle.
Savoir Flair sat down with ultra-slow fashion designer Farah Ragheb to discuss sustainability and why the fashion industry needs to slow down.
Even as more and more brands embrace sustainability, the concept behind Buena Onda is really unique. What inspired you to establish an ultra-slow brand?
Before I started Buena Onda, I worked at a couple of fast fashion brands and at that time I always felt pressed for time. It almost seemed against our innate nature to be going at such a fast pace yet expected to be so creative, and bring quality items to the market. The idea for Buena Onda came almost out of the sky. I wanted to create beautiful things, quality items that people would love to own. But I wanted to do it my way. I didn’t want to go fast and be beat around the clock and create multiple collections a year. I asked myself if I were to do it my way, what would that look like? And that’s where the initial concept of going slow and creating a minimal number of items came to light.
How do you define ultra-slow fashion? How is it different than slow fashion?
The term “ultra-slow” penetrates different parts of the business. Of course, when you’re releasing only three items every summer, that in itself is really slow. And the reason I decided to go ultra-slow is to reconnect with our innate human nature. In a world that is so fast-paced and, almost everything is profit-driven it is easy to forget to slow down. Not only is it about slowing down the production line, it allows me to really find the inspiration behind the things I create. It gives you the time to creatively explore an idea. There is space to explore spontaneous inspirations. You can play with an idea, rest on it, source quality fabrics, work with skilled craftspeople to create these items. It is not only about the production, but it’s about the mindset and the lifestyle as a whole. It’s about slowing down and remembering what life is really about.
What are the challenges (if any) of running an ultra-slow brand?
The idea for Buena Onda came three years before its actual launch. One of the biggest reasons that it took so long for me to launch the brand is that it was really hard to find suppliers and studio manufacturers to create such a small number of items in a year. I wanted to find a supplier that could match Buena Onda’s ethos, sustainability mantra, and the brand’s vision to eliminate excess waste and mass production. Another challenge, of running an ultra-slow brand – because it’s such a new market – is that very, it can be challenging to get the media or shoppers or even buyers, to buy into the concept. At the same time, I noticed that once people do understand the concept, they are loyal to the brand.
I noticed that once people do understand the concept, they are loyal to the brand.
What clothing categories does Buena Onda encompass?
Buena Onda is a lifestyle brand so we encompass both apparel and lifestyle items. The idea is really that each collection connects to the next and if you collect them all, you’ll have everything that you need for a certain lifestyle. For example, we have dresses, trousers, bags, swimwear, and even a premium skateboard. There’s no limit to the categories that we’re willing to go into. We try to think more about the full set of items that would build you a quality summer lifestyle.
Do you believe that a fashion brand can be 100% sustainable? If yes, how can this be achieved?
I believe that when it comes to true sustainability there are a few key factors that come into play. The first is that we simply create less. I think it’s great that a lot of brands are using recycled plastic, sustainable packaging, and upcycling, but at the same time, if they are still creating huge volumes of products, it’s not going to solve the issue – that’s just replacing. The second part of true sustainability is about cultivating well-being in the way that we do things in terms of going slower, taking care of our mental health, and taking care of ourselves. And the third part, I believe is adding an element of giving back to the business model. That I believe is very important.
You donate a percentage of your profits by connecting with a youth group and donating it to a cause of their choice. Do you have any selection processes? How do you connect with these individuals?
At Buena Onda, we created a platform where every year, we donate 10% of our profits. We open applications online, and invite youths from age of eight to 13, or 14, to fill out an application about a cause or community that they’ve been longing to support. And then we make a selection based on the funds that we have, and what we feel is actually possible for us to execute. And we make that donation on behalf of the youth that submitted the form. And then we share the impact of the donation with the kid in the hope to cultivate a charitable mindset. And as the brand grows, I would love to shift that from 10% to 30%, just to be able to grow that that area of the business and make it equally significant as the rest.