The best feeling in the world is being able to create with others who have the same passion for creativity as you. And I found that to be the case with Esmahan, co-founder of Buno Design, a fashion and accessories company that focuses on creating timeless pieces using natural, eco-friendly materials. Each piece is handmade down to the clothing garments and jewelry. I had the chance to not only meet Esmahan but collaborate with Buno Design and model their handmade jewelry pieces with photographer Dhakshayani and make-up artist Naarmz. Four women of color on set laughing, smiling and creating beautiful memories and magic together!
I was so captivated by Esmahan’s energy for she spoke about her creativity with so much passion. She was born in Somalia and raised in the UK with her sisters Amnna and Sara, and together, they created Buno Design. I not only got the chance to work with Esmahan on set, I also watched her on set and how she wants her products to look and she literally has the vision set in her mind. Even if the string of her beaded bracelets were off by one inch, she’d notice. To learn more about the creative process behind Buno, I thought it would be fun to do a interview with Esmahan and give her the opportunity to talk about her passion in greater detail, no pun intended.
Tell me about Buno Design:
Buno was our paternal grandfather’s nickname, and since we are three girls and we knew we couldn’t carry his name down the line in the traditional way. So we decided to name our brand after him in order to honor him and carry on his legacy.
We have to go back to humble beginnings when we started Buno Design Bespoke line. We started our bespoke line in 2014 after many years of being frustrated trying to find modest clothing that was not outdated or linked to a specific culture. Me (Esmahan), Amnna and youngest sister Sara have worked hard to build this brand from scratch.
We wanted to create modest, yet modern sophisticated garments that cater to women of all backgrounds. When us sisters (Esmahan and Amnna ) were getting married, we could not find wedding dresses or bridemaids dresses that combined modest and modern. This left us to design and make both our wedding and bridesmaids dresses. We spent years making our own evening wear clothes. From there the idea of bespoke bridal and evening wear came to life, Hence Buno Design Bespoke was born. Starting Buno Design Bespoke was a no brainer for us for we knew we always wanted to start our own company. A year and a half into the Bespoke business, we learned a lot and we did not just want to be another fashion brand. We wanted to make a difference in the fashion world. We spent this last year researching and making changes to our brand.We decided to start our ready-made line as the demand grew and we could not keep up with orders. All our bespoke garments are designed and made in house in our studio based in Northampton, United Kingdom.
The biggest decision we made about our brand is that we want it to be 100% ethical. From our manufacturing, to our packaging, labels and postage materials. Fast Fashion is the second biggest polluter in the world after oil and we want to change the consumers perception about this, one garment at a time. In 2018, we made the decision to add handmade jewelry to our brand. We wanted to offer sophisticated modern garments and accessories made ethically. Our timeless jewelry is all hand made in Canada by our designer, Esmahan.
Where do you derive inspiration from when it comes to your fashion/jewelry brand?
Living in Africa, Middle East, Europe and North America has allowed us to experience a great deal of inspiration and design ideas for our brand. Being exposed to various cultures at a young age has enriched our creative minds. For our garment designs, we get our inspiration from looking at architectural buildings and textures of fabrics we fall in love with. When you’re in the creative field, you get inspired about everything around you. We do constant research on old and modern designs not only in the fashion field but in architecture, photography, nature and product designs. Our jewelry design inspirations are derived from African tribal designs. We try our best to source our raw materials ethically. We love designing unique pieces that every woman can be proud to have. It is very important to keep up with the fashion world, but we do not have to follow every trend that comes into life. Standing out of the crowd is essential to stay on top of the game!
You showcased a few necklaces that you designed and told the story about how some materials and beads were used and the importance of slow fashion/sustainability.
Yes! Our passion for sustainability has not only stopped at our garments! In 2018, our focus is about creating a line of jewelry collection from upcycled vintage and old jewelry pieces. We found that the average consumer has some ideas on how to recycle clothing but when it comes to jewelry, many people said they did not know how to recycle it. Between us sisters and our mother, we had so many jewelry pieces that we collected throughout the years. For our Summer/Spring Collection, I used upcycled beads with new ones to create unique designs. We are always looking for ways to encourage our clients towards sustainable and ethical fashion. We want people to learn how to re-use/up-cycle their old garment/jewelry and give it new life instead of ending it in the land field.
You and my mother both have two things in common, you’re both incredible mothers and CEO’s. How do you balance both demanding roles?
Starting our business when my boys were just babies was the greatest blessing! After my second son was born (15 months apart from his older brother), I went into a deep depression and it was very hard to be at home with two babies. Starting Buno Design was the best thing that ever happened for my mental health! It allowed me to find my purpose again before motherhood. To do what you love, it gives you sense of true happiness. The process was therapeutic and I got to design and make jewelry. It’s not easy balancing motherhood, being an entrepreneur and working a part-time job, but it is not impossible. As they say “where there’s a will, there is a way.” I try my best to divide my day into three parts, one for running errands, another for kids/family time, and finally one for my business time. It is critical to always take a step back and assess the situation from time to time in terms of what’s working and what is not. As mothers, I believe we need to take care ourselves in order to take care of the rest of our families and business. I found that the happier I am and satisfied with my business and work, I am a better mom, wife and friend. I believe that the real balance actually comes from within your soul.
Being a woman of color with a business, what are some obstacles that you’ve had to face/overcome?
Being a businesswoman is hard enough for any woman regardless of their background. But when you are Black and Muslim with a headscarf, it’s even harder. You are constantly working harder to be taken serious. Many people have these stereotypical ideas about what a Muslim woman should look like or act like. Your education and experience is always under scrutiny and you have to prove that you have what it takes to be a businesswoman. We never walked around with a chip on our shoulder! Being the only black/Muslim student in my class was challenging, but I used that to my advantage. We strongly believe that being different is a good thing! For example, our work was always different to other students due to the influence of the various cultures we have experienced. This made us always stand out from the crowd. We never let our color, faith or background stop us from pursuing our dreams and achieving our goals.
What is your advice for women who are wanting to become entrepreneurs?
Our advice for women entrepreneurs is never stop chasing your dreams no matter how hard it is. Secondly, do not listen to the nay-sayers and surround yourself with like-minded women. And finally, when things get tough, just remind yourself why you started your business and how far you’ve come. It’s easy to throw the towel sometimes, but in life no risk means no prizes!
What can we expect in the future for Buno Design?
Buno Design is evolving every day! Our dream is to see our brand expand and be a well known respected ethical company. We are always striving to improve our business and learn new ideas to provide excellent products for our clients. We are working on few exciting projects that we will reveal in 2019. We want to hold workshops in Edmonton to teach locals how to upcycle jewelry and recycle clothes. We want to share with our clients the techniques and tricks we learned throughout our journey to become a sustainable consumer. Although our business was born in the UK, we love our Canadian customers and our future plan is to have headquarters in Canada too. We love being part of the Edmonton creative community as it has diverse creative makers. Edmonton has great potential to grow for any designer and maker and we are privileged to be part of this amazing community =)
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